Forklift battery acid spills can be very corrosive, dangerous to handle and damaging to the environment. Therefore, 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. Though always remember, that accidents happen, and you should remain calm and composed when you initially spot and clear the battery acid leak.
In the unfortunate event of a battery acid spill, it’s important to have the best procedures in place, for a safe and efficient cleanup. Moreover, 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. Most importantly, personnel should be trained in how to respond in the event of a spill.
A battery acid spill kit should include:
- Large and durable polyethylene container
- Absorbent pads
- Absorbent socks
- Acid neutraliser
In addition to this, you will require the following personnel protective equipment:
- Vinyl apron
- Shoe coverings
- 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.
- Next you should inform your manager that the spill has taken place and notify all the necessary personnel.
- Once identified and notified, gather the battery acid spill kit including the container the kit comes in and then put on the personal protective equipment provided, making sure that your eyes, skin and mouth are protected.
- Now that you are protected, find a space and place down a wooden pallet, raised from the floor. This is to be used in a later stage.
- Ensuring to cover it all, place the absorbent pads onto the pallet. 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.
- Its time to contain the spill by placing down absorbent socks. These socks prevent the spilled electrolyte from expanding and covering a larger area.
- Now, apply the neutraliser provided in the spill kit to the spilt electrolyte.
Note: When using an alternative neutraliser not from the spill kit, you must ensure it is suitable for sulfuric acid because if it is not the right neutraliser you run the risk of creating a different, possibly more dangerous chemical reaction.
Alternatively, if you do not have any neutraliser to hand, you can use baking soda, limestone or even clay to help alkalise the acid.
- You should now let the neutraliser sit for a while until the acid is completely absorbed (this usually takes between 10-30 minutes depending on the severity of the spill). Many neutralisers 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 need to carefully remove the leaking battery and place it onto absorbent pads, you placed on the pallet earlier.
- at this point, you need to 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.
- Finally, 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.