Electric Vehicle Safety: Don't Get Electri-CUTE
More and more we are seeing hybrid and electric vehicles coming in to the workshops, in showrooms and around town at large as more and more charging points are added, but are we considering all the safety aspects of these new vehicles?
In the workshop, have you given yourself a dedicated bay for work on electric vehicles? Do you have the right safety equipment to restrict access, to avoid electric shock and to carry out a rescue if the worst was to happen? The high voltages involved means that we need to keep people away with physical barriers in place. Tools should be insulated with insulated floor mats in place. Suitable protective equipment should be worn on the hands and face. Do you have an emergency plan in place?
It is a good idea to create a series of emergency plans for working with electric vehicles. What to do in the event of a battery fire. What to do in the event of electric shock. What to do in the event of an acid release. Training and preparation matter in these situations.
For first aid have you given consideration to purchasing an AED and having your first aiders trained to use it? Heart failure from electric shock is a real risk. What about first aid for acid burns? Hexaflourine is a chemical was that has been designed to target the type of acid you could be expose to from a damaged battery. If applied quickly enough it can prevent a burn from occurring. Calcium Gluconate can also help with a burns severity, though be aware it cannot be used for the eyes. Having these products to hand in a dedicated electric bay and employees trained in how to use them can make a significant difference.
Fire. Thermal runaway of an electric vehicle battery can be devastatingly destructive. Do you have a specific procedure in place and have your employees been trained on it as the actions to be taken differ greatly from the training and instinctive reaction people would normally have when a fire breaks out. Don’t try to fight it (Tesla have suggested in can take as long as 24 hours to put out an EV cell), evacuate and call the fire service. Make them aware that it is an electric vehicle fire.
As specialists in the motor industry we can help you look at the options to ensure your employees are as safe as possible whilst working on electric vehicles and that you have the right tools, resources and training in place to cover all eventualities.
Stephen Hicks, TechIOSH
KVF Senior H&S Advisor