Safety Practices Regarding Lithium-Ion Batteries

Safety Practices Regarding Lithium-Ion Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries (also known as li-ion batteries) are in many everyday appliances – both in the workplace and the home – and have become commonplace, but they pose a fire risk not everyone may be aware of. Let’s take a closer look at these batteries and the sensible precautions you can take to avoid a lithium-ion battery fire.

Personal devices, laptops, power tools, bikes, and scooters commonly use lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are lightweight, compact, and store a considerable amount of energy for their size. However, their potential to catch fire has escalated into a major health and safety concern recently. Fires can result from physical impacts, such as dropping a device, or from battery overheating, internal cell failures, short circuits, or manufacturing defects. A notable example is Samsung’s recall of the Galaxy Note 7, attributed to issues with these batteries. Consequently, experts now recognize lithium-ion batteries as a serious fire risk.

In 2021, Aviva reported dozens of home fire claims caused by overheating chargers and battery components, often occurring when homeowners left items charging while away. Among these claims, one involved an e-scooter battery fire in a customer’s garage, valued at £150,000, and another stemmed from an exploding e-cigarette battery, resulting in damages worth £140,000. Zurich, another insurer, disclosed that claims due to lithium battery fires had tripled over three years. These blazes commonly arose from defective batteries, incompatible chargers, or devices charged for extended periods. Additionally, cheap third-party batteries purchased online, failing to meet safety standards, have been identified as a frequent cause of these incidents.

Battery fire safety tips

The London Fire Brigade, attending an average of 24 fires a week, recommends these tips to prevent fires caused by chargers, batteries, and cables.

  • Avoid storing or charging batteries at extreme temperatures, such as in a hot vehicle or a cold outbuilding.
  • Ensure batteries are protected from damage that can be caused by crushing, puncturing, or immersion in water.
  • Refrain from continuing to charge beyond the completion of the charge cycle, for example, do not leave your phone charging overnight.
  • Keep chargers and charging devices uncovered, particularly avoiding fabric or flammable materials.
  • When traveling, especially on a plane, separate items containing lithium-ion batteries to avoid packing them all together.
  • Be cautious not to overload electrical sockets.
  • Refrain from fast-charging a battery that is nearing the end of its life or performing poorly.

Warning signs of fire

• If the temperature of either the charger or battery (or both) rises to more than 10ºC (18ºF) on a regular charge, stop using the charger or device.

• If a lithium-ion battery feels hot to the touch, overheats, hisses, or starts bulging or swelling, immediately move your device away from all flammable materials and place it on a non-combustible surface. If it’s safe to do so, place the battery outdoors in order to burn out.

• Toxic smoke is usually the first sign of a fire, before any flame.

Ensure you have coverage

Check your home and contents insurance cover is up to date and adequate for such an eventuality as a lithium-ion battery fire. In the workplace, make sure you have Directors and Officers insurance in place as well as Liability insurance. On a practical note, you could consider investing in lithium-ion battery fire extinguishers, fire blankets and fire-resistant containers, all designed to put out lithium-ion battery fires.

Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team.

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