Australia may be home to the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, at South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, but it’s the smaller models that have prompted a reminder about how to safely handle, use and store them.
Consumer Protection and WA’s electrical safety regulator, Building and Energy, are aware of two incidents in WA this year in which e-cigarette batteries have ignited in the user’s pocket, causing significant burns. Similar explosions have tragically caused deaths overseas.
The recent cases are believed to have resulted from a small lithium-ion battery, around the same size as an AA battery, being transported in the person’s pocket on its own, rather than inside a device or case. It appears that the battery has made contact with nearby metal objects such as coins or keys, causing a short-circuit, overheating and an explosion.
Lithium-ion batteries of all sizes carry a huge amount of stored energy, which makes them a popular source of power for a wide range of equipment such as whipper-snippers, drills, mobile phones and computers. It’s also what makes them dangerous when they do ignite, so it’s vital to ensure that all batteries, chargers and devices are fit for purpose and handled and used safely.
The key advice from Building and Energy and Consumer Protection’s product safety team is:
- Never use batteries showing signs of swelling, overheating or damage, particularly if the protective layer or wrapping has come away.
- Avoid over-charging batteries by removing them from the charger as soon as they’re ready.
- Only use the battery and charger supplied with the device or recommended by the manufacturer – don’t mix and match chargers and batteries just because they fit.
- Use a protective device such as a case to safely transport the battery.
- Be cautious about purchasing chargers and other electrical equipment from overseas.
- Look for a regulatory compliance mark (a tick inside a triangle) or go to eess.gov.au to check whether the charger is approved for use in Australia.