Generator Batteries

Q: I was reviewing the various regulatory requirements and came across the need for weekly visual inspections of the generators. At one campus, we have changed the batteries to the gel type. On the other campus, we still have wet cell type. Yes, we have a hydrometer and, within the weekly PM work order, it does state to check them. But we don’t really use a form to capture that information. We called our contractor who provides the generator service and asked them to quote on gel batteries. They state that the manufacturer does not recommend sealed batteries because they can’t be manually maintained and because generator batteries are constantly in a state of being charged, the water could dry out and the batteries can explode. They also state that gel batteries for our particular engines will lose 200 to 300 cranking amps. I saw your question/answer section on generator batteries and wondered, now that the Accreditation Organizations (AO) have adopted NFPA 101 2012 version if there are any formal decisions on the use of gel/sealed batteries?

A: There is no formal decision or interpretation from any national AHJ (that I know of) that prohibits maintenance-free batteries, or gel-type batteries, for generators. However, there are standards that say you must follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding plant equipment maintenance and operations (see CMS CFR §482.41(d)(2), and your AO’s standards.

So, in your case, it appears the manufacturer of your generator says do not use maintenance-free batteries. So, CMS and your AO could cite you for not following your manufacturer’s recommendations. By the way, the requirement to test the generator battery electrolyte level is monthly, not weekly according to NFPA 110-2010, section 8.3.7.1. But you still must document the monthly reading.

Brad Keyes
Brad Keyes, CHSP

Brad is a former advisor to Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) and former Joint Commission LS surveyor. He guides clients through  organizational assessment; management training; ongoing coaching of task groups; and extensive one-on-one coaching of facility leaders. He analyzes and develops leadership effectiveness and efficiency in work processes, focusing on assessing an organization’s preparedness for a survey, evaluating processes in achieving preparedness, and guiding organizations toward compliance. 

As a presenter at national seminars, regional conferences, and audio conferences, Brad teaches the Keyes Life Safety Boot Camp series to various groups and organizations. He is the author or co-author of many HCPro books, including the best-selling  Analyzing the Hospital Life Safety Survey, now in its 3rd edition. Brad has also authored a variety of articles in numerous publications addressing features of life safety and fire protection, as well as white papers and articles on the Building Maintenance Program. Currently serving as the contributing editor of the monthly HCPro newsletter Healthcare Life Safety Compliance  gives Brad further insight into the industry’s trends and best practices.