Working With Batteries Onboard Ships – Dangers and Precautions

working with batteries onboard ships

Batteries are a critical source of energy onboard ships. Almost all equipment is either operated on batteries or has a battery backup. In fact, the next-generation ships are now running on batteries only.

The ships’ Electrical Engineers and every crew member somehow come in contact with the different types of batteries installed onboard vessels. So, it is crucial to know the dangers associated with working on batteries and the precautions one must take when in any contact with the batteries.

So, let us take a look at the good practices one needs to follow when working with the batteries or in the battery room onboard ships:

  • When a battery is being charged, it “gasses” and gives off hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is easily ignited in a concentration ranging from 4% to 75% in air. Battery containers and compartments must be kept adequately ventilated to prevent any accumulation of dangerous gases.
  • Smoking or open flame must be prohibited in a battery compartment. A notice stating “NO SMOKING” and “NO HOTWORK” must be placed at the compartment’s entrance or the lid of the container.
  • Portable lamps and electrical tools should not be used in battery compartments unless this equipment is approved for use in explosive atmospheres.
  • Battery connections must be kept clean and tightly secured at all times.
  • Metal tools, metal funnels, etc., must never be placed on the top of batteries where they might contact the terminals.
  • No alterations or modifications should be made to any electrical fittings in battery compartments without the permission of the Chief Engineer.
  • The battery compartment must never be used to stow any items or equipment not required to be there.
  • A walkie-talkie must always be carried when working with batteries, including routine work ensuring communications are instantly available with the Bridge/CCR.



Each battery compartment should have adequate protective clothing available at the site, typically it should include:

  • a full-length apron,
  • a full-face visor,
  • long gauntlets
  • Eyewash bottle

All the items mentioned above should be suitable for protection against the particular electrolyte contained in the batteries.

Regular checks to be carried out by Electrical Engineers / Crew In-charge of batteries onboard ships:

  • Ensure that batteries are securely fastened down to prevent movement when the ship is rolling or pitching.
  • Ensure that battery vent plugs are in position and screwed tight when connecting or disconnecting battery terminals.
  • All battery terminals must be protected from the possibility of metal objects being dropped or falling on them.
  • Ensure that only insulated tools are used when working on batteries.
  • Ensure that battery cable insulation is maintained in good condition.
  • Repair/replace any damaged insulation immediately.
  • Ensure that all external vent tubes on battery containers and compartments are free from obstructions and that the lids and doors can be closed rapidly in the event of an emergency.

When routine work is carried out on batteries, the following protective clothing must be worn:

  • A visor with goggles underneath
  • A waterproof apron
  • Impenetrable gauntlets.



When batteries are being relocated, removed, installed or replaced, the following should be ensured:

  • A person must be standing by at the door to the compartment, equipped with a walkie-talkie, ensuring communications are instantly available with the Bridge/CCR.
  • In addition to the above protective clothing, safety rubber boots must also be worn.

In the event of battery electrolyte contact with the skin or eye:

  • Immediately remove the affected clothing.
  • Go to the nearest water source to rinse all contamination traces, and continue flushing with water for 15-30 minutes.
  • Inform the Master/Duty officer immediately and seek medical attention at the earliest.

So, these are some of the precautions that the crew must take while working with batteries onboard ships. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments section!

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