Thursday, January 8, 2009

Forklift Battery Charging & Eye Wash Stations

A common question that is asked pertains to the OSHA regulations about how close an eyewash station must be to a forklift battery changing/charging station?

OSHA forklift regulation 29 CFR 1910.178 does not have a specific requirement for eyewash facilities, the first aid standard at 29 CFR 1910.151 applies. When necessary, facilities for drenching or flushing the eyes “shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.” In applying these general terms, OSHA would consider the guidelines set by such sources as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z358.1-1998, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, which states, at section 7.4.4, that eyewash facilities are to be located to require no more than 10 seconds to reach but that where a strong acid or caustic is used, the unit should be immediately adjacent to the hazard.

Based upon this interpretation of the OSHA regulations, all facilities should have an eye wash station if a forklift battery charging or changing station presents a risk of exposure to battery acid.

To obtain an OSHA approved eye wash station, click here.

For more information about OSHA regulations about forklifts or for forklift operator safety training, please click here.

If you have any questions or comments about forklift safety, eye wash stations or OSHA safety regulations, please feel free to comment about this blog. A National Safety Compliance representative will be glad to answer your questions.

28 comments:

  1. Forklift charging-- safety issue
    I'm in 3rd shift in an manufacturing plant. During 7 hours of our shift a fork lift is being charged continuously about 15 yards from the production line. The forklift is in the same manufacturing building where the employees work with no separation or any special/local vent to remove vapors/gases from the charging station. At least in two events we received high level of contamination/pollution released from the gases and caused employees a segnificent irritation in the throat. What kind of gases cause this irritation/pollution? What about local ventilation/exhaust? Does such local ventilation is required by OSHA? (there is general ventilation in the building but from the throat irritation it seems that the general ventilation does not addresses the released gasses during charging and these gases easily reaches the employees) What are the risk of continuous charging next to employees? what need to be done

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    1. Primarily there are two hazards associated with battery charging. The two primary risks are from hydrogen gas formed when the battery is being charged and the sulfuric acid in the battery fluid. The hydrogen gas can be explosive if allowed to build up, and the sulfuric acid is typically a contact hazard. There are two other less likely possibilities. Depending on the metal alloy composition in lead-acid batteries, a battery being charged can generate two highly toxic by-products. One is arsine (arsenic hydride, AsH3) and the other is stibine (antimony hydride, SbH3). Generally, the air levels of these metal hydrides tend to remain well below the current occupational exposure limits during battery charging operations. However, their possible presence re-enforces the need for adequate ventilation systems.

      We recommend that your employer test the area to determine what hazardous substances might be in the air during charging. From those results, a safe approach to resolving the issues can be determined.

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  2. 29 CFR 1910.178(g) says

    "Battery charging installations shall be located in areas designated for that purpose.
    Facilities shall be provided for flushing and neutralizing spilled electrolyte, for fire protection, for protecting charging apparatus from damage by trucks, and for adequate ventilation for dispersal of fumes from gassing batteries."

    OSHA recognizes the hazard from battery charging fumes. We recommend that you bring this to the immediate attention of management at your workplace. If management does not provide a solution, then please contact OSHA directly at 1-800-321-OSHA.

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  3. Do you need to still have an eye wash station and PPE if you have a gravity fed watering system?

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    1. PPE? Yes!

      Depending on what you mean by "Gravity Fed Watering System', then it might be a substitute for an eye wash station, but it must meet the specific requirements of an eye wash station. (i.e. flow, pressure and activation requirements.)

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  4. Yes you will still need PPE. That is the first line of defense. Regarding the eye wash station, I am not sure if your "gravity fed watering system" will meet the requirements. The OSHA requirements for emergency eyewashes and showers, found at 29 CFR 1910.151(c), specify that "where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use." Without looking at your system, I would say that it probably does not meet all of the requirements. My recommendation is better to spend a little to make sure your comply and protect your employees. The alternatives are much worse. You can visit out site at www.osha-safety-training.net for more information and to purchase the needed items.

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    1. PPE is never the first line of defense. Using the Hierarchy of Controls method, PPE is the last line of defense. This is also an OSHA requirement for eliminating a potential hazard. 1.) Eliminate the Hazard 2.) Substitution 3.) Engineering Controls 4.) Administrative Controls 5.) PPE

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  5. Many gravity fed stations do in fact meet the standard for flushing eyes. If you have 6 gallons or more it should meet it. What you don't get with those is a shower.

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  6. I understand an emergency eyewash station is required at battery charing stations. My question is if there is a requirement for an emergency shower also?

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  7. In the formal OSHA regulations regarding forklift, the stated minimum requirement is an eye wash station in the battery charging area.

    However, other OSHA regulations may also need to be considered. For example 29 CFR 1910.151(c). In this standard, OSHA specifies that "where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use."

    Also in OSHA publications for compliance assistance you will find the following statement regarding the needed items for a forklift battery recharging area, "An eyewash able to provide a 15 minute flow. Note: For large installations, there should be a plumbed drench shower and an eyewash."

    I hope this helps.

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    1. we are in a situation where they do not hoist or move the batteries to the trucks but water can be added to them. We have the eyewashes in place...but do we need to make sure we have showers available as well? there are about 3 to 6 battery charging units in one designated area....so is that "larger installation"?

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  8. Question: is an eyewash and/or shower required if an electric walk-behind pallet jack is plugged into a standard 110 wall outlet?

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  9. In the situation you have described, a shower would certainly not be required. Regarding an eyewash, it depends on the circumstances. If you have employees who are checking/adding to the fluids in the battery, then "yes" an eyewash would be required. If you have a maintenance free battery or the battery is checked by an outside contractor (non-employee) then an eyewash would not be required.

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  10. In a forklift charging station where a battery could be filled with water. Is it acceptable to have a portable eye wash station like the hand held bottles?

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    1. Hand held bottles NEVER meet the OSHA requirements when an eye wash station is required. OSHA specifically requires a minimum amount of water to continuously flush the eyes for 15 minutes. Bottles simply cannot do this. There are "portable" eye wash stations that can hold this much water and meet the OSHA requirements. See this site for an example of an eye wash station that is somewhat economical and meets the OSHA requirements.

      http://www.osha-safety-training.net/first-aid-kits/17.html

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    2. We currently have a plumbed eye wash station. The location where are fork lift charging station is greater then the 10 second rule for OSHA requirements. I walked it off and it is 30 seconds to get to our eye wash station. Could we use a hand held bottle while moving to the permenent station?

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    3. A bottle eye was could be used while moving to an OSHA required eye wash station, however, a bottle eye wash under no circumstances relieves the responsibility to provide a 15-minute flushing device "within the work area for immediate emergency use."

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  11. Do we need signs like battery changing stations or eye wash station

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  12. OSHA does not have a requirement for specific signage in this circumstance. Employees should know where it is located and the station itself should be readily visible. However, the ANSI standard states that the eyewash station shall be well-lit and have a highly visible sign positioned so it is identifiable in the area it serves. Though the ANSI Standard is not law, it is highly recommended.

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  13. I have a wall with 5 to 7 chargers for each forklift, some are double pallet forks, so they extend out very far. I have an eye/shower wash station at one end and not the other (against the wall and adjacent to a charger). The furthest end is about 10 seconds walk, but you must walk over all the forks to get to it. My question is... the most direct route is walking over all the forks (tripping hazard with acid in eyes). Is walking around all the forks on the ground (blinded by acid) considered direct access?

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  14. This sounds like a judgement call by the OSHA inspector. My opinion is: "better safe than sorry." If an employee is injured or the inspector does not like it, then it will be too late. If you install an additional eye wash station now, then there are no worries.

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  16. Are there special trainings required for our employees if we install a battery charging room?

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    1. Yes. OSHA requires employees to be trained in the proper use of the chargers. It would depend on exactly how you have your room setup, but examples of training would be how to properly and safely check the battery fluids, how to connect/disconnect the chargers and training on removing the batteries (if they are removed from the truck for charging). There may also need to be training on the ventilation or fire suppression in the charging room.

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    2. Thank you! Does this training has to be done by a professional from outside, or can this also be done by an employee who has the basic forklift training already and who knows how it works? I mean if there is an official training with a certificate required, and if yes were can we find a supplier for this?

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    3. OSHA requires that the training be conducted by someone with "Knowledge and experience." That can be someone in-house. No "certificate" is required, but documentation of training and understanding is always necessary. Just a good paperwork trail.

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  17. Is it required for us to have a wash station in our charging areas? We have a maintenance area where our batteries get checked and changed but employees are not allowed to change or check the batteries in the charging area.

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    1. In a compliance directive from OSHA it states the following: " At construction sites and in commercial and manufacturing facilities at locations where powered industrial trucks are parked for overnight storage and routine battery recharging only, no need for emergency facilities exists unless potential exposure to electrolyte is substantiated."

      OSHA Instruction STD 1-8.2 MARCH 8, 1982

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