21 May May Client Bulletin
As our environmental awareness continues to grow, the use of electric and hybrid vehicles is steadily increasing. People working in the motor vehicle repair and recovery industry are now more likely than ever to come across these vehicles and need to be aware of the additional hazards they may be exposed to as a result. To conduct their activities safely, workers in these industries will need to develop a wider range of new skills and knowledge, plus have access to specialist tools and equipment. There are three types of E&HVs:
Battery Electric Vehicles – Hybrid Electric Vehicles – Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Garages and recovery operations will be familiar with vehicles having 12 or 24 volt electrical circuits, but E&HVs use significantly higher currents. They operate at up to 650 volts DC (direct current). DC voltages above 150 volts are hazardous in dry conditions and contact with 600 volts DC is likely to be fatal. Accordingly, there is a real risk of electrocution if the hazard is not appreciated and controlled. Significant damage can also occur through fire and a risk that the batteries could explode and/or release harmful toxic chemicals if not maintained and handled in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. There are substantial differences in the designs of E&HVs from different manufacturers and having information specific to the manufacturer and the vehicle being worked on is important in identifying what actions are necessary to work safely.
Risks of working with E&HVs
E&HVs introduce hazards into the workplace, in addition to those normally associated with the repair and maintenance of vehicles. These include:
- High voltage components and cables capable of delivering a fatal electric shock.
- Stored electrical energy with the potential to cause explosion or fire.
- Components that can hold a dangerous voltage even when vehicles are “off”.
- Unexpected movement of electric motors or the vehicle itself, due to magnetic forces within the vehicle and its systems.
- Heavy, bulky and awkward to handle components. High-voltage batteries are several times heavier than conventional batteries, so lifting aids and devices are required to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. The safe working load of lifting equipment will also have to be reviewed as electric vehicles are 20 to 30 per cent heavier.
- Explosive gases and harmful liquids which can be released if batteries are damaged, overcharged or incorrectly modified.
- Electric vehicles are silent when operated. There’s a risk that people would be unaware of planned or unexpected movements.
- High electric currents in batteries and high-voltage systems in electric vehicles can cause magnetic fields which can induce eddy currents in the human body. Risks arising from electromagnetic fields are therefore potentially dangerous for mechanics and others with active implants such as cardiac pacemakers.
You will not be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car after 2030, with the ban on hybrids taking effect from 2035. Those businesses who prepare now, will be better prepared for a gradual rather than sudden change.
The shift to zero-emissions electric cars is gathering pace as authorities around the world act to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. In 2010 there were 9000 electrical vehicles on British roads, last year this figure increased to 270,000, a 3000% increase. Be prepared!