Battery Safety – Reducing Their Fire Risk

There are several risks associated with storing, handling and transporting batteries. The most catastrophic of which involve their potential to create a fire. Depending upon where the batteries are located at the time the consequences of a fire can be severe. Below is a picture of a fire that occurred at a Perth scrap battery operator’s yard in March 2018. The cause of the fire is believed to be the metal straps used to secure the batteries to a wood pallet, creating a short circuit between a battery’s 2 terminals.

Photo showing damage caused by a fire at Perth Scrap Yard. The fire was believed to be created by incorrect packaging of used lead acid batteries on a wood pallet.
Fire damage at Perth Scrap Yard, caused by used lead acid batteries being incorrectly packed on a wood pallet

Despite Battery Rescue’s BTS Containers (pictured below) providing a safer alternative to the use of wood pallets, there are still some fire risks associated with their use. The 3 main risks are due to;

  1. Poor stacking of batteries into the container
  2. Inclusion of metal objects such as steel case batteries
  3. Inclusion of other battery chemistries (non lead acid)

Below we have documented how to identify lead acid batteries from other battery chemistries and how to safely stack lead acid batteries into the BTS Containers so as to avoid potential fire risks.

Photo showing example of safe battery storage
Safe stacking and storage of used lead acid batteries at a Western Australian Mine Site

Correct & Safe Stacking of Lead Acid Batteries in the BTS Containers

Used Lead Acid Batteries (ULAB) pose a fire risk, particularly if they retain residual charge. To eliminate the fire risk we recommend the following approach to stacking batteries in the BTS Containers.

All batteries should be stacked vertically and in the upright position and reasonably compact to prevent any excessive movement during transport. A battery than can topple on its side or upside-down during transport could create a short circuit and fire, if its terminals come in contact with another battery’s terminals.

Steel Case Batteries and other metal objects should not be included in the container, as the metal can create the conditions for a short circuit if it comes in contact with a battery’s positive & negative terminal. Stacking a steel case battery on top of another battery is a high risk scenario.

Lead Acid Batteries with electronic components, such as UPS, Jump Starter Packs, Battery Chargers etc, should not be included in the BTS Container, as these need to be manually separated before being sent to our battery recycler.

We will still take receipt of Lead Acid, Steel Case Batteries and Batteries with Electronic Components but these need to be delivered separately. For details on our recommendations on how to ship these batteries.

For a full set of videos on how to operate the BTS Container, including how to erect, close and collapse the BTS container.


Which Types of Batteries can be Stacked in the BTS Containers?

Only lead acid batteries can be placed in the BTS Containers.

No other battery chemistries can be included. If you are unsure if a battery is a lead acid battery or not, look for the Pb (lead) symbol.

If the battery is marked with the Pb Symbol it can be included provided it is not a steel case battery or comes with other electronic components (e.g. UPS, Jump Starter Packs etc). See below

Symbol for Lead Acid Battery


Examples of Lead Acid Batteries That Can be Included in the BTS Container


Examples of Lead Acid Batteries to be Shipped Separately (recommended on wood pallets)

Steel Case UPS – with lead acid battery (battery must be separated for inclusion)
Steel Casing with bank of lead acid batteries (battery must be separated for inclusion)
Steel Case Batteries
Steel Case Battery from Autonomous Mining Vehicles
Plastic Case UPS – with lead acid battery (battery must be separated for inclusion)
Car Battery Jump Starter Pack
Battery Charger

Why Other Battery Chemistries Cannot be Included with Lead Acid Batteries

The inclusion of other battery chemistries can result in a dangerous reaction and fire with the lead acid batteries and their acid electrolyte. Lithium batteries pose a significant fire risk, as damage during transport to a lithium battery can result in a runaway thermal event and subsequent fire and / or explosion (note a fire may occur many hours after the Lithium battery has been damaged). They may also react dangerously with the acid electrolyte that has leaked from the lead acid batteries. You can find here a summary of the transport requirements for used lithium batteries.

Examples of batteries that we do not accept are shown below;

Portable Batteries AAA, AA, C, D, Button
Power tool batteries
Looks like a lead battery but its not
Lithium battery for laptops
Lithium batteries for mobile phones

Other battery chemistries that pose a significant fire risk are wet alkaline batteries, as the alkaline electrolyte can react dangerously with the acid electrolyte found in lead acid batteries. A picture of a wet alkaline battery is shown below;

Ni-Cd, Wet Alkaline Battery

Dangerous Goods Labelling Requirements

Both Lithium & Wet Alkaline Batteries are classified as dangerous goods and have different packing, labelling and marking requirements under the ADGC, so their transport with lead acid batteries is not possible. Please note Battery Rescue’s containers are marked for Lead Acid Batteries only (UN Number 2794 & UN Number 2800).

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