A well-designed forklift battery maintenance program includes a dedicated recharging area, but that should be more than just a random corner in the warehouse. Pay careful attention to the maintenance area's location, layout and safety to ensure you create the most effective and economical facility.
Finding The Best Site
Forklift battery maintenance areas are often tucked out of sight, almost as afterthoughts to facility layout. The problem with that kind of location is your forklift drivers have to go out of their way each time a battery change is needed. This is more time the vehicle is off the floor. It's better to put changing area in the middle of your facility to minimize the distance each truck has to go to get a new battery.
Many fleet managers prefer to use portable battery lift vehicles to replace batteries out in the field rather than having the trucks drive in individually. Since the lift carries many batteries at once, it means fewer trips to the recharge area and location is less important. However the maintenance area shouldn't be too far out of the way.
The forklift battery maintenance area is going to get more traffic than most places in your facility so plan the approaches accordingly. Aisles should be straight and wide so drivers can get in and out quickly. Exiting trucks should not get in the way of arriving ones. Some managers prefer a one-way pass through design, while others ensure routes are wide enough to allow two-way traffic in and out of the area.
Plan the maintenance area with plenty of room for the actual replacement of batteries. Workers shouldn't have to twist or strain to get to the batteries, nor should drivers have to navigate through obstacles to get into position. Plants using mobile battery changing systems, either in addition or instead of having trucks come in, should be sure approaches are wide enough to handle these larger vehicles.
There are many dangers in a forklift battery maintenance area, but as long as you have the right equipment, policies and attitude toward safety, your workers will be protected. One of the most obvious dangers is burns from battery acid. Not only should you have an eyewash station, but the approach to the station should be kept clear so blinded workers don't stumble.
Another important danger is the buildup of hydrogen gas that occurs during recharging. The area should be well-ventilated, smoking should be absolutely prohibited, and all necessary fire safety equipment should be available. This includes alarms and clearly-marked fire extinguishers. Workers should receive emergency response training so they know what to do in the event of an accident.
A dedicated forklift battery maintenance area is essential to efficient fleet operations. Make sure the design the facility right in the first place, and you will have less downtime and fewer accidents in the long run.