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Lithium-ion battery safety

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Consumer

Building and Energy encourages Western Australians to take simple steps to protect themselves against home fires as more people purchase and use equipment and devices with lithium-ion batteries. The following information will help consumers avoid the fire risk while enjoying the undoubted convenience and energy storage capacity of these batteries.

Where are lithium-ion batteries used?

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are found in electrical devices such as phones, computers, toys and cordless appliances such as vacuum cleaners. They are commonly used in gardening and home improvement tools like whipper snippers and drills. These batteries are almost always used in hoverboards, ebikes and scooters.

What is the fire risk associated with these batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries may catch fire if they are overcharged. The fire is self-sustaining and cannot be easily extinguished by water spray or use of a fire extinguisher. It is important to guard against overcharging them.

How can I prevent this overcharging?

Don’t leave batteries unattended while being charged. Watch out for an indicator system for the state of charge, such as yellow/green light or sign indicating the extent of charge. As soon as you notice the battery is fully charged disconnect it from the charger. Don’t start charging something and then leave home or go to bed.

Is there built-in safety?

Yes. Reputable battery manufacturers have matched battery/charger combinations which include an automatic monitoring system to detect the state of charge. When nearing full charge, the charger is switched off. Make sure this feature is included in any battery-equipped appliance, tool or device you buy. Only use the charger supplied with the equipment or device.

Where should I do the charging?

Never charge batteries resting on a soft, inflammable surface, such as a bed, sofa or carpet. Place them on a hard-surfaced table or bench at waist height so that indicator lights can be seen easily. Preferably, power tools, hoverboards, ebikes and scooters should be charged outside in a garage, carport or patio if available. Don’t use batteries showing signs of swelling, overheating or damage.

Are there safety standards for these batteries?

Yes. All battery chargers are required to undergo rigorous testing to meet Australian standards under the national Electrical Equipment Safety System (EESS). Be cautious about purchasing any electrical equipment from overseas. Buy from reputable retailers. Consumers should look for a regulatory compliance mark, such as a tick inside a triangle, or go to eess.gov.au to check whether the charger is approved for use in Australia.

Are batteries and chargers subject to safety regulations?

Yes. Chargers must bear the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) where it can be clearly seen. Under the EESS there must be a registered ‘Responsible Supplier’. The charger must be certified and registered, with the registration linked to the Responsible Supplier.

How do chargers get ‘certified’?

The Responsible Supplier must have the charger tested by a recognised laboratory to verify it complies with relevant Australian Standards and it is suitable for the battery to be charged and for use in the device involved.

What about consumer laws?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has additional safety requirements for self-balancing equipment such as hoverboards, which appear at Consumer Goods (Self-balancing Scooters) Safety Standard 2018.

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