Servicing, repair, maintenance and rescue of Electric & Hybrid vehicles can put unwary workers at risk of electric shock resulting in serious injury or death. Voltages present in electric and hybrid vehicles (EHVs) are significantly higher (currently up to 650 Volts direct current (dc)) than those used in other vehicles (12/24 Volts dc). In dry conditions, accidental contact with parts that are live at voltages above 110 Volts dc can be fatal. For E&HVs, dc voltages between 60 and 1500 Volts are referred to as ‘high voltage’.
Battery systems may contain chemicals that can be harmful if released. They also store significant amounts of energy that can give rise to explosion if not dealt with correctly.
E&HVs introduce hazards into the workplace in addition to those normally associated with the repair and maintenance of vehicles. For example, roadside recovery, first respondents and other vehicle related activities including seemingly non-hazardous activities, such as valeting. These risks include:
- The presence of high voltage components and cabling capable of delivering a fatal electric shock.
- The storage of electrical energy with the potential to cause explosion or fire.
- Components that may retain a dangerous voltage even when a vehicle is switched off and/or ‘discharged.’
- Electric motors or the vehicle itself that may move unexpectedly due to magnetic forces within the motors.
- Manual handling risks associated with heavy battery pack replacement or disposal.
- The potential for the release of explosive gases and harmful liquids if batteries are damaged or incorrectly handled.
- The possibility of people being unaware of vehicles moving as when electrically driven they are silent in operation.
- The potential for the electrical systems on the vehicle to affect medical devices such as pacemakers.