Handling Batteries - Health and Safety Tips

18th Jun 2014

We at think that it is essential to pay attention to your health and safety when dealing with lead acid batteries. Each year 2300 people are injured using/working with lead acid batteries, from which 50% of the injuries are acid burns to the face and eyes and the remaining 50% are mostly due to lifting or dropping batteries as they tend to be quite heavy. In order to avoid such injuries, we recommend following couple of standard precautions:

  • Make sure you store or recharge batteries in a well-ventilated area away from sparks or open flames.
  • Keep the damaged lead acid batteries in properly labeled acid-resistant secondary containment structures.
  • Make sure you are using only the chargers that are designed for the battery that is being charged.
  • Keep the lead acid battery vent caps securely in place.
  • Avoid storing acid under conditions of hot temperatures or in direct sunlight.
  • Do not add water into acid! Pour concentrated acid slowly into water, not the other way around.
  • Use only nonmetallic containers and funnels.
  • If acid gets into contact with your eyes, immediately rinse with water for about 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
  • If acid gets into contact with your skin, immediately rinse the affected area with water and seek medical attention if the chemical burns appears to be a second degree or greater.
  • Do not under any circumstances over charge a lead acid battery and only replenish fluid with distilled water.
  • The emergency wash stations should be located next or near the lead-acid battery storage and charging areas.
  • Make sure there are no open flames, sparks or electric arcs in the charging areas. The storage and charging areas should feature "Flammable - No Smoking" signs.
  • When neutralizing spilled or splashed sulfuric acid solution with a baking soda solution, make sure you rinse the spill area with clean water.

Also, it is advisable to take into account the following guidelines when servicing batteries:

  • Metal tools and jewelry should be kept away from the battery.
  • Make sure there are no defective cables, loose connections, corroded cable connectors or battery terminals, cracked cases or covers, loose hold-down clamps and deformed or loosed terminal posts.
  • Always replace worn or unserviceable parts.
  • Make sure you check the state of charge of non-sealed and sealed batteries with an accurate digital voltmeter while the engine is not running, and lights and other electrically powered equipment are turned off. In addition, you need to check the electrolyte levels and specific gravity in each cell of non-sealed batteries. Use a safe rated flashlight when checking the electrolyte liquid levels of the batteries. Alternatively if such flashlight is not available, use a plastic/non-metallic flashlight, turn on the flash light prior to getting near the battery when checking cell levels and turn off the flash light when you are away from the batteries.
  • Always follow the battery manufacturer's recommendations regarding recharging or replacing batteries.
  • Always tighten cable clamp nuts using the proper size wrench and avoid subjecting battery terminals to excessive twisting forces. When removing a cable clamp from the battery terminal, use a cable puller. When cleaning battery terminals and the cable clamps, make sure you use a tapered brush.
  • Remove corrosion on the terminal posts, hold-down tray and hold-down parts.
  • When washing and cleaning the battery, battery terminals, case or tray, rinse with water. Brushing on baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) solution can be used to neutralize the corrosive acid. If the solution does not bubble, the acid is most likely neutralized. After using baking soda solution rinse the battery with water.
  • In order to prevent shocks, never under any circumstances touch or come in contact with both terminals at the same time. If the baking soda solution is applied with a cloth, keep in mind that these solutions can conduct electricity.
  • Always ensure that the battery cables are clearly marked "positive" and "negative" when you are removing them in order to be able to reconnect them with the correct polarity.
  • Use a battery carrier to lift a battery, or place your hands at opposite corners. Keep in mind that batteries can weigh 30 to 60 pounds, therefore practice safe lifting and carrying procedures to prevent back injuries.
  • Use self-leveling filler, which automatically fills the battery to a predetermined level. Avoid filling battery cells above the level indicator.
  • Avoid squeezing the syringe hard.

Additional safety tips for the battery recharging area:

  • You must have a plumbed tepid water safety shower and eyewash station. If plumbed units cannot be installed, personal or portable eyewash stations may be installed in the area immediate to the battery charging. The plumbed tepid water wash stations must be installed nearby to facilitate the required flushing of the eyes and skin.
  • Always use non-vented safety goggles, face shield (considered secondary safety protection), acid resistant gloves (neoprene is sufficient), apron (if there is a potential to spill acid) and steel-toe boots or foot guards (if the battery is lifted).


University of Wisconsin System, 2013. Lead Acid Battery Maintenance and Safety Protocol.