THE FIRE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES EVERY BUSINESS SHOULD BE MITIGATING
Technological advancements have become essential for seamless operations today, in business environments and in homes. One such advancement is the increased use of lithium-ion batteries, powering everything from mobile phones, laptops, power tools to electric scooters and vehicles (EVs).
While these batteries have undoubtedly transformed the way businesses operate, they also come with a set of common risks, particularly as they are an increasing causes of fires. In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of lithium-ion battery fires and provide valuable advice for businesses to mitigate as soon as possible, including Stratas and Commercial Properties that cater for EVs, especially as we approach the summer season.
UNDERSTANDING THE COMMON RISKS
- Inferior Batteries
- Improper Use and Charging
- Incorrectly Installed Batteries
- Charging Locations, Especially in Summer
Cheap and substandard lithium-ion batteries flooding the market pose a significant risk to businesses. To cut costs, some manufacturers compromise on quality, leading to a higher likelihood of malfunctions and fires. Businesses must prioritise purchasing batteries from reputable suppliers, ensuring they meet safety standards and certifications.
Improper Use and Charging:
A crucial factor contributing to lithium-ion battery fires is the improper use and charging practices. Overcharging, undercharging, or using incompatible chargers can lead to overheating and, ultimately, a fire. Businesses should educate their employees on the importance of following manufacturer guidelines for charging and using lithium-ion batteries.
Dropped or Damaged Batteries:
Physical damage to lithium-ion batteries, such as drops or impacts, can compromise their internal structure. Damaged batteries are more prone to overheating and, in extreme cases, may catch fire. Implementing strict handling protocols and regular inspections can help identify and replace damaged batteries promptly.
Incorrectly Installed Batteries:
Improper installation of lithium-ion batteries can create short circuits, leading to thermal runaway and fires. Businesses must ensure that employees follow installation guidelines provided by the manufacturer. If installation requires technical expertise, it’s advisable to enlist the services of trained professionals.
Charging Locations, Especially in Summer:
As the summer season approaches, the ambient temperature increases, affecting the battery’s performance. Charging batteries in hot environments can accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of thermal events. Businesses should designate well-ventilated and cool areas for charging, minimising the likelihood of fires during the warmer months.
MITIGATING THE COMMON RISKS
- Quality Batteries
- Employee Training
- Fire Safety
- Regular Inspections and Replacement Schedule
- Protocols for Installation
- Optimal Charging Environments and Procedures
Invest in Quality Batteries:
Prioritise purchasing lithium-ion batteries from reputable suppliers with a proven track record in safety and reliability. While it may be tempting to cut costs, investing in quality batteries is a long-term strategy for risk mitigation.
It’s also important to discontinue the use of a battery if it has been involved in an impact or dropped even if they are quality ones.
Conduct regular training sessions for employees on the proper use, charging, and handling of lithium-ion batteries. Emphasise the importance of following manufacturer guidelines and promptly reporting any damaged or malfunctioning batteries.
It is recommended to have a foam extinguisher on hand, if it is safe to do so, to control and extinguish small fires as a Lithium-Ion battery fire are complex and there are very few effective means to extinguish them quickly and safely.
For larger fires, or battery setups, it is recommended to call Triple Zero straight away, do not try and fight the fire yourself. Reports suggest that up to 150,000 litres of water is required to extinguish a battery fire. Additionally, due to the chemistry of a lithium-ion battery, there is a risk of re-ignition of the fire.
Regular Inspections and Have a Schedule to Replace Batteries Regularly:
Implement a routine inspection schedule to identify and replace damaged or aging batteries and charging stations/ports. This proactive approach can significantly reduce the risk of fires caused by compromised batteries or faulty charging stations.
Regularly inspect batteries and dispose of any batteries that show any signs of swelling, leaking, or venting of gas. Ensuring that they are disposed of in an appropriate way, as they are often the cause of rubbish truck fires as well.
Replace batteries regularly, following the manufacturers recommendations.
It is also very important to dispose of used batteries correctly.
Strict Protocols for Installation:
Establish clear protocols for the installation of lithium-ion batteries. Ensure that employees follow these protocols diligently or enlist the services of professionals for installations requiring technical expertise.
Charger(s) Installation and Location:
Safer charging location: Especially for EV charging stations (but applicable to most scenarios), install chargers in areas that emergency services can easily access.
- Outdoor or indoor, the recommended distance from combustible materials is 10 meters.
- Charging systems should be installed by a certified/authorised company.
- Electrical circuit should be dedicated to the chargers, separated from the general main, and fitted with circuit breakers and surge protection.
Optimal Charging Environments and Procedures:
Designate well-ventilated and cool areas for charging lithium-ion batteries. Consider implementing charging stations with temperature controls, especially in areas prone to higher temperatures during the summer.
- Don’t charge anything overnight, or whilst you are away from the home or business premise. Charge the item and unplug after it has been completely charged.
- Store them in an area which is not exposed to direct heat.
- Only charge on non-combustible surfaces and away from combustible items. (For example, having the charger in the garage near the jerry can of fuel for the lawn mower)
- Allow batteries to cool after use and before charging.
- If you are charging larger items, or multiple items such as multiple golf carts in the one shed, we would suggest to increase fire sprinkler systems in that area to assist in controlling the fire.
While lithium-ion batteries have become indispensable in the business world, understanding and mitigating the associated risks is crucial. By investing in quality batteries, providing thorough employee training, conducting regular inspections, enforcing strict installation protocols, and optimising charging environments, businesses can significantly reduce the likelihood of lithium-ion battery fires. As we approach the summer season, taking these precautions becomes even more critical to ensure the safety of your business premises and personnel.
This blog article has been prepared by KBI Pty Ltd for informational and educational purposes only.
The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about the potential fire risks associated with lithium-ion batteries. However, it is important to note that the content presented in this article should not be considered a definitive guide or a substitute for professional advice. This article does not constitute professional advice, and readers should independently verify and confirm any information presented herein. KBI Pty Ltd does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided in this article.
The information provided in this article is intended to be general in nature and does not account for the specific circumstances or configurations of individual devices or systems. Please consult with qualified professionals, such as electricians, engineers, or other relevant experts, to assess and address the specific risks associated with lithium-ion batteries in their particular applications. KBI Pty Ltd disclaims any liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential loss or damage arising from reliance on the information provided in this article.
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