EV and hybrid aware

Published:  31 October, 2018

Hybrid and electric vehicles are creating new types of issues during roadside incidents. Fire services have a duty-of-care to ensure that they are properly prepared for these types of scenarios.

The British Government has committed to a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 to reduce the rising levels of nitrogen oxide. Sales of electric vehicles are already at a record high and now account for one in every twelve new cars purchased in the UK. According to recent figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, hybrid and pure electric cars made up 8% of the overall market in September 2018, which represents an increase of 23% on the same period in 2017.

So, what does this mean for fire brigades, recovery services, and emergency responders as they come into contact with this type of vehicle more frequently? In short, anyone who works with hybrid and electric vehicles should have a basic level of understanding of the dangers and impact they can have. Employers should note that under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), a duty of care exists to ensure that all employees are suitably trained, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Having identified a skills gap in this area, Highways England traffic officers have recently undertaken a one-day EV and Hybrid Aware course as part of their Carriageway Clearance Foundation Patrols course. The roadside recovery industry – lead by Copart – has undergone the same training, as it is critical that employees have standardised and accredited training so that they are fully aware of the dangers in order to mitigate risk and ensure compliance.

However, despite the advances in awareness training, it is still not clear who has the responsibility of the roadside post-collision. As a result, there can be confusion among recovery and rescue services over who should make the vehicle safe in order that it can be worked upon or transported. Ultimately, if the integrity of the vehicle battery has been compromised, a qualified technician must remove the service plug before the vehicle can be worked upon.

In order to minimise the risk, knowledge of the correct procedures and understanding of how hybrid and EV technology works will build confidence and increase efficiency among emergency responders. It is therefore important that anyone who comes into contact with these vehicles should be able, at a minimum, to identify and recall the high-voltage components on the vehicle and the dangers they present; evaluate the positives and negatives associated with hybrid and EVs; and identify the procedures required to ensure the vehicle is safe to work on before commencing recovery.

They should also be able to explain the purposes of disconnecting the 12v negative terminal and the importance of the removal of the separation/maintenance plug (this is not to be attempted unless qualified); recognise and identify the dangers leading to a thermal runaway effect; explain the term ‘stranded energy’; list the health and safety and PPE requirements; recall and demonstrate the immediate action and first aid required in the event of electric shock; and recall the definition of a hybrid vehicle and list as many makes and models of hybrid and EV as possible.

In addition, they should have knowledge of the storage requirements with regards to damaged hybrid and EVs and be able to conduct 360 Auto checks.

Currently, training varies considerably across the emergency services and it is clear that a standard policy must be put in place in order to improve safety while working on these vehicles. EV and hybrid vehicles are growing in popularity and they should not be feared, despite the risks. By undertaking training and increasing knowledge, all dangers can be mitigated to ensure the safety of the emergency services and the general public.

About the author:

Following a 23-year career in the military where his last role was as a senior training director at the Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering, Gary Tucker formed Network Training Partnership, which specialises in training courses for the automotive, logistics, and emergency sectors. 

  • Operation Florian

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