Forklift battery acid spills can be very corrosive, dangerous to handle and damaging to the environment, so following a well-rehearsed procedure to contain and cleanup the spill is something that is imperative to ensure the situation is properly dealt with.
This article will focus specifically on how to properly contain and handle a forklift battery acid spill safely and efficiently. It is important to understand that accidents happen, and you should remain calm and composed when you initially spot and clear the battery acid leak.
It is important to be prepared in the event that a spill happens. If you are using lead-acid forklift batteries on your site then you need to have a ‘Battery Acid Spill Kit’ in a well marked location close to where the batteries are charged and stored. And your personnel should be trained in how to respond in the event of a spill.
The battery acid spill kit should include:
- Large and durable polyethylene container
- Absorbent pads
- Absorbent socks
- Acid neutraliser
In addition you will require the following personnel protective equipment:
- A vinyl apron
- A shoe cover
- Splash proof goggles
- A face shield
- Nitrile gloves
- An eye wash bottle
NOTE: Electrolyte that has leaked from the lead-acid battery contains sulfuric acid which is corrosive to humans and can affect the skin and respiratory system. It is also damaging to the environment.
| Steps to clean a battery acid spill:
- When you have located and identified the spill coming from the forklift battery, you should immediately place cones around the area to warn others of the danger.
- You should inform your manager that the spill has taken place and notify all the necessary personnel.
- Gather the battery acid spill kit including the container the kit comes in.
- Put on the personal protective equipment provided, making sure that your eyes, skin and mouth are protected.
- Once you are protected, find a space and place down a wooden pallet, raised from the floor. This will be used in a later stage.
- You can then place absorbent pads onto the pallet covering it all. If you do not have absorbent pads from the spill kit for some reason, then strong and durable pads made from polypropylene will suffice, available at most maintenance stores.
- You should then contain the spill by placing down absorbent socks, which prevents the spilled electrolyte from expanding and covering a larger area.
- Once this is done, you need to apply the neutraliser provided in the spill kit to the spilt electrolyte.
If you are using an alternative neutraliser not from the spill kit then you must make sure that its is suitable for sulfuric acid. If it is not the right neutraliser you run the risk of creating a different, possibly more dangerous chemical reaction.
If you do not have any neutraliser to hand, you can use baking soda, limestone or even clay to help alkalise the acid.
- Once the spill is covered with the neutraliser, you should let it sit for a while until the acid is completely absorbed (usually between 10-30 minutes depending on the severity of the spill). Many neutralizers notify you of this by changing from red to yellow when the acid is neutralised.
- Once the acid has turned yellow and is neutralised, you carefully remove the leaking battery and place on absorbent pads (which are on the pallet).
- Ensure that all the spilled electrolyte has been absorbed and then scoop it up using a shovel or absorbent pads (remember to wear your gloves during this), and place in the bag provided in the spill kit.
- Place the polyethylene container on the wooden pallet and place all the contaminated PPE and the bag containing the neutralized acid, into the container and seal tightly.
- When disposing of the container you should contact your local authority and follow the correct procedures. Sulfuric acid is damaging to the environment and the used spill kit should be disposed of in a responsible way.