Safe use of lithium-ion batteries at home and in the workplace
This bulletin provides important information on the safe use of lithium-ion batteries at home and in the workplace.
The benefits of batteries
Most homes and workplaces will have some form of lithium-ion batteries at their premises. The use of lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) batteries is widespread, from mobile phones, portable computers, tablets, power tools and more recently electric bikes, scooters, skateboards, vehicles and solar battery storage units are becoming more popular.
These batteries have many advantages, in particular small size, varying shape profiles, light weight and reduced charging times.
The risk of batteries
All batteries are hazardous and potentially dangerous if they are not correctly stored, maintained and/or used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Failing to correctly store, maintain and/or use a battery correctly can have significant impact on its performance and life. The risks associated with lithium-ion batteries can include overheating causing fire or an explosion, resulting in burns, toxic chemical exposure and pollution due to the battery rupturing.
The main risk for lithium-ion batteries is components in the battery breaking down at elevated temperatures causing the battery to overheat and catch fire.
Lithium-ion batteries are classified as dangerous goods under the Australian Dangerous Goods Code and there have been a number of reported incidents of lithium-ion battery fires across the country that have caused extensive damage to vehicles and homes.
Managing the risks
To manage the risks associated with Lithium-ion batteries, you should:
- Do ensure batteries are stored within the temperature range recommended by the manufacturer and away from flammable materials;
- Don’t expose the battery packs to heat or direct sunlight, or leave them in hot vehicles for extended periods;
- Do charge batteries using only a charger recommended by the manufacturer;
- Don’t charge batteries on flammable surfaces (such as wood, carpet, material, paper, plastics);
- Don’t leave batteries unattended when charging;
- Store and/or transport batteries in a non-flammable container;
- Regularly check the condition of the battery;
- Do not use batteries that are damaged or swollen;
- Discontinue the charging process and immediately disconnect the battery if you witness a battery changing shape, starting to balloon, swell up, smoke or become extremely hot; and
- Do refer to the battery manufactures safe work practices and Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) before use.
Warning signs - what to look for
Heat: It’s completely normal for batteries to generate some heat when charging or in use. But if your device’s lithium-ion battery feels extremely hot to the touch, there’s a good chance it’s defective and at risk of starting a fire.
Swelling: When a lithium battery fails, another common sign is battery swelling. If the shape of your battery has changed, or it looks swollen, you should stop using it immediately. Similar signs include any type of lump or bulge, or leakage from the device.
Noise: Failing lithium batteries have also been reported to make hissing or cracking sounds.
Odour:If you notice a strong or unusual odour coming from the battery, this is also a bad sign.
Smoke: This one’s a little more obvious. But if your device is smoking, a fire has already started.
Additional information on Lithium-Ion batteries:
- Lithium-ion batteries have explosive fire potential (Department of Fire & Emergency Services WA)
- Solar PV batteries – information for home and business owners
- Australia Dangerous Good Code
- Safety alert - Power tool battery fires
If you have a concern regarding the safety or compliance of a Lithium-ion battery, contact NT WorkSafe on 1800 019 115 or emailing email@example.com and ask to speak to an Electrical Safety Inspector.