One of the greatest advances in the forklift industry (yes, there are advances in the forklift industry, you cynic) has been the development of battery-operated vehicles. They reduce fuel consumption, noise levels, and harmful emissions — but as one set of problems disappears, another set pops up. Like Whack-a-Mole.
The batteries on battery-powered lift trucks are not like the double-As in your remote control, or even like the 12-volt blocks in your car. Forklift batteries are rechargeable, incredibly powerful, and weigh a ton (literally — they average around 2,000 lbs). These impressive features lead to a list of equally impressive safety considerations.
Outgassing. Without getting too scientific on you, the recharging system for forklift batteries involves “outgassing,” where the byproducts of the electricity-generating process (namely oxygen and hydrogen gasses) must be vented. The gasses are highly concentrated and, thus, highly flammable, so the outgassing area must be well-ventilated. Anyone servicing a battery must wear proper protective equipment and undergo proper training. And open flames are right out.
Internal Chemicals. Again, without sounding too sciency-wiency, forklift batteries (any batteries, really) are chock full of nasty chemicals that you don’t want to get anywhere near your skin, eyes, hair, clothes, shoes, hopes, dreams… really anywhere near you, in all honesty. Safe-handling procedures are a must, to ensure that the highly effective and highly dangerous chemicals stay where they belong.
Weight. No science jargon needed here — forklift batteries are heavy. So heavy, in fact, that specifically designed forklift battery changing systems needed to be designed, and specifically-engineered forklift battery changing equipment was created with the single task of (you guessed it) forklift battery changing. And it’s not a matter of, “Oh, you really should use this equipment, it’s the bee’s knees.” It’s a case of, “Seriously, if you don’t use this equipment you will, quite simply, injure yourself and others. And you’ll never get the battery changed.”
With new progress comes new challenges, whether it’s safety and handling precautions or the simple gravitational hurdle of how to transfer a forklift battery from point A to point B. So stay tuned for the next installment of “New Things We Can Do and the Problems We Now Have to Overcome in Order to Do Them.”