What should employers consider for e-bikes in the workplace?
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Many businesses like yours are implementing schemes to improve sustainability, people have started to utilise e-bikes and e-scooters to get around towns and cities more efficiently, instead of using their cars to get from A to B.
As these bikes have become more popular and cost-effective, it has, in some cases, become the best way for individuals to commute to the office. The issues around e-bikes and e-scooters have become more widespread and employers and employees alike need to be aware of the risks they pose.
If you need immediate support or advice, contact our health and safety consultants here 0800 141 3908.
What’s happened to e-bikes?
Since the start of the year nearly fifty e-bikes and scooters have caught fire in London alone, and just over five hundred and sixty-five across the country have resulted in the fire services being called to tackle the blazes.
Today the UK is on track to have one e-bike or scooter fire a day, which has increased since 2020 when that statistic was just once a week.
Why are they catching fire?
Lithium-ion batteries power E-bikes and e-scooters. These are specially designed to contain large amounts of energy within a small space.
The energy is kept in a smaller space, so if they aren’t properly looked after or made, they can overheat or explode. In the past, this has been caused by poorly made batteries, using the wrong charging cable or the battery management system shorting while it’s on charge.
When asked about lithium-ion batteries, a fire safety consultant commented that each battery ‘is filled with flammable electrolyte and electrodes that can short if they are damaged or not properly maintained.’
When the cells overheat, they go into the ‘thermal highway’ process. This is typically a feedback loop that heats the cells quickly and can cause the cells around it to overheat and cause the battery to have a chemical exothermic reaction and produce toxic smoke. This type of fire is harder to put out.
It’s important to remember that lithium-ion batteries have the ability to reignite themselves after they’ve been extinguished if when they’re moved it causes further damage or has a new short circuit in the battery.
What should employers do?
Employers should be aware of their employees using e-bikes to get to work. As they are a fire risk.
They should be included in your company’s risk assessment, you could also create an e-bike policy for your business that informs your employees of what kind of e-bike or e-scooter they can bring onto the premises, and if they are able to leave them charging while they are working.
You could also include in the policy what condition the e-bike or e-scooters should be in, and whether they have to be regularly PAT tested or serviced.
By including e-bikes and e-scooters in your health and safety policy, you are able to better educate your employees on the dangers of leaving them on a charge while unattended, and you can put measures in place to help mitigate the hazards and risks associated with the bikes.
How can employers and employees reduce the risk of e-bike fires?
There are a few things that you can do as an employer to help your employees with their e-bikes and reduce the risks in your workplace.
Keep an eye on the e-bike charging and watch out for any signs that it might be overheating.
This will help you or your employees quickly identify if there is a potential fire risk.
Ensure that the battery in your e-bike or e-scooter is in line with the battery and charger regulations in the UK.
Never leave e-bikes or e-scooters charging on their own or overnight.
Don’t place the e-bike or e-scooter in the way of an exit. If there is a fire you don’t want to unintentionally trap yourself in the building.
Ensure you buy the battery and charger from a reputable business.
Let the battery cool down before putting it on to charge.
Ensure you have smoke alarms around the workplace, especially where the e-bikes are stored.
Speak to an Expert
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We have been providing assistance to businesses for 80 years. Our advice line is available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Why not speak to a Croner expert on 0800 141 3908.