Wednesday, March 20Serving the aftermarket

Electric vehicles: cleaning up the garage?

For those who work in garages, coming into contact with contaminants, grease and grime is a daily occurrence. Which means that getting your hands dirty is part of the job! The likelihood is that a tub of industrial hand cleaner is always on hand, and most days end with a good scrub at the sink. A tin of Swarfega has become iconic to most automotive workers.

But this workplace is about to go through a transformation. “The industry will totally change as we see more and more EVs on the road,” Mick, a technician at Manchester Hybrids said. By 2040, the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned – although hybrid vehicles will be exempt.

These changes signal a huge shift away from the internal combustion engine, which has been a daily sight for auto workers across the country for the past hundred years and more. As we see this change, does this mean that we’ll no longer be getting our hands dirty?

Mick continued: “Electric cars are a different ball game. There are no oil changes, there is reduced brake maintenance frequency due to regenerative braking, tools tend to stay cleaner. When it comes to battery repairs, we use safety gloves, which also means less mess, as no skin touches the vehicle.”

Andy, a technician from Sandy Lane Garage in Surrey added: “with electric cars, you don’t get dirty with engine and gear box lubrications at all, but maintaining the rest of the vehicle can be a different story.”

So, if we will soon be seeing the disappearance of these engines, and thus much of the grime that comes with them, will these mean sparkling-clean garages?

The grime that many technicians face means that work-related skin problems are rife; in fact, they are the second most-common work-related health issue in Europe. Occupational skin disorders such as dry and cracked skin can develop after repeated exposure to contaminants, and unsuitable skin care routines.

These skin disorders can restrict hand mobility and the ability to carry out everyday activities, such as gripping tools. Repeated exposure to contaminants and dirt can also lead to dermatitis or even result in a lifelong allergic reaction, both of which can ultimately necessitate a change of career. The impact is not just limited to the worker; research has shown that dermatitis can cost employers in both time and money.

According to Chris Brooks, Technical Product Manager at Swarfega, however, when it comes to EVs and hybrids, things are not so simple. “Despite the lack of internal combustion engines in EVs and hybrids, mechanics will still be dealing with plenty of workplace contaminants such as grease, brake fluids and degreasing products used for maintaining moving parts. Just because contaminants in the workshop are changing, it doesn’t mean that your skin care should be neglected.”

With the news that hybrid vehicles will be exempt from the ban, it looks like petrol and diesel will still be present in the workshop for now. Mick from Manchester Hybrids went on to say “with hybrid cars, there is no difference repair-wise. Grease and oil are still there – the vehicles still have brakes, batteries, an engine and petrol.

“There will also still be plenty of brake dust and road dirt to deal with in EVs and hybrid cars. You would treat your hand care in the same way.”

Andy added “we will still need hand cleaners – this is not something that’s going to change overnight.”

Contact with contaminants and irritants can exacerbate skin disorders, but choosing incorrect hand cleaners can also make the problem worse. More often than not, heavier hand cleaners are used, when a lighter one would do the trick.

“With the introduction of EVs and hybrids, the types of soilings will differ, and we think there may be less oil and grease,” Chris said. “Many mechanics however may continue to use the same hand cleaners they always have, keeping their skin care routine exactly the same.

“Within the Swarfega range, there are hand cleaners of varying strength that are targeted at different types of grease and grime. As a rule, you should always choose the most appropriate strength hand cleaner that’ll do the best cleaning job whilst also protecting the natural oils in your skin. Choosing the right cleaner will minimise the loss of these oils and will help your skin stay healthy and clean.”

With the upcoming changes, it looks like choosing the correct strength hand cleaners will be vital when it comes to maintaining healthy skin and hands. For more information on Swarfega’s range, call 01773 855 100 or email talktous@debgroup.com