Electric bicycles (e-bikes) and electric scooters (e-scooters) are becoming more and more popular in the workplace – both as a mode of transport for business purposes and a convenient way to commute.
These vehicles are normally powered by lithium-ion batteries, which obviously need charging regularly. But it’s now become clear that this brings some pretty serious safety risks.
What’s the big deal?
E-bikes and e-scooters seem to be causing more and more fires in domestic and work premises. The London Fire Brigade reported eight cases of fires from e-bikes and e-scooters in 2019, compared to fifty-nine in 2021.
This is because the batteries in them can have catastrophic failures like explosions and rapid fires, which can potentially be caused by things like overcharging, overheating, damage or manufacturing defects.
Key workplace safety guidelines
- Strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions during charging, and always unplug the charger once the charging cycle concludes.
- Make sure that you take into account the potential risks from charging e-bikes and scooters within your fire risk assessment and implement controls.
- Don’t allow e-bikes and scooters to be charged within fire or emergency escape routes.
- Only use chargers endorsed by the manufacturer for your specific product.
- Regularly check e-bikes and scooters for wear and tear, damage, or other issues, including any charging cables.
- To prevent overheating or fires, never cover chargers or battery packs during the charging process.
- Don’t charge batteries or store e-bikes and e-scooters near materials which are flammable or likely to combust.
- Follow manufacturer’s guidance on battery charge durations to avoid overcharging.
- Exercise caution with socket outlets and extension leads, avoiding overloading and ‘daisy chaining’.
- In the event of an e-bike, e-scooter, or lithium-ion battery fire, don’t attempt to extinguish the flames unless you’ve got the right means to do so – like a specific lithium extinguisher and trained personnel.
- Avoid storing or charging e-bikes and e-scooters along evacuation routes or communal areas in multi-occupancy buildings, because this could cause problems with evacuating during a fire emergency.
- Responsible personnel should evaluate risks linked to e-bikes and e-scooters where they are charged or left in common areas such as escape routes, bike storage, and mobility scooter charging zones.
- Offer guidance to colleagues on safe practices for usage, storage, and charging of e-scooters and bikes.
- Select storage locations for e-bikes, e-scooters, and their batteries that maintain moderate temperatures, avoiding extreme heat or cold.
- When lithium-ion batteries will be unused for extended periods, stick with the manufacturer’s instructions regarding storage and maintenance.
Considerations when buying these vehicles
- Source e-bikes, e-scooters, chargers, and batteries exclusively from reputable vendors.
- If they don’t meet British or European standards, they can pose significant fire hazards (search for UKCA and CE-marked e-bikes and scooters).
- Buy genuine chargers (or battery packs) because, though they’re sometimes more expensive, it’s a good idea to guarantee better quality and compatibility.
- Validate any provided warranties and register purchased products with the manufacturer to streamline communication for safety alerts or recalls.
- Make sure products are free from recalls by consulting resources like this Electrical Safety website or official government platforms.
Damage and proper disposal
Damaged batteries can unexpectedly overheat and catch fire, so it’s important to make sure that e-bikes and vehicles are disposed of properly and not mixed into your general waste.
Please refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and your waste disposal company for further information of what to do in your local area.
Need more support?
Want any more support with this? Just call your 24/7 Health & Safety advice line on 0345 844 4848.