As the eCollect goes into service around the country, Dennis Eagle is opening up its electric vehicle workshop safety standards for the waste and recycling industry to share.
The Health and Safety Executive has encouraged industries to develop their own safe standards and best practices for working with electric vehicles. And having spent years working with high voltage systems while developing hybrid and all-electric vehicles, Dennis Eagle’s approach to eRCV workshop safety is highly developed.
Aftermarket Director Geoff Rigg said: “The automotive sector has now got a reasonable level of experience working with HV systems. But we are part of a specialist industry with unique challenges, so it makes sense to develop best practices that are specific to our industry.
“This isn’t about commercial advantage – it’s about keeping people safe. Dennis Eagle has been developing HV systems for hybrid and all-electric RCVs for several years and our teams have introduced and adapted safe operating standards to meet our needs. We’re happy to share these with everyone in the industry.
“And it goes both ways: if other people working in this field have ideas, we would like to hear them too.”
High Voltage electrical safety requires a different approach. To Geoff, it is all about risk management and that starts with awareness.
The amount of energy stored in batteries made from highly reactive chemicals, poses risks – some of which are obvious but others less so.
Electrocution from high voltage systems can lead to heart failure or serious burns. And the risk continues if colleagues don’t know how to safely handle the situation. Less obvious is the risk of jumping into something or falling when you get a shock, perhaps from a capacitor retaining electric charge.
Chemicals leaking from damaged batteries are dangerous as they are highly flammable – even explosive.
Lifting and moving eRCV batteries poses safety issues as they are exceptionally heavy and need special equipment to handle them. And as electric vehicles are almost silent, workshop staff may be unaware of one moving nearby.
These and many other issues have been identified and solutions developed in the shape of firm safety procedures and best practices.
The first safety principle of electric vehicle workshop safety is to restrict access to them.
“In Dennis Eagle facilities, the eCollect is routinely fenced off, stopping people approaching it unless they are authorised,” explained Geoff.
“Keeping them distant also reduces the risk from electrical arcing or sparks from damaged vehicles.
“A safety video explaining how to identify an electric vehicle and why they should not be approached, is shown to all our staff and visitors to Dennis Eagle premises.
“The company has also developed a traffic light system informing everyone of the safety status of the vehicle at a glance. A highly visible RED card in the windscreen tells everyone don’t approach. Amber indicates the vehicle is working normally. And Green shows the electrical systems are isolated.”
Another vital point for those working on HV electrical systems is to never work alone. If there is an accident, someone needs to be there to help. And they may need a safety kit in the form of the HV Board.
This is designed specifically for workshops repairing, maintaining and servicing electric vehicles and its equipment is always visible and readily available. It includes a defibrillator, a charge meter, a first aid kit and a long-handled, electrically-insulated ‘shepherd’s crook’ which enables a colleague to safely pull someone away from a live contact if they are shocked.
Padlock switches on the eCollect, used for electrical isolation, are also put on the board – intentionally away from the truck so they can’t accidently reactivate the electrical systems. A portable ‘safety case’ version of the kit is also available and one or the other must be present before anyone can start working on the vehicle.
Another cornerstone of eRCV workshop safety are the strict rules governing who can and who can’t work on an electric vehicle.
“Nobody can carry out any repair and maintenance work on an electric truck – not even changing a windscreen wiper – unless they have successfully completed the Electric Vehicle Foundation Training course,” said Geoff Rigg.
“This applies to all Dennis Eagle staff, wherever they are working and we strongly recommend our customers adopt the rule too. The half-day training course is offered to them when their eCollects are delivered. It can also be run on Teams.
“Alternatively, full repair and maintenance contracts are available for our electric vehicles, just as they are for our conventional vehicles. For some operators, this will be a much easier introduction to electric vehicles.”
The Electric Vehicle Foundation Training is for anyone who might be working with an eRCV, from workshop engineers to specialist electrical cleaners and First Aiders.
More advanced training is required for safe working on high voltage systems. This is provided through an HV training course and only Dennis Eagle engineers who have successfully completed this can work on the HV components of the eCollect. This ensures both safety and reliable maintenance while the new vehicle is settling into its role.
Staff who have been fully trained will be available in all service centres and workshops where Dennis Eagle has EV repair and maintenance contracts.
“To develop this blueprint, we’ve worked with a specialist in electric systems and had discussions with IRTE and we’re happy to share what we’re doing with the rest of our industry,” added Geoff.
“We are encouraging our customers to adopt these standards and most welcome them. Some already have smaller electric vehicles in their fleets but maintaining and repairing a 27-tonne eRCV is still a big step up, so we make it clear that we’re here to help, whatever their needs and their level of experience.”