up arrow to top of page

Safe Power: Handling Vehicle Batteries at Work

Lead-acid batteries can be hazardous so effective vehicle battery handling practices are crucial for ensuring workplace safety.

An auto worker holding a lead-acid car battery while wearing gloves.


Vehicle batteries, specifically lead-acid batteries, pose several hazards that workers must be aware of to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them.

Lead-acid batteries contain sulfuric acid, a highly corrosive liquid that can cause severe burns on contact with skin or eyes.

When lead-acid battery terminals are short-circuited by any conductive object (like a metal tool) sparks can generate enough heat to cause severe burns and melted metal.

An explosive mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gases can escape through a battery’s vents during charging or if the battery is moving or shaking. If these vapors accumulate in a small area they can ignite easily and cause a fire or explosion.

Dust mixed with battery acid can create a low resistance path that can short circuit the battery.

The lead content in batteries is toxic if inhaled or ingested, which can cause lead poisoning.

Batteries are heavy and if they are not handled correctly or they are dropped there is danger of sprains, strains, or other bodily injuries.

If batteries are not properly discarded, they can pose a threat to the environment.

Soil and ground water contamination can occur if acid spills are not cleaned up quickly and safely. Spilled acid can also become airborne as it dries causing tissue irritation or permanent damage.

A row of forklift batteries at a charging station.


The main safety concerns with lead-acid vehicle batteries is the corrosive acid (electrolyte) and its ability to produce an electrical charge or cause burns on the skin.

Keep all forms of ignition far away from batteries including open flames, cigarettes, and any tools that could create sparks, like grinders.

Ensure that tools used on or near batteries are insulated. Never place tools or metal objects on top of or near batteries. Remove all jewelry and watches before working on a battery.

Keep batteries clean and free of excess dust to avoid conditions that may cause a fire or explosion.

Avoid leaning over the battery when charging, testing, connecting, disconnecting, or jump-starting.

Charge batteries in well-ventilated areas to prevent the accumulation of explosive gases. The battery recharging location should have necessary fire protection and emergency equipment.

Always use proper lifting techniques or material handling equipment when moving batteries to avoid strains and injuries. Ensure batteries are securely placed to prevent them from tipping or dropping, which could cause acid spills or physical injuries.

Store batteries upright. Keep battery vent caps tight.

Ensure that charger cables and clamps are in good condition before use. Never jump-start a frozen battery.

A worker wearing PPE carrying a spill kit at an industrial work facility.


In the event of a battery acid spill or the need for disposal, certain procedures must be followed to ensure personnel safety and environmental protection. All employees should be familiar with the spill procedure requirements for the facility where they are working.

  1. Stop the battery acid leak and contain the spill while wearing appropriate PPE.
  2. If the spill is on a vehicle use a neutralizer and then rinse with clean water.
  3. If the spill is on the floor sift baking soda or other neutralizer on the spill and then clean up with non-metallic tools and absorbent materials.
  4. Large spills should be dammed to ensure the acid doesn’t enter drains or waterways.
  5. Dispose of the absorbent material used to clean up a spill in suitable acid-resistant containers according to EPA universal waste regulations.
  6. Store used batteries upright in a secure, leak-proof container and label clearly.
  7. Dispose of batteries according to local environmental regulations, never in the regular trash.
A graphic that says personal protective equipment or PPE.


Sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) is recommended when working with vehicle batteries.

  1. Wear chemical-resistant acid-proof gloves to protect hands from acid burns.
  2. Use chemical splash safety goggles or safety glasses with side shields worn under a full-face shield to prevent acid splashes in the eyes.
  3. Wear a rubber or neoprene apron or acid-resistant clothing to protect the body from acid spills.
  4. Acid-resistant steel-toed safety boots can protect the feet from acid splashes or accidental drops.
  5. Use respiratory protection if working in an area with lead dust or where ventilation is poor.
OSHA Standard 1910.151(c) Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.

If exposure to battery acid is a risk, it is beneficial that workers know some basic first aid.

  • For skin contact, immediately flush the area with running water for at least 15 minutes and remove contaminated clothing.
  • For eye contact, rinse eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
  • If inhaled, move to fresh air and seek medical attention.
The battery warning light on a car's dashboard.


Proper vehicle maintenance extends battery life and prevents accidents related to battery failure. Drive vehicles at least once a week, if possible, to keep the battery charged.

Ventilate the battery compartment to release gas build-up before performing maintenance or repair, like tightening loose terminals. Regularly check battery terminals and posts for corrosion and clean them regularly or as needed.

Keep the battery free of dirt and grease. Inspect batteries regularly for leaks, cracks, loose wires, or other signs of damage. Do not use damaged batteries.

Ensure the battery is firmly secured in its bracket to prevent movement and potential short circuits.

Check the battery charge level periodically and keep it fully charged to avoid sulfation, which can shorten the battery's life.

Inspect the alternator and charging system to ensure the battery is being charged correctly without overcharging.

A graphic of a vehicle battery.

Weeklysafety.com is giving away 10 free safety topics, no credit card required! Take advantage and grab your free set of safety meeting topics today by clicking the button below.

A membership to Weeklysafety.com comes at a very low price that never goes up no matter how many employees you have and no matter how many awesome safety topics you use. Included in your membership are hundreds of safety topics that you can use for your safety meetings, toolbox talks and safety moments.

Take a look at our website to learn more about everything that comes with a Weeklysafety.com membership. Click below to learn more today!

Download this free report today and get inspired to improve your workplace safety program!

No items found.