Home Falls Prevention Care Homes to Consider Fire Risk of Lithium-ion Battery Charging

Care Homes to Consider Fire Risk of Lithium-ion Battery Charging

by Kirsty Kirsty

A leading insurance broker is warning care homes of the dangers of e-bikes and mobility scooters, detailing how they can be major fire risks.

Businesses who might encourage staff to use e-scooters as a sustainable way of commuting, need to make sure their fire risk assessment takes the dangers into account. 

Around 165,000 e-bikes are being sold annually, with this constituting one-in-ten of all new bikes in the UK.  The issue is becoming bigger year on year.

Mobility scooters could also present a fire risk within care homes and other centres working with the elderly.

Ascend Broking is urging anyone accommodating such vehicles in their home or business premises to exercise great caution. Lithium-ion batteries in these rechargeable vehicles can explode with the force of six hand grenades.  After just a short period of smoking, they can quickly ignite, spreading lethal fires that burn at 400°C.

E-bike and e-scooter battery fires have quadrupled in the UK since 2020, injuring at least 190 people.  There have also been 12 deaths.  London Fire Brigade attends an e-bike-related fire every other day.

In October, a blaze also broke out on a cruise shop anchored in Southampton, after a mobility scooter’s lithium battery exploded.

Ascend Broking warns anyone ‘housing’ such vehicles, whether in the entrances to multiple-occupancy buildings, business premises, or within private homes or garages, needs to be extremely careful.  The major risk occurs when lithium batteries are left on charge overnight or out of sight.  The speed with which they ignite provides little warning of what has happened and, if the vehicles are charging in an entrance way, there is no means of escape.

For this reason, we have already seen calls to evict tenants who bring motorised vehicles into tower blocks and rules that prevent retirement home residents bringing mobility scooters inside. Bans on the transportation of e-bikes have already been levied by train operators.

Ascend Broking’s managing director, Matthew Collins, says: “Vehicles using lithium-ion batteries are now often being brought inside buildings and many owners feel overnight charging is their best opportunity to get them powered up.  This could be a life-threatening decision, so don’t do it.  Always be alert when a vehicle is on charge and never block exit routes from the building, by charging vehicles on a path leading to that door or escape route.

“Business owners allowing staff to bring such vehicles into the premises need to be particularly alert and ensure they get expert advice, when it comes to their fire risk assessments.”

Ascend Broking also has the following safety tips:

–       Never leave lithium-ion batteries on charge overnight.

–       Handled these batteries with care.  They should neither be overcharged nor left to become too low in charge, as this can lead to short circuits within the cell and potentially also lead to gas emissions. 

–       Batteries damaged in any way, be that through dropping, piercing or crushing, or vehicle collision, should be checked by a qualified technician, before being used again.

–       No owners should every tamper with their scooter’s electrical system or wiring. 

–       E-bike and mobility scooter owners should not attempt to modify their e-scooter with aftermarket parts not intended for their model. When charging the vehicle, only the charger intended for that model should be used.

–       Batteries should not be allowed to overheat, for example in direct sunlight. Similarly, extreme cold can cause damage.  Check what the individual manufacturer says about temperature.

–       Check the battery regularly, looking out for any dents or cracks. 

–       Vehicles should be kept clean, so dirt does not build up on battery contacts. 

–       Keep an eye out for product recalls in relation to batteries, signing up, if you can, for alerts from your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Ascend Broking’s team can offer advice about fire risk and general risk management to any business or property owner who wishes to discuss how to handle issue. Just call them on 01245 449060. 

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