top of page

Staying Safe: The Growing Risk of Lithium-Ion Battery Fires

Lithium-ion batteries power our modern world - from laptops and phones to e-bikes and warehouse machinery. But as their popularity grows, so does the fire risk. Claims related to lithium-ion battery fires are rapidly increasing. It's crucial we understand the dangers and how to prevent fires.


These batteries can experience "thermal runaway" - uncontrolled overheating that leads to fire or explosion with little warning. It can be set off by damage, excessive heat, overcharging or manufacturing defects. And the results can be catastrophic, potentially triggering secondary fires.


You'll find lithium-ion batteries everywhere today - homes, offices, factories. But three high-risk fire triggers stand out: charging, transport (risk of damage) and already damaged batteries. We must handle lithium-ion batteries with care, especially when charging.


Where You'll Find These Batteries


Lithium-ion batteries are in mobile devices we use every day - phones, laptops, e-cigarettes. Residential buildings may have tenants charging e-bikes, e-scooters, or other devices, often unattended. Warehouses can contain large stocks of new and used lithium-ion batteries ranging from forklifts to handheld scanners.


Retail stores use scanners, robots, and other lithium-powered machinery. Manufacturers rely on battery-powered tools and equipment. With lithium-ion batteries ubiquitous across homes and workplaces today, fire risks exist nearly everywhere. We must confront this.


How Lithium-Ion Batteries Catch Fire


These batteries contain flammable electrolyte and oxidant positive electrode. If too much heat accumulates faster than dissipates, it cascades into uncontrolled rapid heating called thermal runaway - and ends in fiery catastrophe.


Cylindrical and button style lithium-ion cells are inherently more stable. But damage, heat, charging errors or bad manufacturing can still start disastrous thermal runaway. Ruptured or burnt cells release flammable gas that immediately ignites. Further battery damage spreads fires rapidly.


Without warning, a seemingly normal charging phone or parked e-scooter may erupt. Worse, damaged batteries can lay dormant for days or weeks before blowing. It's frightening, but educating ourselves and taking simple precautions slashes the danger.


Reducing Your Fire Risk


Basic lithium-ion battery fire prevention steps make a huge difference. Regular professional risk assessments of all battery activities - storage, handling, charging, transport - tops the list. Providing staff battery safety training and clear emergency protocols is also vital.


Choose fire-resistant charging/storage enclosures. Installing even basic smoke/CO alarms nearby adds crucial extra warning. Designate well-ventilated areas away from combustibles for battery work zones. Ban unattended charging.


Carefully inspect all new batteries for damage before accepting; set aside anything suspicious in quarantine containers at least 10 meters from buildings. Signs of harm may appear later - swollen shape, hissing noise, bad smell, seeping liquids. Isolate these immediately (with care and safety in mind at all times).


Limit battery exposure to heat, direct sunlight, sharp edges that could puncture protective casing. Water harms other types of batteries, but actually cools and controls lithium-ion fires best - when adequately and rapidly applied. Still, battery firefighting should only be handled by professionals.


We Learned a Harsh Lesson


Like most new technologies, we adopted lithium-ion batteries rapidly out of convenience. Only later did the scale of fire danger become clear. Now we play catch up with safety knowledge. But by spreading awareness and best practices, we can break the current surge in battery blazes.


Stay alert. Risk assess. Learn protocols. Train staff. Install alarms and sprinklers. Handle gently. Isolate damaged units. Charge and store safely. Making lithium-ion battery safety core to your business prevents disaster down the line. Contact experts to help tailor response plans for your unique needs.


This young century’s signature technology isn’t going away - but neither are the fires as adoption spreads. It’s on all of us to promote understanding of the hazards, implement rigorous safe charging and storage procedures, and watch for new government safety regulations. Together we can realise lithium-ion’s full upside while protecting people given its incendiary downside if mishandled.


The fire risk is real. But knowledge and vigilance beat danger. Let’s spread the word - it takes a spark to prevent a blaze.



Comments


bottom of page