Tuesday 19 May 2020
Every year there are fires in scrapyards across the world, in many cases the cause of the fire is not known but a large number are suspected to have been caused by batteries being mixed with the scrap.
Salvage Wire are calling on all vehicle manufacturers to release data that shows how many batteries are fitted in each vehicle, where they are and how to remove them.
The number of fires is causing concern across the scrap metal and vehicle recycling industries and action needs to be taken to reduce the volume of fires experienced.
One way is to make certain that all batteries are removed from end of life vehicles prior to these vehicles being crushed or shredded.
How difficult is that? I hear many ask. Surely these vehicles have a 12v lead acid battery that is normally in the engine bay, is easy to see because it is large and has two heavy leads going to the positive and negative terminals.
Agree, but many vehicles now have more than one battery in them, and some of these batteries are hidden away inside the vehicle and all of batteries need to be removed from the vehicle before the vehicle is crushed.
As an example, an Opel/Vauxhall Mokka could have 8 batteries in it when you include the 12v battery, tyre pressure sensors, key batteries and the telematics battery; the newest Ford Focus could also have 8 batteries including the alarm system and the number of batteries in each vehicle are increasing with every new model or upgrade.
We helped a vehicle recycler investigate which vehicles were causing fires as they were being crushed and identified a number that had an e-Call (or telematics) system fitted into the vehicle. These systems have batteries included so that they can operate after an accident, and in many cases the batteries are li-ion or NiMH types and are hidden inside the vehicle.
If they stay in the vehicle they can explode as the vehicle is crushed, creating a fire. Or, they can start thermal runaway and catch fire some time later. By then the vehicle could be under a pile of scrap and a major fire could ensue. Also leaving them in the vehicle increases the risk of environmental damage after scrap processing.
In some cases the recycler does not have data to show how many batteries and their location so they do not know about these batteries, plus they do not look like a battery, and can be hidden away in locations that are not easy to access.
The vehicle recycling and scrap metal industries would like to work with vehicle manufacturers to produce a global database of all vehicles with full details of all batteries, where they are located in the vehicle, the chemistry of the batteries and how to remove them, so that we can reduce the volume of these batteries going into scrap piles, increase the volume of batteries being recycled and reduce the risk of fire.
Which global manufacturer is going to be the first to release their data so we can start this database? Over to you!
Common Practice: Indicates that a process may be standardised, for example; USB connections are common across a number of different components, DVD’s work in most DVD (and blu-ray) devices, and in the automotive industry there have been common practices on OBD ports for fault code readers, orange cable for high voltage vehicles and fuel inlets so mis-fuelling incidents can be minimised, bit one area that is not a common practice is the disconnection of high voltage systems on hybrid, plug-in and electric vehicles.
Wouldn’t it be great if all the manufacturers had the same disconnection plug, in the same place and the process to make the vehicle safe was the same. If only……….
There are three main disconnection processes, the service disconnect or big orange plug, the switch and the multiplug.
And the locations are all different; in the trunk floor, under the rear seat, behind the rear seat, in the engine bay, in the centre console, under a flap in the floor between the front and rear seats, and, underneath the vehicle!
It is really important that all service technicians, first responders and vehicle recyclers complete accredited training in how to safely work on electric and hybrid vehicles, have the correct tools and personal protective equipment available (and use them), and follow the manufacturers processes.
For any one interested in learning more about these vehicles, completing accredited training and purchasing all the tools and PPE that will keep them safe and stop them being killed by an electric shock then contact Salvage Wire through our website.
All of the tools and PPE are available from EINTAC with a 10% discount by using the discount code SW1019
Wednesday 13 May 2020
Electric Shock, Fire and Chemical risks are all part of working life as a specialist on electric and hybrid vehicles so we minimise and mitigate these risks by putting Best Management Practices (BMP’s) in place.
These vehicles can kill, incorrect handling or the failure to use appropriate tools and personal protective equipment could result in a lethal electric shock. Between 70 and 90 volts is enough to stop the heart from beating and most electric and hybrid vehicles work between 120 and 800 volts. Incorrect handling can also cause fires and battery fires are incredibly damaging with temperatures in excess of 500C in some cases, and a damaged battery could leak electrolyte which is very harmful to health.
There are three levels of risk, low, medium and high.
Low would include sales staff, valeters, drivers and the like. They need to know how the vehicles operate, how to plug them in to charge, the risks and dangers of use, and most importantly to never work on the vehicle when it is plugged in. I know this looks really obvious, but never wash an electric or hybrid vehicle when it is plugged in charging, for example. Why do I say this, well some valeters were killed by jet washing a plug-in hybrid when it was charging - a jet wash aimed at a charge plug doesn’t do them any good.
Medium. This includes incident response and recovery operations. Responders and recovery technicians need to be trained and have the appropriate PPE to keep them safe, they need access to the manufacturers details on battery location and how to make the vehicle safe.
With the vehicle off, remove the key, put the handbrake on and chock the wheels to stop it moving, disconnect the low voltage (12v battery), check the high voltage system for damage and perform a shut down process if required.
High. Vehicle repair and maintenance activities.
Here we have two levels of risk
1. routine maintenance when completing work that excludes the High Voltage systems, for example changing the engine oil and filter on a hybrid vehicle, replacing brake pads, or suspension work.
2. work involving the high voltage system, which could include collision repair activities, coolant or air conditioning work, or removal of a high voltage component.
With both levels of risk it is imperative that the technicians are trained to the appropriate competency level and are confident to complete the work; they must follow manufacturers guidelines; use suitable PPE and tools for the activity; and prevent unauthorised access to the vehicle by other people.
The guidelines below have been written for vehicle salvage and recycling operations, it is free to use as a template for readers to write their own best management practice that reflect their unique business, operation and circumstances - if you would like a copy then please contact Salvage Wire through the website www.salvagewire.com
Specialist High Voltage PPE and tools
There are lots of kits and choices, but the minimum for a workshop must be:
- Linesman’s Gloves (electrical safety gloves) Class 0 minimum (1000v rated)
- High Voltage footwear
- Safety Rescue Hook
- Eye protection
- Multimeter - Cat 111, 1000v minimum
- Warning Signs
- High Voltage Tools
All tools and PPE are available from EINTAC (https://eintac.com) and if you quote discount code SW1019 there is 10% off every order.
First responder or recovery personnel would not need all of the above, but gloves, footwear, eye protection, warning signs and HV tools should all be available.
It is recommended that recovery trucks carry neutralising kit for electrolyte spills.
Recyclers Best Management Practice Guide
Before vehicle collection
- Train drivers how to identify risks from these vehicles and processes required to make vehicles safe.
- PPE and Neutralising kit should be available to drivers at all times and they have received training in how to use them.
- Identify Electric and Hybrid vehicle prior to collection.
- Investigate type of incident and damage sustained (flood, fire, accident damage)
- Assess likelihood of battery damage (has vehicle sustained damage to area of vehicle where battery is housed etc).
- Warn Driver of potential risks.
During vehicle collection
- Utilise PPE
- Assess vehicle condition and damage sustained prior to loading vehicle.
- Mark vehicle with appropriate warning signs
- Check battery status, including potential for any damage - inspect battery for physical damage, leakage or thermal incident (fire or discolouration of HV cables).
- Telephone for advice if necessary
- Complete neutralisation of any spilt battery fluid
- If necessary, de-energise vehicle.
- If unsure - LEAVE IT WHERE IT IS and get a specialist.
Vehicle on-site - Parking/Storage
- Suitable tools and PPE available
- Access to vehicle information resource (see resources below)
- Re-Assess vehicle for potential HV battery or HV system damage - inspect battery for physical damage, leakage or thermal incident (fire or discolouration of HV cables).
- Mark vehicle with appropriate warning signs
- De-energise vehicle, if unsure seek advice before de-energising
- Once de-energised store vehicle on flat ground or suitable racking
- Train staff how to handle vehicle correctly to avoid any further damage to HV systems, and only trained staff allowed to work on vehicle until it is deemed safe.
- If a flood damaged vehicle, lift one end of the vehicle to drain as much water as possible prior to storage.
- Make vehicle water tight prior to storage
- Suitable tools and PPE available
- Never work on vehicle alone - always have colleagues around ‘just in case’
- Manual handling guidelines must be followed
- Follow manufacturers guidelines or other resource (see below) when dismantling vehicle
- Only trained staff allowed to work on vehicle until it is deemed safe.
- Store battery appropriately - never mix battery types, store in the same orientation as when in the vehicle, store in such a manner that they cannot fall, or have anything fall on them.
- IDIS (www.idis2.com)
- NFPA (www.nfpa.org)
- Hybrid Vehicle Dismantling Guide (http://a-r-a.org/shop/)
- Recyclers guide to Hybrid Batteries (http://a-r-a.org/shop/)
- Individual Vehicle Manufacturers
- Salvage Wire (www.salvagewire.com)
- Pro-Assist Hybrid App - download it from the App store for your device.
Note: This is a guide only, all vehicle recyclers are advised to complete their own best management practices that are suitable for their specific requirements, operating practices, local rules, legislation, training and standards.