Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV’s) account for only about 3% of vehicles on the road today, but that number is on the rise and the average mechanic has never serviced a hybrid vehicle and is unaware of proper safety procedures and regulations. Every HEV has a high-voltage hybrid battery that carries over 400 Volts of electricity and contains corrosive fluid that can be lethal if the proper safety procedures are not followed.
Protection from High Voltage Mechanics are required to wear Electrical Gloves (also known as lineman gloves or arc flash gloves) when servicing the high voltage system and battery only. While electrical flow from the high-voltage battery pack stops when the car is turned off, the current may not be dissipated from the system for up to 10 minutes. Ensure that your gloves are Class “O” and rated for 1,000 Volts. Mechanics must also inspect their gloves for holes since the smallest of openings can draw electricity looking for a ground. Since the high voltage system is not grounded to the body or the chassis, gloves are not required when performing other routine maintenance.
Protection from Corrosive Liquids – Unlike lead acid batteries found in gas-powered vehicles, HEV’s NiMH hybrid battery contains a highly corrosive electrolyte fluid (pH 13.5), that will dissolve your skin if contacted with. When handling the hybrid battery, mechanics should be wearing the following to avoid contact: Splash shield or safety goggles, Tyvek Coveralls, Rubber, Latex or Nitrile Gloves and Rubber Boots. The overall risk of coming in contact with the fluid is low since it is stored in a self-contained enclosure within the battery.
Hybrid Electric Vehicles bring new, highly dangerous hazards to the work environment and service managers should develop service protocols for their employees to help prevent any future injuries. Independent hands-on and online courses are also available to mechanics wanting to learn how to service a hybrid. Simply search “hybrid vehicle training technicians” and find the course that is right for you.