Electric forklifts are used indoors so that it won’t emit dangerous fumes and irritating smoke. They are relatively quite compared to forklifts powered by internal combustion engines. They are powered by either much heavy lead acid or nickel-iron batteries. The batteries could weighs up to 2,500 pounds and it takes up much of the total weight of the forklift itself.
The average life expectancy of electric forklift battery is five years but if you do regular and proper maintenance to it, it could last even longer but there are instances that the batteries die earlier than expected and that is the time it needs to be replaced.
Just like your sedan car’s battery, electric forklift batteries gives symptoms telling you to replace them. Here are the indications of bad condition battery:
- You may notice that the forklift decreases time of operational use even it received sufficient charging time. Run time could dramatically reduce from the average to just few hours. It is a tell-tail sign that it needs replacement. With poor run time, the forklift needs to be recharged several times every shift.
- If you observe that the forklift is slow and sluggish to start and it takes more time before it delivers its power, it is just indicates that the battery is losing charge. With bad battery, the response time decreases making it very difficult to operate. It creates another hazard because the forklift could tip over when driving through slopes and corners.
- Take a visual inspection of the battery by opening its case, you may notice that corrosion builds up on top. It is another indication that the battery needs to be replaced.
- If you smell foul odor of rotten eggs. You may notice the stink during battery recharging because the cell plates heat up when electrical current passes through it, causing the sulfuric acid to boil inside emitting bad smell.
- When the battery gives off smoke. You may observe it during charging and in more dangerous situation is when the forklift is in used. This posts a very dangerous situation for the operator and the people around because it could explode or catch fire.
- When the operator reports loss of charge during operation, then it is an indicator that the battery needs replacing. Check the truck’s daily inspection report and see whether the operator had reports of such occurrence.
If you discover one or several of these issues with your electric forklift, then it is time to have its battery replaced. You can replace the batteries according to manufacturer’s recommendation. See your owner’s manual.
Battery Changing Safety Practices
It is the duty of the employer to ensure the safety of their employees. The employer should show their will in managing safety in the workplace by providing necessities to assure the well-being of the workers involved handling the replacing of the electric forklift batteries, these include the following:
- Provision of designated station. Changing of battery should be done in a designated station. The location should be well ventilated to prevent poisonous and explosive gases from building up. The flooring should be acid resistant for neutralizing when electrolyte leaked to the floor.
- Provision of safety signs. Safety signs such as “No Smoking,” “No Open Flames,” “Battery Charging Area” should be displayed in the station. This will alert workers to take necessary safety measure.
- Provision of gas detector. Detector should always be present in the changing facility to detect high accumulation of gases and the facility should be equipped with fire extinguisher.
- Provision of washing area. Facility where workers can have immediate wash or shower in the event of an accident (splattering of battery acid in the face, eyes or body) should be constructed in closed proximity from the changing station. The recommendation is 25 feet away or less from the changing station.
- Provision of proper clothing. Proper personal protective equipment (proper PPE would include face protection, goggles, rubber gloves, inhalation protection, steel-toe boots, etc) should be provided and worn by worker who will perform the changing.
- A risk assessment/analysis and procedure should be written. It is always to have a safety procedure or risk assessment in print when performing such hazardous task. The assessment identifies potential danger to mitigate untoward incidences or eliminate serious accidents from occurring.
- Provision of first aid kit. It is always handy to have such emergency first aid kit in the charging station ready.
The worker/mechanic who will perform battery replacing is required to take precaution for the safety of himself and of the people around him. It is important to know the correct way of handling them. Some of the safety practices with regards to changing electric forklift battery are:
- Only trained mechanic should perform the replacing. Only qualified worker should carry out such task. It cannot be done by an ordinary worker. In as much as possible, the mechanic who will perform such task is specialized in doing the battery changing. He could be a representative of battery manufacturer where you bought the battery from or a properly trained individual from your fleet.
- Use a pallet jack during handling. When handling the forklift battery use pallet jack with a transfer carriage to transport the battery or overhead hoist to lift it up. Batteries are so heavy, it cannot be lifted by sheer muscle.
- Don’t wear any metallic object like jewelries when handling the electric forklift battery. Make sure that you don’t have necklace, ring, watch on. Likewise, if you will be working with tools, keep it away from the battery terminals. When became in contact with the terminals, it will form short circuit creating arc or in a worst circumstance, an explosion.
- Practice good housekeeping after carrying out such work in the workplace. Here are some of the things that you can do: Spills of electrolyte should be cleaned up, use a siphon to pick up spilled electrolyte on the floor. Old and unserviceable forklift batteries should not be stacked on top of each other, utensils and should be returned to designated place and never leave them laying somewhere.
- Always wear the personal protective clothing/equipment when doing such task. If worker is observed not wearing the proper PPE, he could be cited with safety violation by his supervisor.
Factors That Affect Battery Life
The life of an electric forklift battery can be affected by a number of factors, including:
- Age of the Battery: As the battery ages, its capacity decreases and it becomes less efficient.
- Frequency and Intensity of Use: The more frequently and intensely a battery is used, the faster it will wear out.
- Temperature: Extreme temperatures can shorten the life of a battery, so it's important to keep the battery in an environment that is within the recommended temperature range.
- Maintenance and Charging Practices: Proper maintenance and charging practices can extend the life of a battery. On the other hand, neglecting maintenance and charging practices can shorten the life of the battery.
- Battery Type: Different types of batteries have different lifetimes, so it's important to choose a battery that is well-suited for the type of work being performed.
- Charging Method: The method used to charge the battery can also affect its life. For example, overcharging or undercharging a battery can shorten its life.
- Depth of Discharge: The depth of discharge (i.e. how much of the battery's capacity is used before it is recharged) can also affect the battery's life. Regularly discharging the battery too deeply can shorten its life.
How to Determine the Right Time to Replace the Battery
To determine the right time to replace an electric forklift battery, you should consider the following:
- Age of the Battery: The average life of an electric forklift battery is typically around 3 to 5 years. If your battery is approaching this age, it may be time to replace it.
- Decreased Performance: If you notice that your battery is not holding a charge as well as it used to, or if the battery is not providing the same level of power as it used to, it may be time to replace it.
- Increased Maintenance: If you find yourself having to perform more maintenance on your battery than usual, it may be a sign that the battery is wearing out and needs to be replaced.
- Increased Downtime: If your battery is causing your forklift to be down more frequently, it may be time to replace it.
- Visual Inspection: A visual inspection of the battery can provide valuable information about its condition. If you notice any cracks, leaks, or other signs of physical damage to the battery, it may be time to replace it.
- Testing: Running a battery test can help determine the state of the battery and whether it needs to be replaced. This can include a load test, which measures the battery's ability to provide power, or a hydrometer test, which measures the specific gravity of the battery's electrolyte solution.
It's important to replace your electric forklift battery when it is no longer able to perform effectively and safely, to avoid downtime and to ensure the safety of operators and others in the work area.
Replacing the Battery
It is Important to Keep Detailed Records of When the battery Was Replaced
Keeping detailed records of when the battery was replaced, who installed it, and any other relevant information is important for several reasons:
- Maintenance Purposes: This information can be used to track the lifespan of the battery and can be used to plan future replacements.
- Budgeting: Knowing when the battery was replaced and how long it lasted can help with budgeting for future replacements.
- Safety: Proper documentation of battery maintenance can help ensure that the battery is operating correctly and that the forklift is safe to use.
- Compliance with regulations: In some cases, regulations may require documentation of maintenance and battery replacement, and keeping detailed records can help ensure compliance with these regulations.
Keeping detailed records of battery maintenance and replacement is an important part of responsible forklift operation and helps ensure the safety and reliability of the equipment.
Importance of Monitoring and Maintenance of the Batteries
Monitoring and replacing electric forklift batteries is important for several reasons:
- Improved Performance: Old batteries can reduce the performance of the forklift, leading to longer charging times, shorter run times, and reduced power. Regular monitoring and replacement of the battery can help maintain the forklift's performance.
- Increased Safety: Worn out batteries can pose a safety risk by failing unexpectedly, causing the forklift to stall or shut down while in use. Regular monitoring and replacement of the battery can help prevent this type of safety hazard.
- Reduced Maintenance Costs: Neglecting to replace batteries when they are worn out can lead to other issues, such as damaged charging equipment or other electrical problems. Regular monitoring and replacement of the battery can help reduce the cost of maintenance and repairs.
- Compliance with regulations: Some regulations may require regular monitoring and replacement of batteries in order to maintain the safety and reliability of the forklift.
In summary, monitoring and replacing electric forklift batteries is important to ensure the safety and reliability of the equipment, as well as to maintain performance, reduce maintenance costs, and comply with regulations.
To Wrap This Up
Replacing electric forklift batteries may look very simple and basic task but there are many hazards involved, hence extra precaution should be taken to prevent accident from happening. If adequate measures aren’t ready, mechanic could suffer serious injury or even death.
The employer has its own responsibility to provide safety to their workers. The workers have the obligation to follow the recommended safety procedure. It is a give-and-take relationship to make everyone safe and happy.