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Battery-powered equipment: Safety takes high priority

By Stephen Elliott

May 7, 2024

Along with the evolution of battery-powered equipment through the years, the topic of battery safety is an important part of the equipment’s use.

Among the common batteries used for equipment such as cordless power tools, riding mowers and off-road equipment are lithium-ion batteries.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “lithium battery” refers to one or more lithium cells that are electronically connected. Battery-powered equipment, depending on the application and type of job, can offer users advantages such as lower noise levels along with a simpler, more efficient and lightweight way to operate, creating user-friendly opportunities for both contractors and do-it-yourself (DIY) users.

But along with the advantages come areas where safety awareness is a must.

The Freedonia Group, a division of, is an international business research company that provides clients with product analyses, market forecasts and industry trends. According to the group, electric power equipment for lawn care and gardening is growing, increasing in demand from 12 percent of the outdoor power tool market in 2012 to 27 percent in 2022. The demand is expected to continue, increasing by 6.9 percent by 2032.

In a 2018 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s report on high energy density batteries, more than 25,000 overheating or fire incidents involving more than 400 types of lithium battery-powered consumer products occurred over a five-year period.

With more and more users of battery-powered equipment, battery safety must be considered when using, charging or storing batteries, experts say.

“It is very important that the rental company educates the customer on safety procedures and understands the battery technology before they leave with the equipment,” says Darren Brittain, senior director of portfolio strategy, Trojan Battery Co., Santa Fe Springs, Calif. “Conversely, it is essential that customers adhere to the safety procedures that are explained to them.”

Brittain says rental companies also should consider the manufacturer when selecting battery chemistries for powering their rental equipment. He says the battery management system (BMS) is the “brain” of the lithium battery that initiates a self-protection mode should an irregularity or catastrophic event happen to the battery.

“Using batteries from reliable and reputable manufacturers eliminates these concerns,” Brittain says.

Brittain adds that properly sizing the battery to the equipment and application in which it will be used is a key factor.

“If the battery is too small, it will have to be charged too frequently. A battery that is either in constant use or state-of-charge will lead to high heat generation that will shorten battery life, as well as create safety hazards,” Brittain explains. “Properly sizing the charger to the battery is also important. If the charger has too many amps in relation to the size of the battery, then the possibility of overheating increases, along with a boil over condition (if flooded), premature battery failure, and/or a thermal event.”

Jason Steadman, business development executive — rental, Vanguard, a division of Briggs & Stratton, Milwaukee, says there are many levels of safety that can be built into a battery to ensure maximum protection against potential hazards.

“To start, I think it’s important to acknowledge that not all batteries are created equal — especially when it comes to the advanced chemistry and technology that make up today’s batteries. There are numerous variations in design and chemical composition when producing a battery pack,” Steadman says.

“At Vanguard, we engineer our battery packs to account for what could happen under non-perfect conditions, starting with cell module assembly and cell selection. We use cylindrical cells, which have a current interrupt device (CID) built into them. The CID reduces the risk of thermal events by isolating a cell that may be encountering an issue so that the problem doesn’t spread to other cells.”

He says the company’s integrated BMS further enhances the safety and efficiency of the company’s battery packs, constantly monitoring the battery’s state of health.

One company, DENIOS – US, Louisville, Ky., is offering products designed to provide safe transport of lithium-ion batteries. The company’s BatterySafe™ cases are designed specifically to transport lithium-ion batteries in accord with international regulations. Batteries are surrounded by cushions filled with Pyrobubbles® — an extinguishing agent providing protection against thermal runaway and exothermic reactions.

The company also has lithium-ion fire fighting blankets specifically designed for the high temperatures generated from electric vehicle battery fires. The blankets are designed to contain the flames and reduce the risk of a fire spreading and associated collateral damage, the company says.

As more equipment becomes battery-powered, Steadman offers a side note regarding the topic.

“While today’s lithium-ion battery is extremely safe and there are a lot of advantages offered by battery power, I think it’s important to not dismiss engines. The answer to which power source is the best to use depends a great deal on the application and application needs we’re talking about,” Steadman says.

“Some larger machines with heavy loads that are running for long periods may still benefit from being engine-powered. However, as battery technology continues to evolve and improve, there is the potential that a wider range of applications and industries will be able to embrace the benefits of fully electric power — especially in the compact equipment space.

“An experienced power provider can help equipment manufacturers make that decision.”

Tips for taking care of battery-powered equipment
  • Storage conditions — Store in a cool, dry place. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
  • Use the charger provided by the manufacturer — These chargers are designed to meet the specific needs of the equipment’s battery and prevent overcharging, a common culprit in battery degradation.
  • Have a durable enclosure around a battery — This can prevent mechanical or electrical damage that could lead to short circuits or other failures and protect it against extreme temperatures, impact, vibration, moisture and dirt.
  • Understand the safety guidelines provided by a manufacturer to ensure proper use of the battery — If they suspect any issues with the battery, they should stop using the equipment immediately.

Source: Jason Steadman, business development executive — rental, Vanguard