Improving safety in lift truck battery maintenance
Several years ago, the Columbus McKinnon forging and machining facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., installed a single-point watering system to support its electric lift truck battery supply. Since then, the system has reduced employee exposure while improving equipment longevity.
Before the new system, the company’s electric narrow-aisle lift truck batteries often needed watering despite unavailability of the proper equipment. Replacing water by hand lead to dangerously creative ways of reaching the cells. Improperly removed batteries could be seen balancing halfway out of the forklift. During any watering, employees were exposed to flammable or noxious fumes, battery acid, and crush hazards. Because of the hassle, some cells were not watered at all.
The new single-point watering system includes automatic shut-off valves with interconnected tubing that replaces existing vent caps. The tubing is attached to the water supply by a quick coupler, and water flows into each cell until it reaches the correct level. Batteries remain fixed inside lift trucks during filling. And, employees are no longer exposed to acid or fumes since vent caps are not being removed.
Now that water levels are no longer estimated, battery life has been extended and performance has improved. The system is simple to operate and requires little training. Watering now takes around 30 seconds per battery, compared to as much as 20 minutes manually.
Read more from the 2013 Casebook.