Lithium Ion batteries for power tools similar to this portable drill, aught fire deep in mine in Ontario after having been left charging in a locker. (CBC).

Lithium Ion batteries: safety issues


This relatively new generation of batteries are used in so many devices today that it is hard to imagine not having their convenience.

From portable power tools, to flashlights, mobile phones, computers, toys, and so much more.

In December last year, a fire in a tool storage shed deep in an Ontario mine was contained after some difficulty.

Findings this week determined the fire occurred while charging a number of lithium-ion batteries used by the miners portable tools. While it couldn’t be accurately determined if the fire began in the battery, the charger, the extension cord, the presence of several of the batteries together made the fire much harder to contain once it started.

An overheated laptop ignited papers on a desk, causing a fire in 2017 that completely destroyed a house in a small town southeast of Winnipeg Manitoba. (Submitted to CBC by Joyska Tkachyk)

When conventional dry chemical (ABS) fire extinguisers were tried by two miners who discovered the fire, it only made the fire worse.

The investigation recommended Class D fire extinguishers be used in such cases.

In June last year, a Vancouver-bound flight was forced to return to Calgary shortly after takeoff when a warning light indicated a fire in the cargo hold.

Destroyed luggage after two tiny lithium-ion batteries in a pocket burned while in the cargo hold of a jet. (Transportation Safety Board)

Investigation showed that two small Li-On batteries for an e-cigarette had caught fire, burning the passenger’s bag and slightly damaging the cargo floor.

The airline policy indicated Li-Ion batteries are not to be put in checked luggage.

In a case in September, a used Li-Ion battery (or batteries) which had been put into someone’s garbage, caught fire at a Fredericton, New Brunswick landfill. When a worker tried to put the fire out, a battery exploded slightly injuring him.

Luckily this fire was caught in time before it burned the entire house, when a portable drill was left on charge and the battery exploded and burned. (Marcheta Fitzgerald – Halifax Fire and Emergency)

While there are millions of devices used safely with such batteries, there are now hundreds of cases of fires and burns caused by them.

Safety recommendations for Li-Ion batteries include not charging devices on flammable surfaces like chesterfields or cushions which can absorb the heat, not overcharging them, not fast charging, using ony recommended chargers for that device and not uncertified chargers.

Dropping a Li-ion battery can also cause components inside the compact batteries to come into contact. If that happens, a short circuit and immediate fire can occur.

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