Recently an ISRI member visited a large battery recycling facility and was given a tour by the facility EHS manager. The facility handles large quantities of lithium and other types of batteries monthly, and he wanted to share some takeaways from that visit along with some proactive measures that his company is taking to minimize risks to employees, equipment, and the facilities. Here is the member’s take on that visit:
First of all, the recycling facility had a very sophisticated fire detection and suppression systems that may not be achievable for smaller handlers, but there are several things that I feel we can all do to minimize our risks:
- For hot or smoking batteries, bright red labeled buckets are located around our facility that contain Cell Block EX, which is a Class D fire extinguishing media
- Bags of Cell Block EX are located in and near our battery storage area that can be quickly torn open and dumped into smoking gaylord boxes or barrels. It may not extinguish a fire, but it will certainly slow it down until the fire department can get there and take further action if needed. The battery recycler swears by this stuff and they have it everywhere around their facility.
- Minimize storage time and storage quantities to keep lithium battery inventories as low as possible. Doing this is an additional expense to the company, but one that we feel is worth the cost. We investigated keeping inventory in a shipping container away from the facility, but we feel that heat build-up in the warmer months may create or cause additional hazards
- Evaluate battery storage areas with your insurance company and fire alarm company for their suggestions. Also, we are looking into thermal imaging monitoring for quicker hot spot detection vs. heat and smoke sensors.
- Solid steel shelving is being added to our storage racks to minimize upward fire spread. We are also painting shelf surfaces with truck bed liner so they are non-conductive.
- We are running a water line to our e-scrap shredder with a gate valve next to the E-Stop so we can quickly shut down and flood the shredder chamber in the event of an emergency. Please let us know if anyone has better ideas out there for this one?
- And we are always improving employee awareness and training programs in regards to battery safety.
These batteries scare us, and there are enough horror stories out there that we think we’re doing the right thing by moving quickly with these proactive solutions and preventative actions.
The hope is that some of this info helps you in keeping your employees and facilities safer. Please let us know if you have any other ideas or solutions that you’ve implemented at your facilities.
Another great resource for safety information on lithium batteries is the Battery Council.
Tony Smith is the director of safety outreach for ISRI.