Electric pallet jacks take a lot of the hard work out of moving hundreds or thousands of pounds of materials and products across a warehouse floor, but they can't do all that heavy lifting and moving without a charged battery. However, charging your pallet jack batteries creates a few distinct hazards that can threaten the health and safety of your employees, and even safe charging procedures can shorten the lifespan of your equipment. Make sure everyone in your facility follows these five safety and performance tips when using the pallet jack charging station.
Remember to Equalize
Wet cell pallet jack batteries, the most common type, consist of multiple individual cells that interact with the water you add to create a chemical reaction that releases electricity. These cells can recharge at different rates, resulting in unevenly charged batteries that won't hold a charge as long and take longer to recharge. Giving the battery an equalizing charge every five to 10 charging cycles, or at different intervals recommended by the manufacturer, mixes the chemicals inside the cells again so they all charge at the same rate. Equalizing charges are run on a lower power setting for about three hours, and most charging stations include a pre-programmed setting for this purpose.
Skip the Overcharging
Aside from running an equalizing or normal charging session, don't be tempted to leave the pallet jack battery on the charger overnight in the hopes that it'll improve the battery's performance. Instead of adding extra power to the battery, overcharging beyond full capacity simply causes the unit to overheat. Overheating due to overcharging is one of the fastest ways to shorten the lifespan of the battery.
Clean the Case
Whether you're using an open cell battery that regularly requires the addition of water or a sealed unit referred to as a maintenance-free unit, you still need to keep the case clean to prevent corrosion and potentially explosive chemical mixing. Follow basic cleaning procedures like the following:
- Blow off dust and debris from a properly functioning battery instead of wiping or washing it off to prevent contamination under the battery cover
- Wash away any battery acid spills with a combination of baking soda and water, then rinse with plain water
- Keep the cover and fill hole plugs in place unless you're refilling the cells with water.
Open the Vents
The plugs that cover the fill holes for adding water should feature small holes that serve as vents. This is because a charging pallet jack battery produces dangerous gases that must escape into the air to prevent an explosion from the pressure building up inside the battery. Check these openings regularly to make sure they're open and free from dirt or debris that would block air flow. You shouldn't need to take out the plugs themselves to ventilate the battery during charging.
Avoid Any Sparks
Finally, post plenty of warning signs around the charging station to make sure no one creates sparks or brings an open flame near the battery while it's charging. The gases produced are both explosive and highly flammable, making the pallet jack charging station a dangerous place to work around. Locate the station as far away from other work areas as possible, preferably in its own room with plenty of ventilation. Even placing a metal tool on the battery while it's charging could create an arcing reaction that leads to a life-threatening explosion.
With a little care and precautions, a pallet jack battery should last for dozens of charging cycles with no major problems. Make sure to rotate your batteries out regularly for replacements, since old and worn out batteries slow down your equipment and become harder and more dangerous to charge as the years pass.