Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Safety Guide

by Lee Kennedy

April 23, 2018

electric and hybrid vehicle safety

The obvious and not so obvious risks to working with Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

"Some of the risk of electric and hybrid vehicles are quite obvious; voltages in H&EV’s are currently as high as 650 volts, a marked increase from 12/24 direct current (dc) found in other vehicles".

With hybrid and electric vehicles becoming more and more popular among consumers due to environmental awareness and governments showing increased commitment to the introduction of electric vehicles, we have noticed manufacturers and our customers within the motor trade, are beginning to incorporate safety measures that can protect their teams that are exposed the day to risks of working with and repairing these vehicles.

The Risks of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Manufacturers have been proactive, ensuring technicians are given awareness and training, electric vehicle bays have the correct safety equipment associated with working on these vehicles and even I know enough to ‘never touch the orange wire’.

Some of the risk are quite obvious; voltages in hybrid and electric vehicles are currently as high as 650 volts, a marked increase from 12/24 direct current (dc) found in other vehicles, so risk of electrocution is significant and fairly obvious, I don’t see that technicians will ever get complacent about this risk. Some of our customers have been proactive and ensured all electric vehicle bays have defibrillators nearby and that the site has at least 2 team members working on these sites fully trained on how to use the equipment safely.

The cabling in electric vehicles can deliver a fatal shock and having a combination of the correct technical training and emergency first aid equipment to deal with these risks is proactive and we hope to see many more sites following these examples. See our blog on AED's (automated external defibrillator) here.

Other Risks

electric and hybrid vehicle safety blog

So, what are the other risks? As a complete, self confessed petrol head, I have watched, as I’m sure many of you have, the episode of the Grand Tour, when Hammond crashes the electric vehicle and the electric battery catches fire and burns for days.

So, it’s fairly safe to say the explosive gases contained in the electric vehicle batteries are pretty nasty, making a fire involving a lithium ion battery a class C & D hazard (flammable gas & metal fire) and we have done some research on fire extinguishers that could be used, We found that the F-500 Encapsulator Agent has been used in tests for more information click this link.

Of course there are other safety issues to consider, manual handling of heavy electric and hybrid vehicle batteries has been highlighted by me in the past and was published in Health and Safety at Work magazine a few years ago. We recommend manual handling training and COSHH awareness training for all technicians and electric vehicle technicians should be considered at higher risk.

electric and hybrid vehicle safety blog

We also have broader issues, electric vehicle charging points have been an issue at some sites, who have required additional sub stations to accommodate the power supply required to facilitate the increase In the necessity for provision of somewhere to charge vehicles on site.

Vehicle movements in the workplace should be considered and risk assessments should include control measures such as increased visibility, the use of hazard lights and wearing of high visibility clothing for parking attendants and valeters due to the increased risk of the reduced noise hybrid and electric vehicles make when driving around site.

Health and safety Executive have written a great article about electric and hybrid vehicle safety which you can find here.

In Conclusion

Electric vehicles are relatively new technology and I can’t see them disappearing until hydrogen vehicle technology improves, which probably won’t become available until oil supplies have all but dried up. It’s an interesting time in the automotive industry and I would rather be on the front foot, protecting our customers and subscribers rather than having to react to an incident, because, as we can see the outcome of an incident involving an electric vehicle is likely to be fatal, and almost certainly life changing.

If you want any more information about this or any subject relating to automotive safety, don’t hesitate to get in touch.