ProShip shares some key information for shipping lithium ion batteries.
You typically can’t go through an entire day without touching at least 2 or 3 products powered by lithium ion batteries. Today, many products including smartphones, tablets and laptops are powered by lithium ion batteries. Certainly, these products need to be shipped around the world. The problem comes when they are not safely handled, stored and packaged. Lithium ion batteries can be dangerous and are technically classified as hazardous goods.
Lithium ion batteries can present both chemical and electrical hazards that can lead to chemical burn, fire and electrical shock. It’s important to make sure that your shipments comply with regulations because not only are they highly flammable, but they can have higher sensitivity to environmental factors and a higher chance of short-circuiting. [See: The Challenge: Hazmat Shipping]
Several events over the past couple years highlight the gravity of the dangers lithium batteries can pose. A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recalls 82 aviation incidents between 1996 and 2007 involving all types of batteries – 27 of those with primary or secondary lithium batteries. Years later in September of 2010, a cargo flight operated by UPS Airlines developed an in-flight fire causing the aircraft to crash, killing both crew members, the only people on board. According to the final investigation report released in July 2013, the fire was caused by the autoignition of the contents of a cargo pallet, which contained more than 81,000 lithium batteries and other combustible materials.
Most shippers understand how important it is to safely and properly transport lithium ion batteries with a number of regulations and laws in effect to safeguard those transporting them.
There are 2 specific UN classifications referenced in transport regulations for the shipment of lithium ion batteries.
The 2 classifications are:
- UN 3480 – Lithium ion batteries (shipped by themselves)
- UN 3481 – Lithium ion batteries contained in equipment or lithium ion batteries packed with equipment
Various regulatory agencies also classify lithium batteries for transport as either being a fully regulated or Excepted/Section II. . Fully regulated means that the shipper is required to provide a Dangerous Goods contract or declaration in the shipment’s paperwork, there are extensive packaging, marking and labeling requirements, and shippers must be extensively trained and certified. For Excepted/Section II shipments, the shipper may only need to apply additional labels and markings to the shipping carton. To determine whether the battery is classified as fully regulated dangerous goods, a number of factors apply such as which UN classification relates, mode of transport (Ground, Air or Ocean), the watt-hour rating, as well as the quantity and weight of the batteries. [For additional information: Living Dangerously: Demystifying Hazmat Shipping]
As the company shipping lithium ion batteries, you are wholly responsible for the shipment. Your business will be legally responsible in the event of any accident caused by unsafe or incorrect shipping of the batteries by not adhering to the proper regulations. [Need help convincing your C-Suite that hazmat compliance is a competitive advantage?]
This legal element proves the importance of having carrier partners available who are able to verify and advise appropriate services to transport lithium ion batteries and any requirements or restrictions for that shipment.
In the grand scheme of things, all inventory available for shipment should be classified appropriately within your inventory system. This ensures proper storage, packaging, paperwork, labeling and markings are used, automating your shipping process with software that maintains compliance and safety for all parties.