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Associations call for urgent action on battery related fires

20 October 2023 – Australia’s leading battery associations have called for federal and state governments to urgently implement the federal consumer watchdog’s recommendations to manage the increasing number of lithium-ion battery related fires.

The call for action from the Australian Battery Industry Association (ABIA) and the Association for the Battery Recycling Industry (ABRI) comes after a suspected battery related fire destroyed a golf clubhouse in Victoria.

The Eastern Golf Club management said it believed the fire started in a storage room, where electric buggies and batteries are kept.

It is the latest in a spate of lithium-ion battery-fuelled fires across Australia.

Chief Executive for ABRI Katharine Hole said this latest fire underlined the need to implement the Australian Competition and Consumer’s Competition’s recommendations into battery safety.

“The number of battery fires is a real concern, not only given the loss of property, but also the risk of injury or death.”

The ACCC report; Lithium Batteries and Consumer Product Safety said: “Commonwealth, state, and territory governments should improve, expand and standardise data collection practices around the hazards posed by consumer electrical products, including Li-ion batteries.

“Wherever practicable and to the extent permitted by law, Li-ion incident data should be regularly shared among stakeholders to facilitate a better understanding of emerging risks and hazards.”

The two organisations have over 80 members operating across the battery value chain who would like to take the learnings from these events to support customer, employee and industry safety.

The ACCC report also said: “Accurate and comprehensive data about Li-ion battery incidents is crucial in order to identify trends, provide responses for those areas that present the greatest risk, inform policy and regulatory reform and consumer education campaigns.”

These risks can be managed through shared learnings about battery quality as well as broader battery charging and operating ecosystem factors. There are trends emerging and battery quality is an issue for some products. The ABIA has been strongly advocating for minimum battery standards.

Lithium battery products provide a range of great benefits. However, as uptake of this technology rapidly increases and new products enter the market, it’s important that information on issues/safety is shared as quickly as possible. ABIA members recognise that as battery technology changes so does the operating environment in which the battery performs. This requires strong risk management frameworks that are fit for purpose with the growth in lithium batteries.

Lithium battery technology growth is happening at a super-fast pace and there are some known issues with product quality.

When buying batteries, it’s important to ask your battery supplier about the batteries capability and to receive independent test certificates to determine the battery has been tested to UN38.3 for safe transport and other international safety test standards such as IEC 62133 and IEC 62619 and to ensure it is installed in an environment designed for that type of battery and that the charging equipment is suitable.

Further information on battery safety features and testing can be found on the ABIA website.