Environmental Issues Regarding Electric Lift Truck Batteries
The electric lift truck is generally considered more stable and safe than diesel and gas powered IC engines. Both gas and diesel engines pose a fire risk and emit harmful exhaust toxins. The electric forklift is not without is hazards though. They have rechargeable batteries as their power source, and batteries could present risks to the environment as well as to personal safety. There are risks connected with the use, manufacture, storage and disposal of rechargeable batteries for lift trucks.
Nearly all lift truck batteries are made by placing lead plates into a solution of sulfuric acid. These are known as lead-acid rechargeable batteries. Lead is toxic which, when utilized in manufacturing processes, poses hazards to water quality due to drainage and runoff. When lead enters a water system it can cause a variety of health problems to people and could even be fatal. The sulfuric acid utilized in forklift batteries is detrimental to skin and can result in severe burns. Sulfuric acid also produces toxic fumes which can cause damage to humans and the environment.
Regular Use and Storage
When recharging, the lead-acid battery could produce hydrogen gas as a chemical byproduct. When recharging batteries for any types of vehicle or a lift truck, sparks, smoking, flames and heat should be kept well away from the recharging place. The combustible hydrogen could result in an explosion if ignited by flame or heat.
Sulfuric acid in the batteries can lead to chemical burns if it touches the bare skin. This is not an issue during normal use of the battery, but if a battery is punctured or damaged, the acid can leak or spray, potentially burning anybody who is nearby.
Incorrect disposal of lead-acid batteries should always be avoided. These batteries must be recycled properly or reused in new batteries so that the sulfuric acid could either be neutralized or recycled. To avoid the serious environmental consequences of improper disposal, all lead-acid batteries purchased or sold in the U.S. include a "core charge" which would just be returned if the used battery is turned in.