Batteries are used in almost every workplace and power all types of products, equipment and machinery. But when considering how to store your battery safely, it’s important to factor in the applicable spill containment requirements for batteries, so you can minimise the potential for a hazard occurring. How you choose to handle and store your batteries onsite will be determined by the specifications in your safety data sheet — and the dangerous goods class of your battery.
Here, we break down the types of batteries commonly found in Australian workplaces. We’ll also detail some of the hazards involved and how you can meet the battery spill containment requirements.
Common Types Of Batteries
Whether you’re running a generator, using a solar power system, driving a forklift or working with an electric drill, nearly all organisations rely on some type of batteries to power their operations.
And while batteries are an essential power source, they can be damaged, faulty or show signs of deterioration which can lead to a potential workplace hazard. Therefore, it’s important to understand the dangers associated with the batteries you use, so you can minimise the hazards.
There are several types of batteries that are commonly used in workplaces including sealed, valve regulated lead acid, flooded, deep cycle, hybrid batteries, AGM and gel batteries.
Some batteries which are commonly found in workplaces include:
- lithium ion
- nickel cadmium
- metal hydrides
- flow batteries
- hybrid ion
- zinc carbon
There is no simple way of answering the question of ‘what are the battery spill containment requirements’, as there are a multitude of battery types on the market.
Instead, to determine the right measures for storage and spill containment, you will need to review the battery’s safety data sheets. These sheets provide the specific physical and chemical properties of the battery so you can move forward with your hazard assessment.
Battery Safety Data Sheet
It’s important to read the safety data sheet (SDS) to determine how your battery should be stored and how to avoid potential workplace hazards. The SDS will contain the physical and chemical properties of the battery, as well as health hazards, physical hazards and the battery’s storage requirements.
SDS For Lead-Acid Battery
See the SDS sample below which illustrates the details included in the safety data sheet for a CenturyYuasa lead acid battery.
The battery’s SDS notes that it is corrosive (Class 8 Dangerous Good), with acute toxicity and poses health and environment hazards.
In the handling and storage information on the sheet, it lists all essential storage information including suitable container and storage incompatibility. By referencing the data in the SDS, you will have the relevant information to determine how you can minimise workplace risks when using or storing your battery.
Dangerous Good Classes Of Batteries
As we have discussed, to determine the dangerous goods category of your worksite batteries, you will have to study the SDS of each product.
With so many varieties of batteries in use at the workplace, it’s crucial that organisations have a solid understanding of the hazards involved with battery storage. But what batteries pose serious risks to the workplace?
Batteries such as nickel cadmium and alkaline batteries, are used in workplaces and offices across the country. However, these batteries are often not classed as dangerous goods or hazardous chemicals. Therefore, if your battery is not classified as dangerous or hazardous, you will not have to adhere to the requirements of the WHS regulations.
Many batteries are Class 8 Corrosive dangerous goods, however, only certain types of corrosive batteries must be stored in compliant systems. These spill containment and storage systems must legally meet the Australian Standard AS 3780-2008 - the storage and handling of corrosive substances.
To clarify the battery spill containment requirements of batteries, we will look more closely at two main types of batteries: lead-acid and lithium batteries.
What Is A Lead-Acid Battery?
A lead-acid battery is one of the most common batteries to be found in the workplace. They are used to run vehicles, equipment and power systems. They were first developed by French chemist Gaston Plante in 1859 and are regarded as a reliable, rechargeable storage technology.
Health & Physical Hazards
Lead-acid batteries must be carefully handled and stored as per their SDS. Hazards associated with lead-acid batteries include:
- risk of fire
- risk of explosion
- electric charge
- battery acid (electrolyte) burns
- damage to property from corrosion
Dangerous Goods Classification
Lead-acid batteries are recognised as a Class 8 Corrosive. However, the legal obligation for spill containment depends on if the lead-acid battery is closed (sealed).
According to the Australian Standard AS 3780-2008 - the storage and handling of corrosive substances.
4.4 GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR PACKAGE STORES
(h) Stores, other than those for closed lead-acid batteries, shall be provided with a means of either containing a spill or of diverting it to a compound within the boundaries of the premises. The net capacity of any compound shall be not less than whichever is the greater of—
(i) 25% of the aggregate volume of liquids kept; or
(ii) the capacity of the largest container kept;
but need not exceed 5000 L where only packages are kept.
To explain further, lead-acid batteries may be sealed (dry cell battery) or non-sealed (wet cell battery), and this determines their need for spill containment measures.
As the name suggests, if a lead-acid battery is sealed it can’t leak electrolytes — and therefore does not require spill containment and bunded storage.
However, if the lead-acid battery is not sealed — such as a flooded battery, gel cell or AGM battery — it will require spill containment to meet AS 3780-2008 - The storage and handling of corrosive substances.
What Is A Lithium Battery?
There are two main types of lithium batteries: lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries. Lithium metal batteries are primary cell batteries which offer high charge density. Lithium ion batteries are classed as secondary cell batteries, which means that they are rechargeable.
Lithium metal batteries can be found in remote controls, smoke detectors and watches, whereas lithium ion batteries are widely used to power electronic devices such as mobile phones and equipment such as power tools.
Health & Physical Hazards
Lithium batteries in the workplace must be used and stored as per the recommendations in the battery’s SDS. Hazards associated with lithium batteries include:
- increased risk of fire
- increased risk of explosion
- combustible gas release
- leaking of corrosive electrolytes
- life-threatening injuries if swallowed
Dangerous Goods Classification
Lithium metal and lithium ion batteries are recognised as Class 9 miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles.
According to the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail, batteries are a Class 9 dangerous good.
The ADG Code explains:
126.96.36.199 Class 9 substances and articles (miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles) are substances and articles which, during transport present a danger not covered by other classes.
Class 9 dangerous goods are subdivided into their own sub-classes with lithium batteries as follows:
|3090||LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES (including lithium alloy batteries)|
|3091||LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES CONTAINED IN EQUIPMENT (including lithium alloy batteries) or|
|3091||LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT (including lithium alloy batteries)|
|3480||LITHIUM ION BATTERIES (including lithium ion polymer batteries)|
|3481||LITHIUM ION BATTERIES CONTAINED IN EQUIPMENT (including lithium ion polymer batteries) or|
|3481||LITHIUM ION BATTERIES PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT (including lithium ion polymer batteries)|
Stored In Compliance With AS/NZS 4681-2000
As a Class 9 dangerous good, lithium metal and lithium ion batteries must be stored in compliance with the Australian Standard AS/NZS 4681-2000 - the storage and handling of Class 9 (Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods) dangerous goods and articles.
The standard states that:
3.3.4 Spillage containment for package stores
Where liquids are to be stored, spillage containment shall be provided. This may be achieved by using a bund or by having a means of diverting a spill into a compound within the premises, e.g. by installing spoon drains or sloping floors.
The following requirements apply to spillage containment:
(a) The capacity of the spillage containment compound shall be at least 100% of the volume of the largest package, plus 10% of the total storage capacity, up to a maximum of 5000 L.
(b) The spillage containment system shall be constructed of materials that are resistant to attack by the materials being stored.
(c) The capacity of on-site containment shall be increased to include the output of any fire protection sprinklers over a 20-minute period.
NOTE: In order to facilitate the management of emergencies, it is recommended that compound capacities be about 10% greater than the minimal values specified above.
(d) The compound shall be impervious to the materials it is designed to contain.
NOTE: Earth by itself without a lining does not satisfy the impermeability criteria given above.
(e) Provision shall be made so that spills cannot run directly into drains which lead to outside the premises.
AS/NZS 4681-2000 also stipulates:
5.15 SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR THE STORAGE AND HANDLING OF LITHIUM BATTERIES CONTAINED IN OR PACKED WITH EQUIPMENT (UN 3091)
Equipment and kits containing these types of dangerous goods shall not be modified or the dangerous goods tampered with or removed from the equipment. However, batteries may be charged or replaced in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions. Dangerous goods components that have been removed from the equipment (e.g. gas cylinders that have been removed from self-inflating life rafts) shall be re-classified in compliance with the ADG Code/NZS 5433, and stored and handled accordingly.
To summarise, when storing and handling lithium metal and lithium ion batteries, you must adhere to the regulations that apply to Class 9 dangerous goods. The Australian Standard AS/NZS 4681-2000 requires spill containment for packed stores of lithium batteries to meet several criteria regarding spill containment capacity, the compound design and the materials it’s constructed with. The standard also details special requirements for lithium batteries which are contained in or packed with equipment, which prohibits the modification or tampering with lithium batteries. If they are charged or replaced it must be done in accordance with the battery manufacturer’s instructions.
Spill Containment & Safe Storage For Batteries
There are several options for the safe storage and spill containment of batteries including:
- Storage cabinets for corrosive substances (lead-acid batteries which are not closed/sealed)
- Storage cabinets for miscellaneous goods (lithium metal batteries)
- Lithium-ion battery charging & storage cabinets (lithium ion batteries)
- Storage cabinets which can be modified to suit your dangerous goods category
- Battery transport device for bulk road transport of batteries
These products are specifically manufactured to provide safe storage and spill containment for batteries and are compliant with the relevant Australian Standard.
If you are storing batteries at your workplace that aren’t classed as a dangerous good, it is still a good idea to identify any risks and create a storage solution that minimises the potential for any hazards.
To learn more about spill containment capacities for each class of dangerous goods, please read our blog How Do You Calculate Spill Bund Capacity For Different Classes Of Dangerous Goods?
Understanding Spill Containment Requirements For Batteries
If you’d like to learn more about the safe storage of batteries, we invite you to download our free eBook How To Manage The Risk Of Hazardous Chemicals In The Workplace. This resource explains how you can implement a complete risk management methodology that allows you to identify, assess and control chemical hazards at your organisation. Just click on the image below and start reading it today.