Background

Hybrid or electric vehicles are powered by a combination of internal combustion and electric motors. The electric motors are powered by high voltage battery packs.

Concerns/hazards

Although manufacturers build a number of safety features and devices into their vehicles to prevent accidental shock to the driver, the hybrid or electric vehicle’s high voltage system can pose a shock hazard to firefighters in an emergency situation.

Actions for employers

Employers must:

  • familiarize firefighters with the hazards of hybrid or electric vehicles

Employers should:

  • train firefighters on the means provided by manufacturers to shut down high voltage vehicles

Safety considerations

These are some important safety considerations for hybrid or electric vehicles:

  • extrication procedures may vary depending upon the vehicle type and design
  • an orange high voltage cable commonly runs under the vehicle chassis, posing a shock hazard when cutting into, lifting or stabilizing hybrid or electric vehicles - the orange high voltage cable should not be cut, disconnected or handled due to the shock hazard
  • high voltage systems need to be shut down before entering damaged hybrid or electric vehicles, or before starting extrication procedures
  • the hybrid or electric vehicle may still be powered on even though there may be no engine noise, posing a risk of accidental movement
  • there may be residual power in other batteries or other energy sources
  • markings to indicate hybrid or electric vehicles vary from manufacturer to manufacturer

As part of the Electric Vehicle Safety Training project, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is working with vehicle manufacturers to help inform fire services and other first responders about hazards associated with electric vehicles. This information may be found in electric vehicle safety training and emergency response guides for specific vehicle types.

Applicable regulations and acts

Read:

  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
    • clause 25(2)(a) for providing information and instruction to a worker
    • clause 25(2)(d) for making workers aware of hazards
    • clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers