Battery Spill Kit Contents

The kit is mentioned in several places and there are a few clues about suitable contents. I’m sure baking soda, rubber gloves are in there. Let’s hear about what else would make sense to have quickly at hand in case of battery case fracture.

An appropriately large and sturdy ziplock bag.

I’ve heard my electronics friends joke many times that despite all the fuss FIRST makes about battery spills, they essentially never happen.

And place it all in a Tupperware or similar hard plastic container large enough to hold the battery in the bag and any contaminated baking soda or similar consumables for secondary containment for transport.

Your Battery Disaster Pack should be a medium-sized plastic bin, the thicker the better. Inside that bin should be a pair of rubber gloves, paper towels (these don’t necessarily have to be stored in the bin) and a box of baking soda. Should your battery spill, put on the gloves and move the battery to the bin. Pour baking soda on the spilled fluids and on the inside of the bin to absorb the leaking fluids. Once soda-tized, the acid will be in two non-caustic components (I don’t know what they are, I just know they’re non-caustic) and can be cleaned up with the paper towels. Go safety!

You should also have a plan to dispose of a leaky/deformed battery, since they shouldn’t go in the trash.

This is not completely accurate and is a common misconception. The typical acid inside of a sealed lead acid battery like we use is sulfuric acid (H2SO4). The active ingredient of baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (Na2CO3). Sulfuric acid is a strong acid (in that it completely disassociates [ionizes]) and sodium bicarbonate is a weak base (it does not completely disassociate). Ignoring the buffers and electrolytes in the battery acid to stabilize the ongoing chemical reactions, we can view the reaction of spilled acid mixed with the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in the reaction below.

H2SO4 + Na2CO3 —> Na2SO4 + H2O + CO2

The result of the reaction is the carbon dioxide bubbling off and water forming, in addition to the sodium sulfate salt as the sodium bicarbonate is neutralized with the sulfuric acid. Though sodium sulfate on its own is not harmful, in the case, because of the strong acid/weak base reaction, the pH of the resulting product will still be in the acidic range, closer to neutral than the acid alone, but still acidic.

Care should still be taken when handling the acid/base mixture and should be disposed of appropriately to avoid contamination. Also immediate washing should be done if contact occurs with skin or clothing. Again after disposing of waste, hands and any possibly contacted areas should be washed as a precaution.

One final thing I will suggest to keep in battery spill kits is a pair of splash proof safety goggles. Eye protection should always be work when around hazardous chemicals and cleaning up hazardous spills/waste.

In a tournament setting, whom should be contacted for such disposal? If it’s my own shop, it’s clearly my problem, but I suspect that there must be a structure in place at tournaments to handle these situations.

I expect to combine and edit the advice given here, print it, and paste a copy inside the lid of that battery-containing plastic box. Is one box of baking soda enough?

Happened to us… so even if it’s unlikely, you should still be prepared.

I imagine Pit Admin would know what to do.

In addition to everything that was already mentioned, our spill kit includes two small flat plastic shovels, actually sandbox toys, to use for scooping the contaminated baking soda into the plastic bag with the leaking battery. Our gloves are hazmat-type gloves with rough surfaces so that a wet, slippery battery can be safely handled.

The best training video I’ve found to illustrate how to spot and properly take care of a battery leak can be found at Students and mentors who handle our batteries or are part of our safety crew will all see this video, and then we discuss how this would relate to our size batteries and environment.

Please be careful with batteries, and be ready for an accident, even if it never happens.

Thanks to all who replied. I’m still looking for small plastic shovels. Maybe this summer I’ll steal them from a kid not looking at the beach. :rolleyes: :yikes: I wouldn’t do that. Maybe I’ll trade for a tootsie pop.

I’ve posted version 1 of my included usage instructions in the media area. Maybe I can get it linked here, if the CD-gods are smiling.

Never is perhaps a poor choice of words. Rare yes, Never no!

I’ve been involved with FIRST teams, competitions and workshops 15 years.


  1. Most frequent problem is SHORTED Battery terminals or cables bypassing 120A circuit breaker via robot frame or mechanism pinch cut thru taped terminals or heavy wire insulation, causing local &internal overheating =smoke
    ref: Team 362 at ATL CMP a few years ago.

  2. Battery pierced by sharp conductive on-board or another robots mechanism (aluminum/steel) bypassing batteries over-current protection plus acid leak

Battery sides are very thin, pierced easily, shorted cell bypasses cell to cell fusible link creating instant local heating up to ~1000 amps, enough to melt plastic case and metal that pierced it – aluminium, copper & Pb.

Like solder, if molten metal spews on human skin, it sticks.

unfortunately It won’t shake off!!! it is pretty much an instant bond.

Biggest molten threat is working in pit, competition queue line & robot shop:
screwdriver or other metal tool falls across battery terminals:
keep both Batt term mtg’s fully covered even double insulated, always wear safety glasses. Eyes are especially vulnerable & irreplaceable

Wiping only smears molten metal over a larger skin area.
Permanent scarring is unavoidable. Molten metal will penetrate most common clothing instantly.

Possible additions to emergency kit:
Thicker non synthetics hold up best like welding gloves & aprons
Heavy sturdy cloth to wrap battery especially if it’s hot, even if it’s not
Heavy duty Fireplace log scissors to handle hot battery at safer distance
Burn ointment (heat & neutralize acid), impact activated coolant packs

1 occurs when robots get vertical (ref: this years ramp), or tumble and battery bounces around inside due to ineffective battery straps. Velcro should NEVER be used as sole heavy battery support. Velcro is better used to hold a rigid 3 point Z-shaped material (top part overlaps battery edge, one could be the rectangular block in this years kit, but needs supplemented with hard overlapping case stops to prevent impacts from popping battery up off block breaking 1/2"W Velcro loose from full weight + leverage.

Best strap and one I recommend is snap action web belt such as used on grocery carts for child restraint, back packs, etc. 2 straps =best (safe 2nd)

Smoking, Pierced, Leaking SLA Battery Summary:
Fear here is good. No one wants or should approach a smoking Batt situation.
Heated acid contents even bound in AGM, Absorbed Glass Mat still represent great danger. (AGM uses less liquid acid & less free than flooded liquid types)

Knowing a pressure valve should vent &/or fusible Pb cell interconnects should melt open around 800-1000A (if short lasts long enough) should not lead to a false sense of confidence that such a Batt is SAFE or adequately “protected”.

An internally shorted fully charged battery could remain hot a long time.

Immersion in tub or flush with water &treating diluted solution may be safest
i.e. treat cause of heating most quickly (acid dilution and cooling)

yes yes they do get a battery analyzer or ask folks down to your local “NA-PA” ( that’s how we say it in oswego)

Instructions are here. Thanks again to all contributing.

I recommend using a ~2" putty knife for collecting neutralized gunk.

That makes sense too, and you’ve saved a kid the agony of digging with his hands. :smiley: :wink: I should get two so one can push onto the other.

I’m also wondering about rinsing the area after scraping it. Once I’ve turned the problem over to the pit admin. area, it’s their problem, but in my own shop I’d like to know what else should be done. We would like to stay on the “good” side of the janitorial staff by not leaving them nasty messes.

We also added to our kit contractor bags. They are PP and thicker than regular garbage bags. You can get them at Home Depot.

Back when I was with 294, we did have a battery spill. We mounted the battery upside down in 2010, and the cumulative effects of driving over the bumps led to a failure of the top vent of the battery. The leaking acid burned through a good portion of the anodizing on the battery holder before we started neutralizing it with baking soda. We contacted the UL safety inspectors, and they disposed of the battery in some sort of acid-resistant plastic container. So essentially, they’re the ones to contact if you have a battery spill.

I made the attached instruction sheet following 122’s experience with a battery leak this season. Note some important procedural differences compared to Bill’s document (please speak up if you see something unsafe!). I tried to place an emphasis on early detection and notification.

batterySpillKit.pdf (6.8 KB)

batterySpillKit.pdf (6.8 KB)