Plugged into Safety: A primer on the hazards of working with battery electric vehicles

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3 Plugged into Safety: A primer on the hazards of working with battery electric vehicles | March 2024 Introduction Ontario is fast becoming a leader in the green energy sector. On top of the obvious benefits to our health and the environment, the rapid growth of the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market and the development of the battery supply chain in Ontario presents an important opportunity for increased competitiveness, innovation and job creation. The global electric vehicle market is expected to grow from 2.5 million in 2020 to over 30 million in 2030, and it is predicted that by 2040, BEV production will eclipse manufacturing of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. 2 The Ontario government is positioning the province as a global leader in the EV supply chain, and, over the last three years, has attracted more than $28 billion in investments from global automakers and suppliers of EV batteries and battery materials. 3 This is as big a transition as the shift from horse and buggy to the ICE automobile. However, there is no comparison when it comes to the pace of change in the market. Like all technology, this market opportunity is advancing rapidly, which presents unique challenges. While some industries, such as battery and vehicle manufacturing, have considerable experience with EV battery safety, this is a new hazard for many industries, including auto parts suppliers, auto dealers, auto repair/body/collision service providers, tow truck operators and auto recyclers. The lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles pose many serious health and safety hazards that are unknown or not fully understood. And, as many BEVs are already coming to the end of their warranty periods and even end of life, new businesses will be exposed to these hazards. These companies will need to learn and adhere to health and safety legislation and standards that may not have applied to their work environment before. In a recent interview with OHS Magazine, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services CEO Jody Young explained, "We see a huge transformation happening right now in the auto sector with the move to electric vehicles, which is going to shift work from gas-powered engine assembly lines to electric car production. Battery electric vehicles (BEV) are a fast-emerging form of technology. Businesses, such as auto collision centres, repair shops and auto recyclers, are beginning to see an increase in BEVs and often have a poor understanding of the health and safety hazards. This has led to apprehension about working on these vehicles. There will be a significant need for us to work with businesses and employers operating in that sector, and really help them navigate and anticipate all of those hazards that are different from the ones they're used to managing within their respective workplaces."

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