Originally published 12/14/2016
Whether on the construction site or at home, it’s important to know how to safely handle batteries. Batteries can be dangerous and injuries have occurred while working with them. Each year, a significant number of motorists suffer serious eye injuries or even blindness because of improperly jump starting a dead vehicle battery.
Automotive lead-acid batteries contain sulfuric acid in the electrolyte. The acid inside the battery is highly corrosive and can burn your skin if it leaks out. This is especially probable when batteries contain liquid acid and have removable caps on top. Sealed-top batteries should contain the liquid as long as the battery remains in an upright position. Never store a battery on its side or upside down. Acid may also leak if the battery case is cracked or damaged, so handle with care.
Cold weather can affect batteries, especially on equipment that is stored outside and hasn’t been started for a while. Whether in the yard of a field office or on a construction site, it is quite typical to grab a set of jumper cables and attempt to jump start a vehicle. However, there are hazards associated with jump starting that need to be taken into consideration.
- DO NOT lean directly over the battery while making jumper connections (in case of explosion).
- DO NOT smoke around a battery, or use anything that produces an open flame or spark. When a battery charges, it gives off hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is flammable and can explode if a spark occurs near the battery.
- DO NOT attempt to jump start or recharge a frozen battery. Remove the battery from the vehicle, bring it into a warm room and let it thaw before charging or testing.
- ALWAYS wear safety glasses and gloves when jump starting a battery.
- NEVER touch a metal object (such as a wrench) between the positive and negative battery posts to see if the battery will spark. It will, and could produce a current similar to a welding arc that may damage the tool, the battery and/or cause the battery to explode.