Best Value Battery Spill Kit

My team is looking to get a battery spill kit before the upcoming season. I saw a lot of teams make their own, but what’s the best one we can buy as a kit?

We aren’t looking for the one with the most stuff but the one that gets the job done.

What do your team’s use?

TIL you can buy these as a kit online. Wow some of them were expensive.

We have been using a large bucket, container of baking soda, and rubber gloves (and a nearby fire extinguisher). Excluding the fire extinguisher, I think the whole thing was ~$30.

Given this is 10x less than some of the kits I saw, I have to wonder, are we doing it wrong?

In Michigan, the “Battery Spill Kit” that comes on “the truck” with each FIM playing field is a simple 5 Gallon bucket and a large container of baking soda (each truck also has a pair of fire extinguishers, one CO2 and one ABC).

I would think if it’s good enough to have on a playing field it’s good enough for any team.

You really don’t need much. Even with a hole in them most of the liquid is trapped in the gel or matte in the battery. Given the low incidence of battery spill I just improvise. But you need something to contain the battery. A small plastic tub or even a gallon size Ziploc bag. Gloves to make the safety people happy. Baking soda to neutralize the spill. A rag to wipe up the spill. The spill quantity is going to be in ounces. (100ish milliliter). You are already wearing safety glasses aren’t you? You don’t have near the quantity to need an apron and face shield.

Unpopular opinion:

When you arrive at competition, leave the battery spill kit in your vehicle. When a battery spill occurs at an event, your team’s responsibility is to (1) seek first aid, (2) warn others to prevent additional injury, and (3) quickly (but again without causing additional injury) get the attention of the folks running the event. It is not necessarily your role to perform a hazmat cleanup operation. If you happen to be the best person to do this work, great!, you may be called into action. Your kit will be just outside in the car, ready for you.

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I had to clean up a couple at Beach Bot Battle this summer due to a faulty charger, since replaced. We just used a big box of baking soda and a few 2 gallon Ziploc bags in addition to the stuff always found in the pit: a “plastic shoebox” which normally has spare parts in it, a couple of rubber bands, a t-shirt rag, and safety glasses. (Note that Ziploc bag + rubber band or tape or zip tie can be used as a glove.) The fire extinguisher was handy but not needed.

Maybe I’m just lucky, but in 18 years in FRC, I have not once witnessed an FRC battery actually spill anything. I’ve had dropped batteries, shorted batteries, and very bulged batteries, but never spilled or leaking batteries.

If you are making up your own battery spill kit, throw in one or two folded up trash bags to contain the stuff that gets wiped up.

Why do we need a battery spill kit when we use non-spillable batteries?

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While they are “Non-Spillable” in the sense that if you turn them upside down they won’t leak, there is a liquid component inside the batteries. If a battery is damaged or improperly charged (potentially causing a battery to burst), this can release battery acid.

I’ve had a number of robot batteries get close to bursting due to “thermal runaway” while charging and they actually bulged out a disturbing amount. In some situations, the “vents” on the top of the battery can also release battery acid (normally they only serve to vent excess hydrogen caused by the normal chemical reactions inside the battery).

We have a complete spill kit (it seriously isn’t expensive to put your own together!) that lives in our robot cart. Thus it goes with us everywhere - demo’s, off-season and season events, etc. At demo’s, we are most likely the best people to deal with it. At off-season events, it’s basically just robotics people there, there aren’t really building staff that want to deal with it - so if we make the mess, we might as well be the ones to clean it up. At regionals… often the building staff want to handle it.

We had a presentation from our safety captain this week on cleaning up battery spills (She was dressed up as Bob the Builder, since it’s Halloween week). One of the early steps in the process is send someone to alert event staff.

I have witnessed UL safety judges give teams a hard time for not having a battery spill kit. I think this is wrong: Unless you are trained in HazMat cleanup, just get away and warn others. The safety folks need to recognize this basic truth.

That being said: Having some baking soda and a plan is not a bad idea.

Commercial spill kits are way overkill for an FRC event, particularly at the team level, IMHO.

Here is a little project

step 1) go to Home Depot or somewhere and get a small plastic bucket

step 2) download these two docs and throw them into the bucket

step 3) get chemical gloves from Home Depot or somewhere, and toss into the bucket

step 4) get a box of this stuff and put the unopened box into the bucket

step 5) put the lid onto the bucket, put a sign on the bucket, and put the bucket into the pit

step 6) Incorporate into team safety training

that should do it, pretty cheap

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