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Assistant Editor, IFSEC Insider & SHP

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Rhianna Sexton is IFSEC Insider's Assistant Editor. Rhianna manages and uploads content, carries out interviews with leading figures in the fire and security sector, and reports on the latest news and events from the industry. Rhianna is also Assistant Editor of IFSEC Insider's sister title, SHP.
July 17, 2023

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London Fire Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee meet as e-bike fire concerns rise

Representatives of the London Fire Brigade (LFB), the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), and Electrical Safety, attended a London Assembly meeting for the Fire, Resilience, and Emergency Planning (FREP) Committee last month.

The meeting had key representatives discuss increasing risks around e-bike fires and lithium-ion batteries, action taken to address the rising number of these fires in London, and if residents living in high-rises had adequate fire safety guidance due to their potential high-risk, as reported by the Evening Standard.

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Credit: Perry van Munster/AlamyStock

The LFB has also been running a #ChargeSafe campaign aimed to raise awareness of the issue and promote how to safely use e-bikes and e-scooters.

At the committee, Dom Ellis, Deputy Commissioner for the LFB, said e-bike fires had the potential to become a “societal blindspot” unless consumers were warned about their dangers.

Ellis added: “With e-bikes and e-scooters the amount of energy in those battery packs is sufficient to really compromise a good-sized double bedroom in 10–15 seconds and it’s the intimacy of the risk that’s the key concern here.

“Because people have these charging in their hallways, or a lot of the gig economy people, of course, they’ve got them in their bedsits, in their HMOs. So, it’s at the end of their bed, and they’re probably charging while they sleep, because they’ve just done a 14-hour shift and they need to get back out there again,” he said.

Regulatory framework needed

Ellis also warned of consumer reliance on “retrofit kits”, which were unregulated and had not been tested for fire safety.

Dan Parsons, Director of Fully Charged, an e-bike retailer, said that this DIY effort may be due to affordability and that employers needed to instil a duty of care instead: “It’s very difficult to go out to a gig economy rider and say you must spend x number of hundreds or thousands of pounds on an electric bicycle so that you can go about your work.

“The reason that these guys and girls are choosing electric bikes, home-made kits, is that it’s inexpensive for them to assemble and to put together, and they can deliver more in less time and generate for themselves – but they are putting themselves in danger by doing that.

e-Scooter-FireLithiumBattery-22“So, I do think that the gig economy employers have a responsibility and duty of care of those individuals, to ensure that they aren’t necessarily condoning the usage of those badly assembled products.”

Calls for the government to introduce a regulatory framework were also said to have been raised in an effort to counter the rise in the number of fires, particularly as the use of e-bikes and e-scooters grow in popularity around the UK.

“53 e-bike fires in London” this year

This follows as e-scooters, e-unicycles, e-skateboards and hoverboards have be banned on trains and at stations run by several train companies including Govia Thameslink Railway and Southeastern from 1 June.

Deputy Commissioner Dom Ellis commented on this saying: “We are very pleased that further train operators have taken action in response to the risk e-scooters can pose and are trying to mitigate these risks.

“While these are positive steps, our latest data shows that firefighters have attended 53 e-bike fires in London already in 2023, which is four times as many incidents as those involving e-scooters.

“Given e-bikes are not included in the ban, we are also encouraging operators to consider whether they have adequate safety measures in place should an e-bike fire happen on their service.”

 

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