Battery Safety – Using the BTS Container

Despite Uniseg Products’ Battery Transport & Storage (BTS) Containers (pictured below) providing a simpler, safer and more environmentally friendly method for storing used lead acid batteries, there are still some fire risks associated with their use. The 2 main risks are due to the incorrect stacking of batteries into the container, when steel case batteries are present and the inclusion of other battery chemistries with the lead acid batteries.

Below we have documented:

  1. How to safely stack lead acid batteries into the BTS Containers
  2. How to identify lead acid batteries from other battery chemistries.
Photo showing example of safe battery storage
Safe stacking and storage of used lead acid batteries at a Western Australian Mine Site

Correct & Safe Stacking of Lead Acid Batteries in the BTS Containers

Used Lead Acid Batteries (ULAB) pose a fire risk, particularly if they retain residual charge. The main risks come from poor stacking and from the inclusion of metal objects and in particular steel case batteries that can cause a short circuit between 2 battery terminals.

For this reason, steel case batteries can never be stacked on top of other batteries where the steel case is resting on top of the underlying battery’s terminals. If possible, we recommend placing them at the bottom of the container. If this can’t be done due to the BTS Container already having several layers of batteries stacked inside, then the steel case battery must be insulated from the underlying battery. The easiest methods to achieve this are:

  1. Fold a cardboard box (so that it is at least 3cm thick and insert between the steel case and underlying battery terminals.
  2. Tape the terminals of the underlying battery with a heavy-duty tape.

All batteries should be stacked in the vertical, upright position and the batteries should be packed reasonably snuggly to prevent any excessive movement during transport. A battery than can topple on its side or upside-down during transport could represent a fire risk.

For a full set of videos on how to operate the BTS Container, including how to erect, close and collapse the BTS container.

Which Types of Batteries can be Stacked in the BTS Containers?

Battery chemistries should not be mixed, so if you are using the BTS Container to store used lead acid batteries you should not include other battery chemistries. If you are unsure if a battery is a lead acid battery, look for the Pb (lead) symbol, with a rubbish bin crossed out, similar to the example below. Batteries with this symbol are lead acid batteries.

Lead acid batteries can come in many shapes and sizes and some are wet (acid electrolyte), also referred to as flooded, while others are non-spillable, also referred to as sealed lead acid, valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries, AGM and industrial batteries due to their use in industrial applications such as solar & UPS backup. Non-spillable batteries use a gel like electrolyte and hence are less prone to leak than spillable batteries. Some examples are shown below;

This is a steel case battery so precautions must be taken stacking with other batteries. See above “Correct & Safe Stacking of Lead Acid Batteries in the BTS Containers” for details on how to safely stack steel case batteries with other lead acid batteries.

Why Other Battery Chemistries Cannot be Included with Lead Acid Batteries

The inclusion of lithium batteries with lead acid batteries poses a significant fire risk, as damage during transport to a lithium battery can result in a runaway thermal event and subsequent fire and / or explosion (note a fire may occur many hours after the Lithium battery has been damaged). Larger Lithium batteries are noticeably lighter than their lead acid equivalents. Some examples of Lithium batteries are shown below;

Other battery chemistries that pose a significant fire risk are wet alkaline batteries, as the alkaline electrolyte can react dangerously with the acid electrolyte found in lead acid batteries. A picture of a wet alkaline battery is shown below;

Wet Alkaline Battery

Dangerous Goods / Hazardous Waste Labelling Requirements

Both Lithium & Wet Alkaline Batteries have a different dangerous good / hazardous waste classifications from lead acid batteries and hence different packing, labelling and marking requirements for their storage and transportation. Effectively this means they cannot be stored or transported in the same container.

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