The biggest hazard working alongside forklift batteries is battery charging. Hydrogen gas is produced when batteries are charged, creating a risk for explosion. ANSI Z358.1-2009 requires an eye wash station capable of a 15 minute flush within ten seconds walking time (55 feet) from the location of a battery charging station.
Federal Law Requirements
Other regulation standards within ANSI and OSHA also address forklift batteries and exposure to acids. There are arguable gaps and contradictions within these laws and standards. For example, if a battery washing station is in close proximity to the battery charging area, an eye wash station should be required; but, what if the watering station is located in another area of the building?
If a battery is fresh off the charge and then driven to the water fill point, hydrogen gas could be present. As a battery is filled with water, lingering hydrogen gas in the cells can be expelled. If during watering a source of ignition is produced (i.e. metal tool dropped on top of the battery, static electricity, loose battery cable), a cell explosion could happen.
Eye Wash Station Placement
One could argue watering a battery has known risks and hazards that require an eye wash station to be present. Indirectly, laws or standards could be applicable through the General Duty Clause as judged by an OSHA officer after an accident, in response to an employee complaint or during a facility audit.
It is not the letter of the law or standard we should care about – it’s the intent behind the law or standard. During a forklift battery cell explosion, every second counts. Sulfuric acid in your eyes results in immediate and progressive tissue damage. The solution to reduce tissue damage is diluting the acid concentration with water. To keep employees safest, place an eye wash station at the battery charging and watering station. Wearing proper PPE eye protection is an absolute as well.
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