As part of its latest safety flashes for January, IMCA summarized a case where a lithium battery exploded burning the ship’s lifejackets.
During an inspection on a vessel in cold lay-up, the lifejackets stored underneath a sitting bench in the wheelhouse were found burned and melted. No-one was harmed; apart from the jackets, nothing was damaged.
What went wrong?
A Lithium battery (3.6v) had exploded in one of the self-igniting lights. As the bench was in a properly closed position, without any gaps, the fire could not spread due to a lack of oxygen. Therefore the fire was not detected and did not activate a fire alarm, as the smoke was contained inside the storage compartment. Investigation showed that the battery of the “Lalizas 71209” life jacket light had expired five months earlier.
A possible cause could be that this battery was exposed to moisture before the lay-up period and water ingress affected the battery content after the lifejacket was put back in storage.
- Store such equipment in a secure, dry and cool place away from flammable materials;
- Keep batteries of any kind away from metal objects to avoid short circuit between the terminals;
- Lithium batteries in your work place:
- Assess where Lithium batteries are present and check, if possible, the condition of the battery and cover;
- Verify the expiry date of the battery;
- Regularly inspect batteries of lifejacket lights and other devices like radios as per planned maintenance schedule;
- If batteries are expired or damaged, remove them and dispose of them properly;
- For laid-up vessels, it may be appropriate to consider whether or not to remove Lithium batteries and other hazardous materials from vessels before going onto lay-up.