Electric and hybrid vehicles (EHVs) are an increasing sight on UK roads. As their popularity continues to increase, so does the need for regular servicing, maintenance, roadside recovery and MOT tests on these types of vehicles.
Health & safety protocols
With this new professional demand on the motor industry comes a whole host of different health & safety protocols for personnel working on EHVs. As such, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has been lobbying the Government to review current regulations with a view to creating a set of minimum training standards for EHV technicians. The IMI is leading an Electric Vehicle Advisory Group, made up of industry experts, and is now working on agreeing and implementing appropriate standards.
For official guidelines and advice please use the following links:
Danger: high voltage!
Compared to traditional petrol and diesel vehicles, the big difference faced by technicians working on EHVs are the high voltages involved. A typical petrol car would have a maximum voltage of 12/24 Volts direct current (DC). An EHV is considerably higher at up to 650 Volts DC. This high voltage puts anyone working on an EHV at risk of receiving an electric shock that could cause serious injury or even death. Accidental contact, even in dry conditions, with any parts that are live at voltages of 110 Volts dc can be lethal.
The battery systems utilised in EHVs are also very different to those found in traditional vehicles. Many EHVs include multiple batteries with each one containing chemicals that could be harmful if released. And with the large amounts of energy stored in the battery system, there is a very real danger of explosion if the system isn’t handled correctly.
How are EHVs powered?
Understanding how EHVs are actually powered offers a basic insight into the risks involved with their maintenance. Electric vehicles have a large capacity battery and one or more electric motors that drive the vehicle. To charge the battery the vehicle needs to be connected to an electricity supply when it is not in use. Hybrid vehicles usually have two sources of energy: an internal combustion engine that requires diesel or petrol for fuel and a battery. The internal combustion engine and energy recovered from the braking systems are used to charge the battery. The battery in a plug-in hybrid can be charged directly from the electricity supply.
A new set of workplace hazards
The workplace hazards associated with EHVs bring additional ethical and legal responsibilities for garages and businesses to ensure their employees have the necessary training, qualifications and equipment required for safe working. This also covers roadside recovery mechanics, first responders and anyone else who might end up working on an EHV such as a delivery driver or valeter. Brand new skills, an up-to-date knowledge of EHVs and a range of PPE & specialist safety equipment such as Cat 0 electrical safety gloves, a 1kv face shield, dielectric overboots and insulated tools, are just a few of the many items that should be mandatory on any EHV safe working list.
Understanding the risks
As outlined above, the main risk associated with the servicing, maintenance and recovery of EHVs are the high voltages, however there are a variety of other risks that personnel also must understand in order to protect themselves and others:
- Be fully aware of the presence of high voltage components and cabling that is capable of delivering a fatal electric shock
- The storage of electrical energy within the battery systems of EHVs has the potential to cause an explosion or fire
- There are several components in EHVs that may retain a dangerous voltage even when the vehicle is switched off and/or ‘discharged’
- The electric motors, or even the vehicle itself, have the capacity to move unexpectedly at any point due to magnetic forces within the motors
- Learn about the manual handling risks associated with heavy battery pack replacement or disposal
- Fully comprehend the potential for the release of explosive gases and harmful liquids if the vehicle’s batteries are damaged or incorrectly handled in any way
- When working with EHVs there is always the possibility of people being unaware of vehicles moving as when electrically driven they are silent in operation
- Potential for the vehicle’s electrical systems to affect medical devices such as pacemakers
Reducing the risks
In conjunction with ensuring that individuals have undergone all of the mandatory, approved health & safety training courses to work on EHVs, confirming that they have the correct kit, including basic PPE and safety equipment, is key to reducing the risks and delivering safe working.
In order to support and encourage safe working with EHVs we have created a comprehensive range of PPE and EHV kit and equipment, including safety products, for technicians, first responders and anyone who may come into contact with an EHV. Our range includes:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for EHV technicians
Face Shield replacement Dielectric Visor
EHV Exclusion Zone
EHV Workshop Safety Signs and Lockout products
Additional Safety Products and Equipment for EHV maintenance
Storage Solutions for EHV maintenance Safety Products and Equipment