Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular and so ensuring their safety is paramount. This article explores how to manage the key hazards and risks for the safe operation of electric vehicles.
Current UK Government policy is to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and for all new cars and vans to be fully zero emission at the tailpipe by 2035.
As a result, vehicle manufacturers are now focusing on alternative means of power, most notably electric as they phase out the manufacture and sale of petrol and diesel engine vehicles.
Latest figures from the RAC suggest that there are 712,000 “Battery Electric Vehicles” registered in the UK along with over 200,000 plug-in hybrids.
As this figure increases annually, organisations transitioning to an electric vehicle fleet will need to consider the potential hazards and risks associated with electric vehicles.
Currently, there are three types of vehicles.
Battery electric vehicles use a large capacity battery and electric motor/s to drive the vehicle. The battery needs to be charged from the electricity supply network when the vehicle is not in use.
Hybrid vehicles typically use two sources of power (internal combustion engine and battery) automatically with the vehicle braking systems used to charge the battery. This differs from a plug-in hybrid vehicle that can have its battery charged directly from the electrical supply network.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “voltages present in electric and hybrid vehicles are significantly higher (currently up to 650 Volts direct current (dc)) than those used in other vehicles (12/24 Volts dc)” and that “in dry conditions, accidental contact with parts that are live at voltages above 110 Volts dc can be fatal”.
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.
Based upon the above, the HSE have produced a list of hazards associated with these types of vehicles. This includes the following.
Other hazards identified include:
Although data is limited, there is some evidence to suggest that fires involving electric vehicles are increasing.
With an increase in vehicles this is likely to be the case but certainly there has been some notable warnings issued by UK fire and rescue services in recent times, particularly in relation to electric bicycles and scooters using lithium-ion batteries.
Of the data available, it does suggest that “thermal runaway” associated with vehicle batteries is causing rapid fire spread and total loss of the vehicle involved in the fire.
As a result, transport providers for example are banning users from taking their e-scooters onto trains.
The powerful voltages required to charge battery electric vehicles must be carefully managed. Factors to consider include:
There may be circumstances where employees may be required to charge vehicles at home. Although there is limited guidance on this situation, organisations should as part of the risk assessment process be determining if this can be undertaken safely, following best practice.
In terms of best practice, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) have published Code of Practice for Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Installation, 4th Edition.
This publication provides a clear overview of charging equipment, as well as setting out the considerations needed prior to installations and the necessary physical and electrical installation requirements.
It also details what needs to be considered when installing electric vehicle charging equipment in various different locations — such as domestic dwellings, on-street locations, and commercial and industrial premises.
The fire risk assessment for the workplace should also be reviewed to determine whether any additional general fire precautions may be required when installing charging facilities. Factors to consider may include:
Any installation should be undertaken by a competent organisation. The Office for Zero Emission Vehicles contains a list of authorised installers. These installers should follow best practice as provided by the IET and also found BS EN 61851-1: Electric Vehicle Conductive Charging System-General Requirements.
Clearly all employees required to charge electric vehicles must be provided with the relevant information, instruction and training. The primary source of information will be any guidance provided by both the vehicle manufacturer and charging equipment manufacturer.
It may also be advisable to extend training to include what action to take in the event of a malfunction including fire and faults with either vehicles or charging equipment.
As with any equipment installed in the workplace, the charging equipment must be subject to regular and appropriate inspection and maintenance. Again, the primary source of information to inform this regime will be from the manufacturer/s.
Employers may face situations where employees wish to store and charge e-scooters/e-bikes at the workplace (when using them to commute to and from work for example).
This should be subject to a risk assessment/fire risk assessment to determine the risks involved.
The National Fire Chiefs Council has produced generic guidance on charging including using approved charging devices and avoiding storage in escape routes. Further details can be found from the link below.
Electric vehicles can have different characteristics to combustion engine vehicles. As such all drivers should be given familiarisation training to include:
There may be circumstances where electric vehicles have to be worked on. The HSE have identified four categories as follows.
The HSE website notes that “additional skills and training will be necessary to allow people to work safely with E&HVs. The levels of competency required will vary greatly and are dependent on the type of work that people are expected to do”.
A suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be undertaken if any of the above activities are to be carried out by employees. Organisations such as the Institute of Motoring Industry have various courses to ensure competency of employees.
The HSE website also provides basic safety information in relation to the four categories noted above.
For example, it states that when undertaking maintenance (that excludes the high voltage systems), employees should:
Electric vehicles are becoming the norm. As such, where an organisation is to utilise such vehicles, it is important that the hazards and risks associated with the use of such vehicles are known and appropriately managed.
As electric vehicles are a relatively new technology, it may be the case that the hazards involved with their use may change and increase.
It is advisable when introducing electric vehicles and associated charging points that their use and maintenance are kept under review.
Contact us for further information.
(Correct at time of posting)
A DSE assessment is an assessment of risk from the way we use computers, laptops, tablets and other display screens at work. Each workstation should be assessed, and the risks reduced as low as is practical.
A DSE assessment looks at how a user works at their workstation. Like any risk assessments, the aim is to identify the hazards and assess the likelihood and severity of harm to those that may be affected. Then, reduce the risk by altering the workstation or providing tools to make it comfortable.
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations. These regulations lay out some key requirements for employers surrounding the use of DSE, one of which is the need to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of workstations used in the workplace.
2.—(1) Every employer shall perform a suitable and sufficient analysis of those workstations which – (regardless of who has provided them) are used for the purposes of his undertaking by users; or have been provided by him and are used for the purposes of his undertaking by operators The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992
Any workstation used by your business, regardless of who provides it, should be assessed. So DSE requirements apply to co-working spaces, remote working, temporary workplaces and your own offices.
We have put together an infographic. I would recommend that you share the information with employees as it could be beneficial to them.
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Forklift tip-over was the focus of the UK’s inaugural Forklift Safety Day. And with good reason.
According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA), tipping accidents are biggest single cause of fatalities (42%) among forklift operators.
Taking these in order… prevention starts with a risk assessment specific to your site, loads, equipment, etc. and creating safe systems of work to eliminate hazards or minimise the risk associated with them.
Many of these can be addressed by removing, re-modelling or reversing routes that require trucks to travel down slopes (especially while laden), eliminating uneven surfaces and keeping ground conditions in good order (so no potholes or debris). It’s also worth talking to your forklift provider to discuss ways to make trucks inherently safer with speed limiters, load sensors, etc.
While we’re on the subject of training, it doesn’t end with operators. The HSE demands that if you supervise materials handling operations you must have the necessary training and knowledge to recognise what good (and bad) practice looks like. The good news is that Managing Forklift Operations courses are now available online to minimise time off site. Contact us if you require further information.
Driving with the mast raised is the single biggest cause of truck-tip events. State-of-the-art software that prevents tipping by seamlessly adjusting the truck’s speed as it enters a turn, taking into account the steer angle and load. The result is reduced risk of tip-overs, less load shedding and improved productivity as the manoeuvre is completed at optimum speed.
Wearing a seatbelt at all times is the simplest and most effective way of avoiding serious injury in a tipping incident. And it’s the law. The HSE makes clear it will “Prosecute site operators who do not take adequate measures to enforce the wearing of seat belts”. The challenge lies in getting operators to comply.
Even where management is vigilant and issues constant reminders, it’s not uncommon for operators to avoid wearing a seat belt (even where there is an interlock), tricking the machine by fastening the seat belt permanently behind them. So what’s to be done?
Some trucks have introduced a “no cheat” seat belt on electric counterbalance trucks. This switchable function allows the employer – at his or her discretion – to select an option that ensures wearing of a seat belt is mandatory.
To enable the truck to drive the forklift, four steps must be followed:
The truck can then be driven normally. If, however, if the sequence has not been completed or if the operator has tried to circumnavigate it, the machine will not function.
Sometimes, the simple stuff can have the greatest impact.
Contact us if you require further information.
Remote working has been a necessary shift for many businesses. And while it’s solved a couple of issues with safety, there is a downside for remote employees: the lack of proper workspaces. While professionals get to eliminate long commutes, working on sofas, beds, and in dining spaces can be quite detrimental to their health. In fact, hrmagazine.co.uk reports that these makeshift setups have already caused injuries in 11 million adults in the UK.
Remote working can definitely be hazardous, especially if you’re not careful. If you’re a remote employee, then this is what you need to know about the common work-from-home pains and the best solutions against them.
Poor design of your workspace—which includes your seat, desk, even your computer—could be contributing to the physical stress and strain on your body. Over time, you could be at a higher risk of experiencing these common aches and pains caused by the work-from-home setup:
After typing all day, you might notice an uncomfortable pain in your hands and wrists. This pain is usually caused by the position of and tension in your wrists and hands while you’re working on your computer. If your hands aren’t in a neutral position during a great portion of your day, your median nerve becomes compressed through the carpal tunnel. The blood flow in your nerves will then decrease, causing you to feel numbness, tingling, and loss of control in your hands.
Spending too much time in front of a device can cause eye strain, dry eyes, and even transient blindness. These are all major symptoms of computer vision syndrome, which is commonly experienced by individuals who use gadgets up-close for more than three hours a day, according to a study from researchgate.net. Since workers are required to work at least eight hours per day and stay more connected now that setups are remote, they are at a higher risk of damaging their sight.
Working on couches and beds can be comfortable, but it won’t be long until you feel discomfort and pain in your back. Lack of physical activity and poor posture can cause your blood flow in certain areas to stop due to muscle fibre contraction. As a result, remote workers who sit for long periods of time are more susceptible to experiencing pain and tenderness in certain areas of their body, such as their back.
A good home office setup will not only lessen your risk of getting injuries, it will also make you more productive. You can improve your remote working experience by assessing your working environment, investing in ergonomic equipment, and doing exercises to stay active and healthy.
You can prevent injuries or stop these from recurring by identifying their causes. Here at walkersafety.co.uk, we’ve suggested that you must understand your working environment first. After making a thorough assessment of your workspace, you can provide yourself with tools and equipment that can cater to your specific needs.
The right ergonomic accessories can prevent and relieve the common pains of remote workers. Look at getting a well-designed ergonomic chair and adjustable desk, so you can reduce your risk of myofascial pain syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. Also consider smaller accessories that can make a world of difference. For instance, if you typically experience discomfort in your hands while working, invest in a wrist splint to keep your hands in a neutral position at all times. Wrist supports can also help in keeping your hands elevated while working. You can also get a standing desk mat, which according to painfreeworking.com helps relieve pain that develops from standing for long periods of time. Most importantly, standing desk mats also encourage better posture.
Step away from the computer and bring relief to your hands, eyes, and muscles by doing various physical activities. Yoga is recommended by netdoctor.co.uk because it can reduce stress, correct your posture, and reverse chronic pain. But that’s just one of a myriad of options you can try. Maybe start a running regimen, try resistance training, or workout with a friend online—anything that can get you away from your desk for a couple of hours will surely do wonders for your health.
By making these necessary changes, you can improve both your working life and your safety at home.
Feature specially contributed to walkersafety.co.uk
Contributed by: JBrogden
Contact Walker Health and Safety Services if you require further information.
Managers are responsible for overseeing many aspects of lift truck operations on site, most importantly, ensuring that everyone is working safely. But what do good and bad operating practices look like? Here are a few of the most common examples of dangerous practice that unfortunately still persist on sites. Any issues like these, that put safety at risk, should be resolved immediately to reduce the risk of serious and costly accidents.
Regular all-round observations are vital to safe forklift operations. Not only will they alert the lift truck driver to debris or overhead obstructions, crucially, it is the operator who is responsible for the safety of any pedestrians in their vicinity. Therefore, it is vital that the operator always completes these checks before they move their truck or raise/lower their load.
One of the main causes of serious workplace accidents and fatalities is being hit by a moving vehicle, so be sure to monitor standards and ensure that operators carry out their all-round observations every time, and do so properly (i.e. really look, not just turn their heads).
Managers must ensure that operators continue to operate as per their training and not allow bad habits or shortcuts to take root.
Loads should always be secured, and weight evenly distributed on the forks. Not only can insecure loads fall and injure those in the vicinity, the sudden loss can also affect stability and cause the truck to tip over.
Watch out for overloading too, as this can also lead to lost loads and tip overs. Make sure that your forklift operators know the difference between gross weight (load plus packaging and pallet) and net weight (load only) and never exceed the truck’s capacity.
Managers should also ensure that operators complete one manoeuvre at a time while carrying a load. For example, turning with an elevated load is a common contributor towards tip-overs, because the higher the load, the less stable the truck, and adding the momentum of a turn dangerously shifts the truck’s centre of gravity. Instead, the operator should turn then lift (not turn and lift).
Pedestrians and forklifts must always remain a safe distance apart, especially in areas where they cannot be physically separated. Pedestrians, whether colleagues or visiting drivers, should not be permitted to help with loading/unloading and should never try and steady a load, as they will put themselves at risk of trapping injuries or being hit by the truck or the load, should it fall.
Tragically, injuries to pedestrians caused by lost loads are almost always avoidable because the pedestrian should never need to be in the operating area in the first place. Should a forklift lose its load with no-one in proximity, the worst-case scenario is damage to your stock or equipment – not ideal, but far preferable to the devastating consequences should a pedestrian become involved.
Putting robust, reinforced Safe Systems of Work in place, will help to maintain safe working distances. Communicate these systems to everyone who may need to access an area where forklifts operate, however rarely this may be. This includes staff, contractors, visitors and delivery drivers.
Operators may be tempted to pile up their loads to reduce the number of trips required. Even if the weight falls within the truck’s capacity, high loads can obscure the operator’s view of their surroundings, increasing the risk of them colliding with other vehicles, pedestrians or racking.
Make sure that operators are travelling with a clear view, so that they can stay alert to any surrounding risks. If their view is obscured by the load and they cannot travel in reverse, then they should use a banksman to guide them.
The HSE is clear in its guidance: “Where restraining systems are fitted they should be used.”
Forklift operators may prefer to not wear them but the fact is seatbelts significantly reduce the consequences of an accident. If the truck was to become unstable and tip over, a seatbelt will stop the operator from being thrown from the cab, or trying to escape: which can lead to them being trapped under the truck.
All too often, avoidable accidents occur when unsuitable equipment is used to complete a task. A common example is using a forklift to raise a colleague, either on the forks or by lifting a pallet or makeshift cage, rather than a purpose-built work platform attachment or MEWP.
Managers should also look out for cases where operators are using equipment in ways it was not designed to be used. For example, lift trucks are built to lift loads, not push them.
Ensure that operators have access to the correct equipment for the task and understand the importance of using it in the way it was designed to be used, to protect themselves and their colleagues.
Operational pressures, tight deadlines and high demand can influence some operators to compromise on safety in an attempt to save time. But rushing comes at a high cost when it increases the risk of tip overs or collisions. Even a dropped pallet causes delays and disruption when you factor in clean up, aisle closures, stock replenishment and repairs, and that’s if no-one is hurt.
Check that operators are aware of speed limits on site and that they understand the need to stick to them at all times, regardless of any operational pressures.
Lift truck operators can become complacent during mounting/dismounting, simply due to the frequency that this is done every day, and may be tempted to jump from the cab. But this increases the risk of slips and falls, and also adds additional distance between them and their cab, potentially putting them into the path of another vehicle.
Managers should ensure that operators are using the 3 points of contact rule: when entering or exiting a truck, keep either one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot on the truck at all times, until seated or stood firmly on the ground. Mentor’s 3 points of contact poster provides a handy reminder to operator’s on site.
These common hazards are just a few examples of risks which managers must target to help protect your team and your business. By regularly monitoring operations and making time for proper supervision, those overseeing your operations can guard against unsafe practice, proactively rectifying any bad habits day-to-day.
According to the HSE’s ACOP (L117), all supervisory staff should be able to:
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