Electric and hybrid vehicles

Concerns over the environment, coupled with the regular launch of new and improved models, has seen interest in electric and hybrid vehicles rise.

Lower tax duty and grant incentives from Government have helped raise their profile. Despite this, they’re still generally more expensive than their internal combustion engine cousins. As a result, sales have so far predominantly been in the retail sector but as technology improves, we’re likely to see increasing interest in the commercial arena.

Employers have a duty to ensure electrical safety for their employees and other visitors to their premises, as well as protecting any electrical equipment provided. This can be particularly challenging in motor trade premises where there is a range of equipment, portable and fixed.

The popularity and complexity of electric and hybrid vehicles introduces more safety considerations and hazards. Any employees working with electrical equipment or vehicles should have adequate training so they can work safely and the risk of injury and fire/explosion is reduced. For workplaces, the necessary fire safety risk assessment needs to have taken such vehicles (and the work on them) into account. 

Plug-in electric vehicles originally used a “slow” recharge system; however there are now models with “fast” and “rapid” recharging systems. Different makes and shapes of recharging cable connectors also add to the variations between vehicles. The type of battery in a plug-in electric vehicle can also vary according to the make and model of car.

  • Make sure that you understand the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) and fully comply with your duties under them.

    - The person who completes your risk assessment for compliance with DSEAR must be aware of and act upon HSE guidance, including the HSE Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) for DSEAR and leaflet INDG139 “Using electric storage batteries safely” and the RISCAuthority leaflet RC59 “Fire safety when charging electric vehicles".
  • Consider ignition sources, ventilation and other vital matters in areas where battery charging may be carried out while completing risk assessments.
  • Make sure that your employees have received all of the instruction, information and training needed for them to work safely.
  • Clearly mark each charger, indicating what type of vehicles and batteries it may be used for.
  • Avoid charging batteries when the premises are unattended, or if the battery may have been damaged.
  • Ensure that areas set aside for battery and vehicle charging are suitable and safe (as determined by your risk assessments).
  • Locate charging points in areas of sufficient space, away from significant fire and other hazards. Think about what you could do to slow the spread of a fire (and smoke) which starts in the charging area.
  • Keep combustibles away from charger units.
  • Do not allow storage on top of, or against, chargers.
  • Protect chargers from the potential of vehicle impact.
  • Take note of the maximum temperature a battery can be exposed to (which the pack should be labelled with) before carrying out operations where temperatures may get high, such as placing the vehicle in a paint baking unit. 

    - Measures should be implemented to limit any potential risks, e.g. by removing the batteries or by providing insulation to limit any temperature increase in the batteries. Consider the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions and HSE guidance.
Find information on regulations that you and your business may need to comply with.
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