Safety reminder as electric vehicles take off

WorkSafe is reminding employers of their obligations to provide appropriate training and supervision as the growing popularity of electric vehicles sparks new challenges for mechanics.


The reminder comes after the new federal Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme, which seeks to improve access to vehicle safety information, took effect on 1 July.

The scheme allows registered training organisations and trained motor vehicle repairers to access information about a vehicle's high voltage, electric and hydrogen propulsion systems and connected components.

The scheme is supported by the new Australian Automotive Service and Repair Authority (AASRA) and the ACCC.

Electric vehicles include battery electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which can be dangerous if not worked on safely.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to give workers appropriate information, instruction, training, or supervision to enable them to work safely.

"With the popularity of electric vehicles increasing, demand for repair and maintenance work is also expected to rise – yet many mechanics may not have training or experience working with these systems," Dr Beer said.

"Electric vehicles contain large battery arrays that can be extremely dangerous if not worked on safely."

"Without a safe system of work, these batteries, and components wired into their circuits, can cause electrocution or burns, leading to serious injury or death."

Units on maintenance of electric vehicles are currently not a standard in many vehicle mechanics courses and many existing qualified vehicle mechanics may not have had any training specific to electric vehicle safety. Electric vehicle safety skills can be obtained through further study and are a requirement for those seeking to participate in the scheme.  

"It’s critical that employers take all practical steps to ensure workers have the information, instruction, supervision and safe systems of work they need to work safely," Dr Beer said.

Plug-in electric vehicle sales almost tripled from 6,900, or 0.78 per cent of new car sales in 2020 to 20,665, or two per cent, in 2021 according to the Electric Vehicle Council, and are forecast to continue to grow rapidly as affordability improves in the coming years. The Victorian Government’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Roadmap includes a suite of polices to support the uptake of electric vehicles.