Fire and Rescue NSW engages food delivery industry, warning of e-bike dangers - VIDEO - Sydney

Published: 07 Jun 2024 10:21am

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and SafeWork NSW have successfully engaged the nation’s leading food delivery companies and their top e-bike provider, warning riders about the dangers of Lithium-Ion batteries, following a number of devastating fires.

For several months, FRNSW and SafeWork NSW representatives have pro-actively met with a range of companies, including Uber Eats and DoorDash, which have readily agreed to educate their delivery riders about how to safely store and charge their e-bikes.

On December 3 last year, three food delivery riders were rushed to hospital after an e-bike exploded in their Annandale apartment building. One of the riders suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body.

On January 5 this year, firefighters battled a large blaze at a Croydon e-bike repair factory and late last month 50 people were evacuated when a fire broke out in a Chippendale e-bike repair shop.

Firefighters have outlined the risks to food delivery firms, explaining how damaged, compromised and/or over-heated e-bike Lithium-Ion batteries can catch fire and endanger lives.

Similarly, SafeWork NSW Inspectors have been targeting safety compliance with food delivery platforms to raise awareness and enhance rider safety.

FRNSW has also enlisted the support of leading provider of e-bikes to the food delivery industry, Zoomo, which today invited riders together to hear directly from FRNSW Commissioner, Jeremy Fewtrell, and SafeWork NSW.

Zoomo is a Sydney based e-bike fleet management business which leases more than 10,000 e-bikes globally and to 600 food delivery riders in NSW.

Zoomo has taken an industry leading approach to battery safety across the industry and globe based on its long history in the sector.

The companies, eager to help spread the message, have agreed to include e-bike safety messages in their newsletters to staff and employee induction processes, in several languages.

Commissioner Fewtrell said in NSW, Lithium-Ion battery fires have risen from 165 in 2022 and 272 in 2023, to 131 so far this year.

Thirty-five of those Lithium-Ion fires this year related to micromobility devices such as e-bikes, e-scooters and e-skateboards.

“We are so pleased the food delivery firms and leading e-bike supplier have joined us in recognising the risks and safe-guarding their workforces,” Commissioner Fewtrell said.

“Lithium-Ion battery power represents a tremendous technological benefit but the flipside is if the cells are damaged, over-charged or of poor quality, it can lead to what we call ‘Thermal Runaway” whereby just one battery can overheat and set off a highly dangerous chain reaction within the array of cells,” he added.

“Often, you’ll hear a popping or crackling sound, then the hissing of highly toxic gas emitting from the device before a fiery explosion occurs.

“The heat given off is extreme and our fire crews are regularly forced to immerse the devices in tubs of water, sometime up to days, to let them cool and prevent re-ignition.”

“Lithium-Ion battery fires are on the rise globally with 18 related deaths in New York alone in 2023.

“We don’t want to repeat the tragic experiences overseas,” the Commissioner said, “Please heed the warnings and follow the advice provided.

“New York has seen a host of deadly fires in high-rises where burning e-bikes have blocked emergency exits leading to multiple deaths at a time…we don’t want to see that loss of life here.”

Earlier this year, two people died in what appeared to be the first Lithium-Ion battery-related fatalities in NSW.

Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib, said the engagement with delivery drivers was an important step in raising awareness about the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries.

“Anyone who uses an e-bike or e-scooter for work or transport needs to understand the potential dangers so they can take steps to keep themselves and their loved ones safe," Minister Dib said.

“We encourage consumers to use these products safely by purchasing batteries from reputable retailers and avoiding overcharging. Make sure you don’t leave them charging unattended overnight or where they could block the safe exit from your property in an emergency.”

Head of SafeWork NSW, Trent Curtin, said SafeWork NSW, along with NSW Police, regularly undertakes compliance activities to ensure food delivery riders and platforms and riders are complying with safety laws, which include requiring all riders to wear personal protective equipment and undertake training.

“Safety for food delivery riders starts from the moment they go out to work until they are home, including ensuring all their equipment is stored safely. In this industry there are no margins for error and food delivery riders need to start and finish their shift with safety as a first thought,” Mr Curtin said.

“Our food delivery platforms and riders should always take care to use quality e-bikes, to make sure they are properly maintained, and importantly to not cut corners when it comes to e-bike fire safety.”

SafeWork NSW publishes a number of fact sheets in English, Arabic, Chinese, Punjabi and Spanish on Road Safety as well as other risks for delivery riders.

For more information visit [external link],-postal-and-warehousing/food-delivery-industry

To support the industry engagement, FRNSW has established webpages providing public advice on e-bikes and e-scooters specifically: [external link];ebike [external link]

FRNSW recommends the installation and checking of smoke alarms in all homes to protect life and property in the event of a fire.

FRNSW advises food delivery riders and the general public:

  • Not to over-charge Lithium-ion battery-powered devices or leave them charging overnight unattended;
  • Not to charge Lithium-ion battery-powered devices on beds, sofas or around highly flammable and insulating materials;
  • Only purchase reputable brands to ensure high quality power management systems within devices
  • Always use compliant and approved charging equipment for Lithium-ion batteries, don’t mix and match components and voltage
  • Avoid dropping, crushing or piercing the Lithium-ion battery cells;
  • Store Lithium-ion batteries in a cool, dry area away from combustible materials, and larger devices like e-bikes and gardening tools should be stored outside of bedrooms and living spaces;
  • Not to charge or use Lithium-ion batteries that show signs of damage, safely dispose of batteries through approved recycling points or facilities, don’t throw them out with the garbage
  • Don’t leave micro-mobility devices like e-bikes, e-scooters and e-skateboards on charge next to exits that may be required in an emergency

More information is located at: [external link]

The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of e-bike supplier, Zoomo, Mina Nada, said, “We prioritise educating riders and our staff on safely storing and handling e-bike batteries, so we are proud to collaborate with FRNSW on this educational safety session.

“We see the number one risk in illegal bikes. Riders often don’t understand the dangers of using modified e-bikes with increased speeds and unsafe batteries,” Mr Nada said.

“It’s crucial to raise awareness about these unsafe, illegal vehicles and the suppliers who are providing them.”

Media note – Video grabs of Emergency Services Minister, Jihad Dib, discussing the importance of this safety engagement is available here: [external link]

Updated: 07 Jun 2024 10:26am

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