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More fires linked to power tool batteries

Recently, a worrying trend has emerged in Ontario’s mining world: more fires are happening because of power tool batteries, especially the lithium-ion type. 

Workplace Safety North (WSN), in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (Ministry) has issued a hazard alert that describes the risk along with preventative measures. 


Understanding the risk is important for all mine workers so they can stay safe while working. According to industry experts, the surge in fires is mainly caused by ‘thermal runaway’ in lithium-ion batteries. This issue, characterized by a rapid increase in temperature and subsequent internal short-circuiting, poses a high risk of battery failure, explosions, and the release of harmful gases.

Thermal runaway can quickly lead to big problems like fires or even explosions. Factors like charging the battery too much, hitting it hard, or exposing it to extreme heat can start this dangerous chain reaction leading to a fire in an underground mine.

These incidents have underscored the critical importance of following strict safety protocols when handling battery-powered equipment. The confined spaces and unique conditions of underground mines means the risks are heightened, making it crucial for all workers to be aware and take necessary precautions.

To avoid these fires, there are some important safety steps workers should follow when using tools with these batteries:

1. Use tools safely: Always follow the instructions from the company that made the tool. Don’t let the battery get hit hard or too hot, and only use batteries and chargers made by the same company as the tool.

2. Keep an eye on your tools: Check your batteries often to make sure they’re not damaged or worn out. If you see any problems, replace the battery right away.

3. Store and move batteries carefully: Keep batteries in places where there’s good airflow and not too hot. When you’re moving them around, make sure they’re secured well to avoid any bumps or damage.

4. Get rid of batteries the right way: When you’re done with a battery, don’t just throw it away. Follow the rules from your company and the local government to dispose of it safely. There are special ways to recycle lithium-ion batteries, which helps protect the environment.

It’s important for everyone in the mining industry to know these safety tips. By following them, people can work together to keep workplaces safe from fires and other accidents related to power tool batteries.

As part of ongoing safety efforts, mining companies are urged to share this critical information with all staff and provide necessary training to ensure compliance with safety guidelines.

By prioritizing safety and using best practices, the industry can effectively reduce the risks associated with power tool batteries and make mining workplaces safer.

For more information, contact your local WSN Health and Safety Specialist.

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