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)
What is a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment helps you to identify risks from fire hazards on your premises and work out what actions you need to take to make sure any risk is as low as reasonably possible.
Help with the fire risk assessment?
A responsible person must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises. This will identify what you need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe.
You can do the fire risk assessment yourself with the help of standard fire safety risk assessment guides. Alternatively, if you do not have the expertise or time to do the fire risk assessment yourself you need to appoint a ‘competent person’ to help, contact us for further details.
You’ll need to consider:
We have put together an infographic. I would recommend that you share the information with employees as it could be beneficial to them.
Contact us for further information.
Why have this talk? More than one third of accidents that killed workers in 2019–20 were from falls from height. 50% of all falls over 2 metres result in death.
What will this talk cover? The hazards faced and how to prepare if you are working at height.
What is working at height?
Any work situation where you could fall and injure yourself and others. So it includes working above or below ground level on platforms, trap hatches, on top of vehicles as well as ladders and roofs.
Hazards to consider when working at height
Before working at height
Safe working on roofs
Questions for employees
Health and safety procedures are paramount in any workplace, but warehousing roles present specific risks that all workers should be aware of. First, it’s important to note that we understand how easy it can be to to let initial training fall to the wayside as you grow in confidence and find yourself in an everyday routine – this is normal in many jobs.
However, letting your guard down in a high-risk environment can not only put you in danger, but it can also expose your colleagues to the risks of the work place too. So, it certainly pays to be educated when it comes to warehouse health and safety.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, there are certain requirements that must be met within the warehousing industry. Below are some of the main legal requirements for employers in the UK warehousing industry:
Why is training so important for warehousing staff?
Warehousing logistics are complex, and typically this type of work environment never sleeps. For this reason alone, it can be a manic environment to be in, especially if you’re not up to date with recent training strategies.
There are a huge range of benefits to training warehousing staff, not least to improve efficiency, increase staff morale and offer job fulfilment, but also to equip staff with everything they need to stay safe at work.
As we have stated, warehouses pose a plethora of risks, from moving vehicles to high objects, there is the potential for all kinds of incidents to occur, and so it is vital that every person on the premises is equipped with the skills and knowledge to safely handle any workplace eventuality.
Due to the size and layout of most warehouses, the need for up to date and accurate fire safety training is absolutely paramount. Regular fire safety assessments and subsequent training is actually a workplace requirement regardless of the industry you’re in, but in the case of warehouses which have a number of hazards, it’s even more important that this is kept on top of.
Things that must be carried out by employers, supervisors or management include:
Some important fire safety measures which should be carried out in the workplace include:
Effective and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is often required as part of a larger health and safety strategy within a warehouse environment. It is important to ensure that you are wearing the appropriate attire to carry out your role, however this must be in conjunction with other measures in the case of your PPE failing.
It is a legal requirement here in the UK to supply all workers with appropriate PPE, and in a warehouse environment these can include:
Along with appropriate training in the appropriate PPE, regular risk assessments must also be carried out in the warehouse to ensure the right PPE is in place. Where new risks occur, old measures may need to be removes, and different PPE may need to be put into place.
In most warehouses in-house vehicles are an essential aspect of every day. Used typically for the safe moving and handling of goods, workers operating such vehicles are required to hold specific licenses.
Training is essential not just for those handling warehouse vehicles, but also for others who may come into contact with vehicles during their working day. Thorough training on how to use vehicles, and knowledge of best practice can help to maintain a safe environment. Here are some things to consider:
In any work environment there’s likely to be a risk of slips and trips, whether that’s in the kitchen or out on the shop floor. In a warehouse it can occur more easily due to things such as the surface of the floor, cables from vehicles or spills.
Here are some things you can do to avoid accidents from happening:
A huge part of your work in a warehouse will likely involve moving and handling large, often heavy goods. Doing so without the proper training however can lead to severe injuries, some of which can even put you out of work.
Luckily, there are simple things you can do to prevent injury from moving and handling goods, these include:
Incorrect handling can lead to a wealth of physical conditions, including the following:
As well as the way you hold yourself and handle goods in transit, the way you pack them can also make a huge difference to your physical wellbeing. Below are some of our tips for the safe packing of goods:
Health and safety aren’t as straightforward as we might like, especially in high-risk environments such as warehouses. But it’s crucial that we stay educated and up to date with both theoretical and practical training in order to stay safe at work.
If you are unsure about any aspects of today’s guide, it may be worthwhile to have a conversation with your manager about training opportunities. After all, it pays to be prepared.
Contact us for further information.
A fire safety door is a crucial safety feature of any building in which people live, work or visit. A fire safety door is a sealed door between compartments or areas. They act as a barrier to the spread of fire, heat and smoke, limiting its effect whilst allowing enough time for occupants to evacuate to a place of safety.
At a glance, fire safety doors don’t look too different from the other internal doors in a building. However, they need to be sturdy enough to stop the fire but otherwise easy to use under everyday circumstances. These dual roles are reflected in the doors’ design. A well-designed timber fire safety door will delay the spread of fire and smoke for perhaps up to 30 minutes, without causing too much hindrance to the everyday movement of people and goods. In other words, fire safety doors save lives.
When you’re trying to identify a fire safety door, follow this simple check:
The issue of fire safety doors and fire exits can be confusing. A fire safety door is an internal door.
Examples of locations of fire safety doors include but are not limited to:
Fire safety doors have to be kept closed at all times unless certified fire safety door retainers are installed (not just a door wedge), which hold the fire safety door open until a fire alarm is set off.
A fire exit door on the other hand, is an external door. It can be left open and does not have to be fire resistant. The purpose of the fire exit door is to allow a quick and unhindered escape through a well-lit door into a place of safety while stopping unauthorised access from outside the building.
Fire exits doors should open easily and, wherever possible, in the direction of traffic flow. If it is a security door that is usually kept locked but will be used by members of the public in an emergency situation, it will have to be fitted with a panic or push bar. By enabling the swift passage of people to a place of safety, the final exit door will have performed its function; it does not have to be a fire safety door to accomplish this.
Fire exit doors can also be opened from the outside if, for example, a panic bar with a key lock override is fitted. Fire exits must never be obstructed and have to be clearly marked and well lit. Best practice dictates that fire exit signs are fitted above fire exits.
The effectiveness of a fire safety door, as well as the type required, is determined by its location in the building and the types of fire dangers it faces. There are various types of fire safety doors, ranging from different materials to different fire ratings and levels of protection.
Types of fires safety doors include:
Wooden Fire Safety Doors – Particleboard, flax board, timber or mag board are some of the different materials used to make the solid core found in most wooden fire safety doors. A lipping around the core with a veneer finish, MDF or plywood glued to the core or a timber frame with a laminated outer finish are some of the different ways in which the core is finished. Provided that the necessary fire rating is met, any of these finishing methods can be used. It is worth noting that you should always remember to use fire-retardant paint if you plan on painting a fire safety door made of wood.
Steel Fire Safety Doors – Whilst glass or wooden fire safety doors are known to provide around 30 to 60 minutes of fire protection on average, steel fire safety doors can extend this time to up to four hours. Thanks to their durable and strong nature, these fire safety doors may be preferred over other available options when enhanced security is required. In applications where higher levels of hygiene are necessary, such as hospitals and kitchens, among others, steel fire safety doors are also preferred as they are easy to clean.
Glass Fire Safety Doors – For internal doors that comply with all the necessary fire safety regulations, pyropanel glass fire safety doors are increasingly seen as a better looking alternative to the traditionally popular wooden and steel fire safety doors. Fire-rated glass must be used on all pyropanel fire safety doors. To prevent the spread of smoke and flames, fire-rated glass has been tested and approved as an effective barrier. It is also possible to prevent the spread of heat with some types of fire-rated glass. While ordinary glass cannot withstand temperatures over 120°Celsius, fire-rated glass can survive temperatures exceeding 900°Celsius. It is important for your glass fire safety door(s) to comply with the applicable fire safety guidelines, especially given that building fires normally burn hotter than 600°Celsius.
Double Fire Safety Doors – Double doors are an excellent fit for buildings with a higher number of occupants or wider door openings.
Pre-hung Fire Safety Doors – In a new build or large construction, pre-hung fire safety doors can be used to save money and time. A single package made up of various components, including the architraves, frame and leaf, is supplied ready for installation when using pre-hung fire safety doors. These doors are installed once all of the construction work is complete to decrease any risk of damage to the door, which would render it non-compliant with the applicable fire safety regulations.
The FD rating assigned to fire safety doors is dependent on the amount of time it can stand up to fire. A thorough fire risk assessment must be carried out when selecting a FD rating. Fire safety doors providing 30 minutes and 60 minutes of protection have an FD30 and FD60 rating, respectively. FD ratings are assigned after stress testing according to the guidelines laid out in BS 476 part 22:1987.
Some of the commonly seen ratings include:
Fire safety doors are a legal requirement in all non-domestic properties, such as businesses, commercial premises and public buildings. They are also required in residential flats and houses of multiple occupancy. In the event of a fire, internal fire safety doors are meant to divide the building into separate compartments. This way, for the amount of time indicated by the FD rating of the doors, occupants have a protected way out of the building or space.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 brought together several different pieces of legislation into one. It applied to all non-domestic premises, including communal areas of residential buildings with multiple homes. The Order also designated a “Responsible Person” for fire safety whose duty is to undertake assessments and manage risks, with the Order enforced by Fire and Rescue Authorities. The Order also covered any house in multiple occupation (HIMO) with shared facilities of any height.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 establishes new rules for any building, including flats, from two-unit conversions to multiple flats in purpose-built blocks. The Act prepares the ground for secondary legislation to implement the recommendations made in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report.
All fire safety doors must satisfy the disability regulations under the Equality Act 2010.
In domestic buildings above two levels, every door leading to the stairwell at all levels must be a fire safety door, where the door leads to a habitable room.
Fire safety doors are also required:
According to the new Fire Safety Act 2021 apartment owners or leaseholders need to make sure that fire safety doors are compliant by ensuring that:
The guidelines are categorised into two separate sections, based on vertical and horizontal escape routes, when it comes to commercial and non-domestic properties. The process of evacuating all occupants of a building with multiple levels using a flight of stairs is referred to as vertical evacuation. On the other hand, occupants move horizontally, into a fireproof compartment or space on the same level/floor, to get away from the fire, in horizontal evacuation.
While the decision between horizontal and vertical evacuation is made independently, per building, the safety and speed of each option when it comes to the evacuation of a building’s occupants is the main determining factor, with vertical evacuation being the best fit in most cases.
According to the Fire Safety Order 2005, this route must be lined with fire safety doors at the very least. The door’s surroundings, location and building type are all considered in an independent evaluation used to determine the most suitable FD rating of the fire safety doors to be installed.
In accordance with Article 3 of the 2005 Fire Safety Order, the installation of fire safety doors in a commercial building is the duty of a “responsible person”.
Door frames, to go with certificated fire safety doors, should conform to the requirements stated on the door leaf’s data sheet. Frames certificated to meet the requirements of specified door leaves can be purchased from the door leaf manufacturer, a company licensed to manufacture the door frames, or a distributor.
Fire safety door frames or linings can be made from various timbers and timber-based materials. They must match the species, type and density, profile and frame dimensions given in the door leaf’s data sheets and confirmed in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Fire safety door frames should be of the material types, density and dimensions, including the size of the stop, stated on the fire safety door leaf’s data sheet.
Fitting new fire safety doors into existing frames is risky because the existing frame may not be fit for purpose or compatible with the certification of the new fire safety door leaf. If you are fitting new fire safety doors and components into existing frames there are a number of checks that should be made on the frame before taking the decision to only upgrade the door leaf. If it is not compatible, then certification becomes invalid.
Fire safety door frames should be fitted into partition walls that have at least the same proven fire resistance as the resulting fire safety door assembly.
The limitations on the size of gap that is permitted between the door leaf and the frame is extremely important and is documented on the door leaf manufacturer’s data sheet. In general, the gap should be between 2mm and 4mm along the two long edges and across the top of the door leaf.
Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO/FSO) makes it a legal requirement to ensure that fire-resisting doors and escape doors are correctly installed and adequately maintained in order for them to be fit for purpose. The RRO/FSO applies to all buildings other than domestic housing, and replaces 118 pieces of previous fire legislation, including the old fire certificate.
The law now shifts responsibility from the fire authorities for fire safety to whoever has day-to-day control of premises. The authorities have the power to enforce the RRO/FSO and do prosecute or even close buildings down where breaches are discovered.
Just like any other passive fire protection system, it is essential for a fire safety door to perform as intended in the event of a fire. Any slight alteration to the door or its surroundings can affect the performance. As such, a fire safety door should be regularly checked to ensure it functions correctly and will perform to its designed standard in the event of a fire.
Periodic checks should be carried out at least once every six months although newly occupied buildings may require more frequent checks in the first year of use. Where the fire safety door is in high use, it should be checked more frequently than other doors in the building, for example once per week or month.
Depending on what type of fire safety door you buy, for example set versus assembly, you will need to have them installed in different ways. If you are installing a fire safety door set, the installation needs to meet EN 1634. If you are installing a fire safety door assembly, then the installation will need to meet BS 8214 2016. Any ironmongery used as part of a fire safety door assembly will need to meet BS EN 1906:2010 and BS EN 1935.
Fire safety doors must conform to a British safety standard known as BS 476 Pt 22.
BS 8214: 2016 is the code of practice for fire safety door assemblies.
BSI, the British Standards Institution, has revised BS 8214 code of practice for fire safety door assemblies. The updated standard gives recommendations for the specification, installation and maintenance of timber-based fire safety doors. BS 8214 now includes updated guidance associated with the sealing between the door assembly and the surrounding structure.
The recommendations are applicable to timber-based hinged or pivoted pedestrian door assemblies or door leaves, fitted into frames of any material.
Other changes to the revised standard from its predecessor, BS 8214:2008, include new fire precautions in the design, construction and use of building to ensure the standard is harmonised with recently revised BS 9999 code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings.
BS 8214 was revised with suppliers of door assembly components in mind, many of whom are looking for ways to align their offering with the reliability of assembly offered by door sets. The revised standard reflects changes in the industry to meet its usability, particularly in relation to the installation and maintenance of fire safety doors, and is particularly relevant to those who work in the fire performance and smoke control sectors.
Contact us for further information.