Safety Precautions When Working With Batteries

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Batteries contain highly corrosive sulphuric acid and explosive hydrogen and oxygen gases.  Batteries must be handled with extreme care at all times.

Handling battery acid
When working with acid, such as filling batteries, use a face shield.  If many batteries are handles, wear protective clothing for extra safety.

Extreme care must be taken to avoid spilling or splashing electrolyte since it can destroy clothing and burn the skin.

Care should also be taken when lifting and carrying batteries.  If excessive pressure is placed on the end walls of a plastic cased battery, it could cause electrolyte to seep through the vents.  A battery carrier should always be used, otherwise batteries may be lifted with your hands carefully placed at opposite corners.  If electrolyte is spilled or splashed it must be neutralised immediately and then rinsed with clean water.  Baking soda or household ammonia mixed with water makes an effective neutraliser.

Electrolyte splashed into the eyes is extremely dangerous.  If this should happen, force the eye open and floor it with cool, clean water for approximately 15 minutes.  A doctor should be called to the scene for immediate medical attention. 

However, if this is not possible, follow the doctor’s instructions to take emergency action.  Do not add eye drops or other medication unless advised to do so by the doctor.

Be sure batteries and acid are placed well away from a child’s reach.  If acid is taken internally drink large quantities of water or milk.  Follow with milk of magnesia, beaten egg or vegetable oil.  Call a doctor immediately.

If electrolyte is spilled or splashed on any surface of the car, it should be neutralised and rinsed with clean water.

If it becomes necessary to prepare electrolyte of a desired specific gravity, always pour the concentrated acid slowly into the water – do not pour water into the acid.  Heat is generated when acid is mixed with water.  Add small amounts of acid slowly while stirring.  Allow to cool if noticeable heat develops.  Except for lead or lead lined containers, use non-metallic receptacles and/or funnels.  Do not store acid in excessively warm locations or in direct sunlight.

Danger of exploding battery
Batteries generate explosive gases.  It only takes a small spark, flame or burning cigarette to set off a dangerous explosion.  Therefore, these and other ignition sources must be kept well away at all times.
Hydrogen and oxygen gases are produced during normal battery operation and escape through the battery vents.  Make sure working areas are well ventilated to avoid creating an explosive atmosphere around the battery.

Ensure safety precautions continue to be observed after a battery has been charged as explosive gases may still be present for several hours.

An exploding battery may cause serious injuries including eye injury from flying pieces of the case or cover.  Always wear safety goggles and a face shield when working near batteries.

Never lean over the battery during charging, testing or “jump starting” operations.

Do not break “live” circuits at the terminals of batteries because a spark invariably occurs at the point where a “live” circuit is broken.

Make certain the charger cable clamps or booster leads are clean and making good connections.  A poor connection can cause an electrical arc which could ignite the gas mixture and explode the battery.

Take care to ensure tools or other metallic objects do not fall across the terminal or any adjacent metallic part of the vehicle.

Do not smoke when working under the hood of a car or near a battery.  Never strike a match or bring any other flame near a battery.


This article is found in the Virtual mechanic CD Rom
You can download it for the price of a latte, but you will learn not to buy a lemon
By Darren Gow-Brown, Melbourne Australia


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