Portable electronic devices and hand-held machinery are typically powered by batteries, whether it be a smaller 9-volt or a larger 24-volt pack. Equipment that is needed in more than one place, such as a forklift, radio or electric saw, is necessary on the production floor. However, without frequent charging, cleaning and maintenance, batteries can corrode or lose functionality, severely inhibiting productivity and worker safety.
For instance, wireless radios are vital to employees who must frequently communicate with co-workers, managers and employers. If an error causes a sudden hazard the work site, workers must be able to alert others on the spot. But a poor-performing battery can cause the radio to lose signal or malfunction completely, thus putting lives in danger.
"Employees benefit from using equipment that is safer and more conducive to workflows."
Further, if a machine cuts out unexpectedly while in use due to a dead battery, workers may be at serious risk. Workers must commonly put additional pressure or force on a tool for it to operate as needed. If a battery dies, workers leveraging their body weight at the time may lose balance or injure themselves on sharp objects because of static energy suddenly thrusting them forward.
To ensure the safety of workers on-site, it's important employers advise protective battery care. Here's how batteries should be stored and handled to promote full function and eliminate hazards:
- Store batteries at safe temperatures: Motorola Solutions recommends that when batteries are not in use, they should be kept in climate-controlled areas of the facility. Optimal battery storage temperatures range from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the room in which batteries are kept should be well-ventilated to ensure proper airflow is maintained and to prevent the buildup of dust, contaminants and other air particles.
- Conduct routine inspections: Hawker, an industrial battery manufacturer, noted charge settings and voltage capacity should be measured on a regular basis. Adding distilled water to maintain electrolyte levels in certain batteries is an important part of ensuring battery acid stays within a functioning range. Further, by testing the battery with frequent meter readings, technicians can surmise how well batteries are performing and their current conditions. Over time, it's easy for battery acid to spill onto other batteries or equipment, causing corrosion. However, by checking the gravity and voltage of battery cells, any issues with acid levels can be detected quickly.
- Understand charge levels: Charging or discharging for too long can reduce the cycle life of batteries, which lowers ROI and leads to faster degradation of battery components. An average industrial battery is good for roughly 1,500 cycles. However, as Hawker informed, batteries that are discharged beyond 80 percent can reduce the total number of cycles over the life span of the battery. Newer batteries may also take longer to charge or require additional cycles before they truly reach maximum capacity, so technicians should be sure they are not overcompensating and charging too much during the first few days of use.
- Clean regularly: Acid spillage and overdischarging can cause a battery to fail. As acid bonds together and corrodes the battery, greater energy is required for a battery to reach full charge. Meanwhile, acid is highly conductive, causing the battery to self-discharge. Batteries should be cleaned every few months with water and baking soda. However, workers should not use heat-source dryers or appliances to facilitate faster drying.
By recognizing how important optimal battery capacity is to daily operations, employers can help increase their ROI while ensuring workers are protected from preventable battery mistakes. As battery care and maintenance improves, employees benefit from using equipment that is safer and more conducive to workflows.