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.
Lithium-ion batteries are found in personal devices, laptops, power tools, bikes and scooters. They are very lightweight and compact and hold considerable energy for their size, yet the risk of them catching fire has become an escalating health and safety concern in recent years. Fire can result from physical impact – i.e., a device being dropped - or it can occur from the battery overheating, internal cell failure, a short circuit or a manufacturing defect. You may remember a recall by Samsung of the Galaxy Note 7 due to issues with these batteries. They are now recognised as a serious fire risk.
Increasingly common is a home fire caused by chargers and batteries. In 2021, Aviva received dozens of home fire claims as a result of this happening, with charger and battery components overheating, sometimes when claimants had left items on charge on leaving the house. Specific claims involving lithium-ion batteries in 2021 included a fire from e-scooter batteries, when the scooter been left charging in a customer’s garage (value: £150,000) and a fire deemed to have been caused by an e-cigarette battery which exploded (value: £140,000). Another insurer, Zurich, has revealed they have seen claims after lithium battery fires triple in three years. Blazes have been the result of defective batteries, incompatible chargers and devices being left on charge for too long. The culprit has also been cheap third-party batteries bought on the internet, which haven’t met safety standards.

Battery fire safety tips

  • These tips are recommended by the The London Fire Brigade, who attend 24 fires a week, on average, started by chargers, batteries and cables.
  • Always use the original charger that came with your device. If you need a replacement, use a branded, genuine product from a supplier you trust. Avoid cheap fakes!
  • Avoid storing or charging batteries at very high or low temperatures, like a hot vehicle or a cold outbuilding.
  • Protect batteries against damage caused by being crushed, punctured or immersed in water.
  • Don’t carry on charging after the charge cycle is complete, e.g., don’t leave your phone charging all night.
  • Never cover chargers or charging devices with anything, especially fabric or flammable materials.
  • When travelling, avoid packing all your items containing lithium-ion batteries together, especially on a plane.
  • Don’t overload your sockets.
  • Avoid fast-charging an expiring or low-performing battery.
  • 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.

Make sure you are covered

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, suppression kits and fire-resistant containers, all designed to put out lithium-ion battery fires.

Other blogs that may be of interest:

How to protect against fire from lithium batteries
Electric Cars and What to Consider
Cyber Security: The Unseen Threat of Social Engineering

Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team.  |  Mobile: 07736 956213

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