Lithium-Ion Batteries: Everything You Need to Know

IATA's New Lithium battery shipping regulations help keep air shipping safe

Recently, there has been new regulations in relation to lithium-ion batteries. This reform is comprehensive. For the average customer—and even the most seasoned executives—some of the verbiage and jargon can come across as confusing. These reforms have many in the industry insiders scrabbling to conform to the new rules. For many, navigating through the updates can be time consuming.

As one of the industry leaders in shipping, it is imperative that we understand how these updates on regulations affect you and your business. This article has the goal of providing a brief overview of lithium-ion battery news. Being brief, the information provided should be treated as an overview and not as a detailed analysis.

What are lithium-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries are a common type of rechargeable battery, which is found in most consumer electronics.  When lithium-ion batteries are damaged and/or the internal components become wet, the batteries can become highly flammable, making them extremely dangerous—especially in instances where the batteries are packaged incorrectly.

What safe guards are put in place to ensure when shipped these batteries do not explode?

As these batteries evolve—becoming more powerful and used for more applications—so has the world-wide regulatory changes that are taking place to ensure consumer safety. Due to the fact that regulatory agencies and hazmat industry leaders continue to identify potential issues, it is necessary to update regulations, which in most cases are to ensure that proper packaging and shipping of these products are performed. A tight rope is being walked to ensure that the lithium-ion batteries are remaining in line with industry needs.

There are numerous technical requirements identified for different sizes and types of lithium-ion batteries.  Many of these batteries are contained in common consumer products, where the batteries are classified and packaged according to their specific designs.  In general, and as simply put as possible, the lithium-ion batteries must be packed in safe quantities, remain entirely undamaged, stay far away from moisture and heat, and are properly disposed.  Many industry professionals predict that there will be some fire retardant packaging requirements, in some form or another, in the near future for most, if not all of these products in quantities that are deemed dangerous.

Congress, West Front - WikipediaHow does recent congressional action influence your company in relation to these batteries?

As governments and regulatory agencies become more aware of and involved with the safety concerns with this quickly changing industry segment, the laws and enforcement evolve to ensure safety.  To ensure that regulation changes move as efficiently as possible, players in the industry, such as our company, that are experts in the field discuss the proposed changes and attempt to assist governments, regulatory agencies, and organizations with this process.

Why are the New U.S. OSHA GHS Hazard Classification Guidance Important?

OSHA, as well as many other agencies and organizations take part in this ever changing industry by participating in the discussions for change, and of course following pertinent industry changes and recommendations.  As consumer products and technology evolve nationwide and worldwide, so do the hazmat packaging guidelines, their laws, and enforcement efforts.

Everyone needs to be aware of the industry and regulatory changes, including the potential damage that can be done when one unscrupulously ignores these rules and regulations. The financial penalties are scary alone but the safety concerns are far more serious and unfortunately overlooked too often.

The bar is set too high to be ignorant to these changes. These updates, in a sense, should be viewed as an accessory to code of ethics. When the updates are ignored, so is the customer’s needs because they can face great danger. Essentially, the more we learn about the industry changes and continue to evolve with them, the world becomes a safer place.

A Brief Summary Of Some of the New Regulations

Below we offer a summary of some of the changes to the regulations.  However, this summary is not comprehensive.  It is intended to be a brief primer.

  • Passenger Aircraft Cargo – Lithium-ion batteries, under Packaging Instruction 965 only, are forbidden as cargo on passenger planes, on an interim basis.  This doesn’t impact batteries that are packed as part of equipment or packed with equipment (Packaging Instruction 967 and 966 respectively).  Source: UN 3480, PI 965, Section IA and IB.
  • State of Charge – Lithium-ion batteries and cells must not be shipped at a state of charge (SoC) that exceeds 30%.  This means that batteries should be fully charged and then drained to 30%, or less, before being shipped.  Source: UN 3480, PI 965, Section IA and IB.
  • Overpacking – Shipping Lithium-ion batteries, cells, and metal, are limited to one 2.5 kg package.  Unless they ship as Class 9, multiple 2.5 kg packages are not permitted. Source.

Moving Forward with this Information

This document only scratches the surface of awareness for the general public.  It is strongly recommended that people research the regulations for themselves and take into consideration all of these recent changes and understand why they are taking place.

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