Even when not required by regulations, the following best practices for lead acid batteries are recommended.
Handling Lead-Acid Batteries (Use of Personal Protective Equipment)
Lead-acid batteries that are damaged or missing a cap can leak acid. Battery acid can severely damage your eyes and skin, so personal protective equipment should be worn when handling batteries. More specifically, follow these guidelines:
- Wear acid-resistant gloves and safety glasses;
- Double-bag damaged batteries in polyethylene plastic bags that are at least 6-mils in thickness;
- If you can replace a missing battery cap, do so immediately, otherwise consider a battery with a missing cap "damaged" and double-bag the battery in 6-mil polyethylene plastic bags.
Storage & Labeling
- Small quantities of lead-acid batteries should be stored in acid-resistant tubs; large quantities should be stored in an isolated area with no floor drains; and spent lead-acid batteries should be stored indoors (or if outdoors, under a cover) and on an impervious surface.
- Freezing temperatures may cause spent batteries' cases to crack.
- Storage areas should be sealed with an acid-resistant material and have a containment berm.
- Piles of lead-acid batteries that are being stored on pallets should not be stacked higher than three feet, and the piles should be covered and stored within an enclosed area. (Ideally, lead-acid batteries should be stored in a single layer because stacking increases the risk of short circuits and acid leaks.)
Spills & Acid Debris
- Keep the following supplies in your lead-acid battery storage area: acid-resistant gloves; a supply of polyethylene plastic bags (six mils or thicker, and sized to contain the largest battery expected); rags or disposable wipes for acid leak clean-up; appropriate absorbent for spill clean-up; and a weather-resistant pen or marker for marking used or damaged batteries with the date they were taken out of service.
- It is also a good safety precaution to have an eyewash station in the area, or a sign indicating the location of the nearest eyewash.
- Keep a supply of lime or baking soda on hand to neutralize acid spills.
- If there is a battery acid spill: a) double-bag the leaking battery in 6 mil polyethylene plastic bags; b) clean the spilled battery acid with rags or disposable wipes and use appropriate absorbent; and c) manage the clean-up material as hazardous waste by placing it in an acid debris waste accumulation container. Clean-up debris would also contain lead and would have to be managed as such, not just as an acidic waste.
Lead-acid batteries can be universal wastes and managed according to the requirements in 40 CFR 273, or reclaimed according to the requirements in 40 CFR 266, or managed as a RCRA hazardous waste under the requirements contained in 40 CFR 262.
Mil - A unit of measurement in the English system that is measured in thousandths of an inch. (i.e., .001 = one thousandth of an inch or 1.0 mil)