Lithium-ion battery fires

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the risks of using, storing and charging equipment that has lithium-ion batteries.



Lithium-ion batteries are found in many products. These products may be used, stored or charged in a workplace or an area under the management and control of an organisation.

Lithium-ion batteries may be used in equipment including:

  • handheld power tools
  • light electric vehicles (LEVs) (electric scooters and e-bikes)
  • electric plant (forklifts, elevating work platforms and earth moving equipment)
  • passenger vehicles (hybrid and full electric vehicles)
  • power supplies (generator systems and battery systems)
  • heavy vehicles (trucks and buses)

Safety issues

When overheated, lithium-ion batteries of all sizes can catch fire. The fire is often hard to put out and the smoke from the fire can be toxic.

Common reasons lithium-ion batteries may overheat and catch fire include:

  • damage
  • using incorrect charging equipment

Larger battery packs can pose a significant risk if the lithium-ion battery overheats and catches fire. Some sprinkler systems may not be capable of suppressing or controlling a large lithium-ion battery fire.

Recommended ways to control risks

To control the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries overheating and catching fire, employers should:

  • Remove lithium-ion batteries from areas where a lithium-ion battery fire could be a hazard. For example: do not store or charge removable battery packs or LEVs in offices or other spaces near people.
  • Provide a dedicated charging area that is separate from areas where people work. Ensure equipment is kept within fire resistant areas. For example: equipment could be stored or charged outdoors (where appropriate) or in an area covered by working smoke alarms and suitable sprinkler systems.
  • Prevent the use, storage or charging of electric plant or passenger vehicles in enclosed and restricted spaces, unless the fire detection and suppression system is suitable for the special fire hazard (a lithium-ion battery fire).
    • Systems that are suitable for lithium-ion battery fires may be similar to systems used in other high-risk areas and should have additional fire suppression capability (such as an increased number of sprinkler heads).
    • If you are unsure if the sprinkler system is suitable, seek advice from an appropriate specialist, such as a fire engineer, and upgrade the fire system (if needed).
  • Where appropriate, replace lithium-ion batteries with other batteries or power sources that are less likely to overheat and catch fire.
  • Install "Smart Chargers" that monitor lithium-ion battery status and automatically disconnect the power if a fault is detected.
  • Ensure there is an easily accessible way, to remotely disconnect or isolate battery chargers if the equipment catches fire. For example: consider installing e-stops and isolators at distribution boards and automatic disconnection systems that are triggered if a fire alarm activates.
  • Place charging equipment away from emergency exits and evacuation routes. Keep charging equipment out of direct sunlight and away from areas where it can be exposed to heat or moisture.
  • Charge equipment using an original or an approved charger. Monitor or watch equipment while charging. Inspect equipment and charging cables for damage before and after use.
  • Have emergency response plans that address the risk of a lithium-ion battery fire. Emergency response plans should include clear instructions that people should:
    • evacuate the area via a suitable route
    • not attempt to extinguish a fire involving lithium-ion batteries
  • Only use insulated tools when working on lithium-ion batteries.
  • Provide PPE to employees involved in the servicing and maintenance of equipment with lithium-ion batteries. Always seek advice from equipment suppliers and manufacturers about the type of PPE that should be supplied for each task.

Legal Duties

  • Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. They must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. This includes providing employees with the necessary information, instruction, training, or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
  • Employers must also ensure that persons other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.
  • Ensure employees and health and safety representatives are consulted when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 requires employers to ensure that employees and persons supervising the employees are trained and given information and instruction about hazards related to plant, including:

  • the processes for identifying hazards and controlling risk; and
  • safety procedures associated with using the plant at the workplace; and
  • the use, fit, testing and storage of PPE, if relevant

Relevant information

See fire safety guideline GL-32.