Lithium-ion battery safety

These days, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are everywhere, in phones, laptops, power tools, and electric cars. They are light, compact, and long-lasting, but can be a fire hazard if they are damaged, mishandled, or improperly disposed of. 

Fire safety tips

  • Do your research. Only purchase and use devices and equipment from reputable manufacturers and suppliers.
  • Only use chargers that are supplied with the device, or certified third-party charging equipment that is compatible with the battery specifications. Using chargers with incorrect power delivery (voltage and current) can cause damage to the battery, including overheating, that can lead to fires.
  • Avoid leaving batteries or devices charging for prolonged periods of time. Once the indicator shows that a device or battery has been fully charged, disconnect it from the charger. This includes leaving batteries or devices charging unattended overnight.
  • Don’t charge or store batteries or devices on combustible or insulating surfaces such as beds, sofas, or carpet, and keep them away from highly flammable materials such as blankets, clothing, and paper.
  • Only have device repairs and battery replacements or upgrades performed by a qualified professional.
  • Never store or leave batteries or devices in areas where they can be exposed to heat or moisture. Do not leave devices in direct sunlight or in parked vehicles where they can quickly heat up.
  • With regard to Light Electric Vehicles such as e-scooters and e-bikes, where possible these should be stored and charged outside in a garage, shed or carport, away from living spaces. Keep them away from any exit doors, escape routes and combustible materials. 
  • For smaller devices, such as tablets, laptops and phones, do not charge these under a pillow, on the bed or on a couch – they can overheat and cause a fire.

If the device or battery starts to smoke or emit flames

  • Evacuate the area and close doors (if safe) to slow the spread of fire.  
  • Ensure no one goes back inside the building for any reason.  
  • Battery gases, vapour and smoke are highly toxic and flammable and must not be inhaled. 
  • Call 111 and wait in a safe location for firefighters to arrive. 
  • If anyone has been exposed to battery fluids, debris, smoke, vapours, or flames, seek urgent medical assistance.  
  • Burns should immediately be treated with cool running water for 20 minutes.  
  • Burns larger than a 20-cent coin require emergency care.  
  • Treat with cool running water immediately, call 111, and follow the advice of the operator. 

If a small battery or device such as a phone or tablet starts overheating

  • Unplug it from the power outlet if it is charging.
  • Avoid inhaling any smoke or fumes.
  • If possible, move it outside, away from any flammable material and windows or doorways.
  • Small devices can be dropped into a bucket of water if this can be done safely.

If you see fire, get everyone to a safe place and call us. Then only if you are confident and capable would we suggest attempting to extinguish:

  • Small flames can be extinguished with water or a hose to stop fire spreading to nearby objects.
  • If using a fire extinguisher (dry chemical powder or carbon dioxide), only attempt to from a safe distance, away from any smoke or vapours.
  • Water and fire extinguishers may be used to prevent the spread of fire but are not likely to fully extinguish a lithium-ion battery fire.
  • Call 111, even if you no longer see visible smoke or flames. There is a chance that the battery could reignite if it has not been sufficiently cooled.

Battery disposal

  • Do not put lithium ion batteries in the rubbish.
  • Recycling is always the best option – contact your local council for a recycling location.
  • Do not leave discarded batteries in piles.