Often, the most common way a battery is damaged is by being dropped, or rolled off a table. If this happens, check battery immediately for any hot spots or smells. If there is no detection of heat, check voltage of pack to ensure it is at expected voltage for use.
Hot Cell or Pack
A hot cell arises due to a short circuit of the cell or battery, either internally or externally. The cell/pack temperature rises as the event continues and this can lead to the cell reaching critical temperature. Because of this, the pack can potentially vent or explode. This can be an extremely dangerous situation and extreme caution needs to be taken.
Evacuate area if a hot pack is detected.
Monitor the temperature from a safe distance using a non-contact thermometer or thermal imager.
Continue monitoring until one of the following situations occurs:
The pack starts to cool
The pack vents
The pack explodes
If the pack starts to cool, continue monitoring until it reaches room temperature.
If temperature monitoring equipment is not available, do not handle for at least 24-hours.
Once it has cooled, remove the pack from the work area.
Dispose of properly.
Vented Cell or Pack
The severity of a vent can range from a slight leak of electrolyte, to an actual explosion. In the event that a leak is detected, the following precautions should be taken:
Let everyone know immediately what has happened, and isolate the pack within 100 feet of people or other batteries, in a well-ventilated area. There are no preventative methods of containing a battery that is heating up or venting, except removing people from the area and relocating the battery to an area that will cause minimal damage.
It could take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks for a battery to complete its event. Do not handle until it is completed, and has cooled down. When it is no longer hot, and the rotten egg smell has subsided, this will indicate the end of the event. Any liquid present will have turned into a gas, and corrosion may take place.
When a damaged battery needs to be handled, do not breathe the electrolyte in or allow it to come in contact with bare skin. Put on appropriate protective gear: Acid proof apron or lab coat, goggles or face shield, and acid proof rubber gloves.
Put the pack in to a suitably sized bag, fill with 1 lb. of baking soda (one small box), and remove excess air and seal closed.
Pour 5 cups of vermiculite into a second bag along with the first bag. Remove excess air and seal closed.
Place the pack in a third bag along with another lb. of baking soda, remove excess air and seal closed.
Segregate pack in a safe area until it can be disposed of properly.
Absorb any spilled electrolyte on work surfaces with baking soda or vermiculite. Sweep the contaminated absorbent material into a plastic bag and dispose of properly.
Ventilate the area until the odor is no longer apparent.
Exploded Cell or Pack
Though it is unlikely that a lithium battery would explode, misuse and abusive conditions of the battery could lead to this rare event.
Evacuate all personnel from the affected area.
Ventilate the area until the smoke has cleared and the odor is gone.
Do not handle an exploded pack until it has cooled, and follow the handling procedures of a vented pack.
Sweep up any debris and/or contaminated absorbent material and contain it in a sealable plastic bag. Do not let the debris come in contact with any other cells/packs, as it could contain metallic fragments that could lead to a short circuit.
Dispose the bag of debris, following the proper hazardous waste disposal regulations.
The affected area should be cleaned with a baking soda and water solution, or a commercially available liquid acid neutralizer. After the initial cleaning is complete, a second wipe down with soap and water may be necessary.
Fires Involving Lithium Batteries
Personal safety is the main concern should lithium batteries be involved in or near a fire.
Immediately evacuate the area and all personnel should be accounted for.
Notify emergency response immediately.
Portable Class D fire extinguishers should be considered a last resort for fighting a lithium battery fire, as they require the emergency responder to be in very close proximity to the fire.
Preventing the spread of the fire and minimizing cell venting is the secondary concern. A large amount of water is the most effective way to prevent this from happening. Flooding the area with water will cool surrounding batteries as well as reduce the possibility of more batteries venting.
The internal contents of the cells are extremely hazardous. If any fluid leaks, it is corrosive and very dangerous if it is inhaled. The following measures should be followed should a person become exposed to leaked electrolyte:
Eye Contact: Flush with cool running water for at least 15-minutes. Hold eyelids open and rinse thoroughly. Seek immediate medical attention.
Skin Contact: Rinse with large amounts of cool running water. Remove contaminated clothing. Avoid hot water and rubbing the skin. Seek medical attention if a burn develops.
Inhalation: Move to fresh air. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If not breathing, give artificial respiration and seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion: Drink copious amounts of water. Do not induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical attention.