OSHA Highlights Hazards of Wearable Devices Powered by Lithium Batteries

Published February 14, 2019

A new safety and health bulletin published by OSHA highlights potential fire and explosion hazards associated with small, wearable devices powered by lithium batteries. Workers who may be at increased risk include police and security personnel, who sometimes wear small cameras powered by lithium batteries while on the job. OSHA urges employers to ensure that workers are trained to properly use, store, and charge these devices. Workers should also be trained to identify, remove, and properly dispose of damaged or defective devices and batteries.

OSHA notes that lithium batteries are “generally safe and unlikely to malfunction” if there are no defects and the batteries are not damaged. Lithium batteries can become damaged by physical impacts such as dropping or vibrating and when exposed to high temperatures. Charging a device or battery without following the manufacturer’s instructions may also cause damage to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Workplace injuries from lithium battery defects or damage can be prevented by ensuring that the batteries, chargers, and associated equipment are tested in accordance with an appropriate test standard and certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, and are rated for their intended uses. Users should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for storage, use, charging, and maintenance of these devices, and store lithium batteries and devices in dry, cool locations and in fire-resistant containers. Workers should be trained to quickly remove a lithium-powered device from clothing if it feels hot or if the device is leaking, releasing gas, hissing, bulging or cracking, or on fire.

View the bulletin on OSHA’s website.​