From offices engulfed in battery fires to electric vehicles exploding on the highway, it’s clear to see that lithium ion battery hazards are becoming more visible in our daily lives. As more people use this modern energy source, the more we hear about the hazards associated with li-ion battery use. To avoid serious incidents such as battery fires and explosions, we recommend installing a battery charging and storage cabinet to control risk. However, most people still aren’t fully aware of how a cabinet can reduce these risks. In this post, we’ll be looking at 5 of the key features found in a battery cabinet. We’ll also be explaining how each of these cabinet features work to protect businesses from the devastating physical, emotional and financial cost of a battery fire or explosion.
What Cabinet Features Control Battery Risks?
In the workplace, there are many risks you have to identify and control. Whether it’s reducing the physical toll on your staff by providing manual handling equipment to assist with their heavy lifting duties or installing a chemical container to house your toxic substances, the process of risk management is key in protecting people, property and the environment.
However, when it comes to a seemingly simple item, such as a rechargeable battery, it’s understandable that some workplaces have not yet put in place the necessary measures to prevent fires, explosions, battery leaks and other hazards.
To address this issue, manufacturers have recently developed battery cabinets, otherwise known as Li-ion battery charging and storage cabinets.
While all battery cabinets are designed and manufactured a little differently, there are 5 key features that you should look out for.
These features include the provision of:
- A cool, dry environment
- Fire protection
- Secure storage
- Leak containment
- Certified electrical work (when charging is present)
Let’s look at each of these features in detail below and explain exactly how they work to reduce risk for workplaces storing li-ion batteries.
Cool, Dry Environment
Lithium ion batteries are a specific type of battery technology that is sensitive to extreme temperatures and excessive heat. Therefore, the number one priority when storing your lithium ion batteries is ensuring that they’re kept in a cool, dry environment — away from direct sunlight.
To assist with creating this cool, dry environment, some battery cabinets are equipped with features such as fans and ventilation. This assists with the dispersion of warm air out of the cabinet, and the maintaining of a cool temperature within the insulative walls of the storage equipment.
Li-ion batteries can easily overheat, so they must be stored in a cool, dry and protected environment.
Working in conjunction with the sheet steel structure (and thermic air barrier) of the cabinet, the fan and ventilation system provide a protected environment for battery storage.
This is a far safer option than choosing a regular chemical safety cabinet or a workplace cupboard, that are made without fans and ventilation or are constructed from combustible materials, such as chipboard.
In fact, if a fire was to break out — within your workplace or while the battery was on charge — a regular cupboard, work bench or other unsuitable storage area would most likely exacerbate the fire by adding combustible material to an already volatile situation.
Protecting your batteries, and offering a cool environment that’s free from humidity, is essential in reducing the risk of fires and explosions.
REMEMBER: Our range of battery cabinets are manufactured with 150mm fans, capable of pushing 67 m3 of air through the cabinet every hour. This functionality assists with the effective dispersion of hot air and humidity.
Battery cabinets are generally constructed with a durable, non-combustible material such as sheet steel.
The steel construction reduces risk in a multitude of ways, including providing a non-flammable surface for battery charging. It also helps create a solid structure to protect battery cells from excessive heat and flames.
DID YOU KNOW Our battery charging and storage cabinets are manufactured with double-walled sheet steel, with an air barrier of 40mm between the walls? Any gaps, around doors or into the space between the walls, are sealed to prevent head radiation or flames from affecting the batteries. Doors are self-closing and close-fitting to assist in fire protection and safety.
If a fire broke out in your workplace, your stores of batteries could be at risk of igniting. When lithium ion battery cells overheat or ignite, it can set off a chain of events that results in thermal runaway and horrific explosions.
Li-ion batteries can quickly ignite, resulting in fierce and fast-burning blazes.
In addition to the damage that lithium ion battery fires causes to people, property and vehicles, the toxic fumes from the fire can adversely affect the air quality in the surrounding community.
Look for a battery cabinet that is constructed with a heat and fire barrier. This will be a thermal air barrier between the sheet steel walls of the cabinet, that allows a small window of time for fire equipment to be used and/or evacuations to be completed.
IMPORTANT: When lithium ion batteries catch fire, they’re very hard to put out. Normal firefighting equipment won’t work, because these batteries continually ignite, even after they have been extinguished. Fire crews must use specific extinguishers which are designed to supress lithium ion battery fires.
Secure Storage For Batteries
When you are dealing with any type of dangerous goods in the workplace, ensuring that there is limited access to the goods is a simple, yet effective, safety measure.
You wouldn’t want untrained staff haphazardly accessing and using dangerous chemicals, so why would you want unauthorised staff having access to your lithium ion batteries?
Due to the risks associated with Li-ion cells, we strongly recommend choosing a cabinet which allows staff to safely secure the batteries while they’re charging or in storage. As lithium-ion batteries are also an expensive energy source, choosing a secure storage solution, such as a lockable battery cabinet, assists with the prevention of theft.
Battery cabinets should be equipped with a failsafe locking system, to prohibit unathorised entry to the lithium ion battery stores. Staff need to be responsible for the keys when they’re using the cabinet, and should fill out a log book or register each time they access the keys.
To assist in minimising the amount of staff members who may have access to your lithium ion batteries, you can also implement further security measures such as keeping the battery cabinet in a locked work area or providing CCTV for the storage facilities.
If you do have a team of staff who are regularly handling the batteries, make sure that they receive adequate training on battery safety — based on the battery manufacturer’s instructions. This will include the handling of the batteries, as well as the guidelines for charging and storage.
You should also ensure that your battery cabinet is clearly marked with the correct signage to alert personnel to the hazards onsite. Signage may include the Class 9 Miscellaneous Goods diamond, a sign stating Battery Charging (or similar), and a No Ignition Sources or Smoking Within 3 Metres hazard sign.
REMEMBER: Your lithium ion batteries, while a common site, are still recognised as Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods. Therefore, they should be used, charged and stored as per the battery manufacturer’s instructions.
While the prevention of lithium ion battery fires is the key concern when considering storage, there are other hazards that can occur with faulty, damaged or old lithium batteries.
Just like lead-acid batteries and alkaline cells, lithium ion batteries may leak if the cell is damaged.
This type of battery contains a flammable electrolyte, which must be contained and cleaned up immediately. Therefore, you should consider a battery cabinet that is equipped with a liquid-tight leak containment sump in the bottom part of the cabinet.
IMPORTANT: Spill kits should be located within 30 metres of any hazard in your business, including batteries which may be susceptible to leaking. Choose a spill kit that is compatible with your hazard, such as a Chemical Spill Kit for use with lithium ion battery leaks. Always ensure that your staff are wearing the correct PPE when they’re tasked with cleaning up a battery acid leak.
Certified Electrical Work
When batteries are on charge, something as seemingly simple as impact damage or overcharging, can ignite a lithium ion battery cell. Therefore, the charging conditions are crucial in the maintenance and care of your batteries.
Charging should be conducted in a controlled environment, on a non-combustible surface that won’t overheat the battery. Battery charging cabinets should be constructed with perforated shelving, to assist with the cooling of the batteries while they’re on charge.
However, you must also ensure that your power points (and electrical systems) are in good condition. Faulty electrical work could produce sparks or unstable currents, resulting in the ignition of your lithium batteries.
Some battery cabinets are designed to facilitate both the charging and the storage of lithium ion cells. Therefore, they are equipped with multiple power points across each shelf of the cabinet, to allow for greater flexibility when you’re charging different sizes of batteries.
The power points and electrical work associated with the cabinet should be installed and checked by a licensed electrician. This is to ensure that the electrical work is operating in the safest way possible.
Overall, you should consider a battery cabinet that has electrical work certified to electrical standards.
DID YOU KNOW If batteries are old, faulty or have suffered impact damage, you should never put them on charge. Instead, train your staff to routinely inspect your lithium ion batteries and safely discard batteries in poor condition. This simple procedure will help reduce the risk of ignition during battery charging.
Understanding The Features Of Battery Cabinets
Whether you’re running a large drone company or you’re operating a small factory, if you’re carrying lithium ion batteries, you could be at risk of a battery fire or explosion. We recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions for the handling and storage of your cells. Our team also recommends storing your lithium ion batteries in a cool, dry and protected environment to reduce risk. Battery storage and charging cabinets are by far the safest storage option, as they’re specifically designed for the storage of this particular type of battery.
If you’re interested in learning more about controlling the risks associated with lithium ion batteries, you can download our free eBook. Our guide explains the range of risks that are associated with this type of battery and offers helpful tips for their handling, charging and storage. Grab your copy of our eBook today by simply clicking on the image below.