Search

Report: Train Car Hauling Lithium Batteries Explodes Near Houston

Posted on 4/28/2017 by Roger Marks

An intermodal container traveling by rail and reportedly carrying recycled lithium batteries caught fire and exploded outside of downtown Houston last week. The fire was extinguished by first responders and no injuries were reported.

Multiple sources reporting this story quote a Union Pacific representative as saying that lithium batteries are not considered hazardous materials.

This is, unfortunately, a common misconception about lithium batteries in transportation.  

While small lithium batteries—like those found in most consumer electronics—qualify for significant relief from the full burden of US hazardous materials shipping regulations, there are hazmat packaging, marking, and labeling requirements that must be followed to ship these batteries.

In addition to packaging, marking, and labeling lithium batteries in line with Federal regulations, shippers must train employees on safe lithium battery shipping practices.


What Is “Thermal Runaway”?

Lithium_battery_fire.jpgLithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries have potential to store tremendous amounts of energy. While fires involving batteries are relatively uncommon, when they do happen, they can involve not only fire, but also venting of gas, flying metal shrapnel, harmful smoke, and even—as in this case—explosions so powerful that they break the windows of surrounding homes and businesses.

These incidents start with something called “thermal runaway.” Thermal runaway occurs when a lithium battery short circuits, causing overheating within the battery. The rising temperature speeds up a chemical reaction within the battery, which in turn produces more heat. This cycle continues until the battery ignites or explodes.

For more on thermal runaway and the hazards of lithium batteries, read our 2015 article How Lithium Batteries Become a Workplace Hazard.


New Shipping Requirements for Lithium Batteries

The rules for shipping lithium batteries by ground, air, and vessel have undergone significant changes in recent years—as the popularity and performance of lithium batteries have made them more and more popular. Most recently, US DOT published Final Rule HM-215N, which, among other things, adopts new lithium battery marking and labeling requirements for ground shipments from international standards already used by air and vessel shippers.

KHOU.com has more on the lithium battery incident in Houston last week. 


Expert Lithium Battery Safety and Shipping Training

lithium_batteries_cellphone_stack.jpgEmployees who handle lithium batteries in the workplace must know the hazards these batteries pose and how to protect themselves and co-workers. The interactive Lithium Battery Safety Online Course is designed specifically for employees who handle and store lithium-ion or lithium-metal batteries at work.

Lithium battery shippers get this safety course for free with enrollment in the Shipping Lithium Batteries Online Course, which provides full DG training on the US DOT, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code hazmat shipping rules that apply to shipments of lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries. Personnel who package, mark, label, load, unload, or complete shipping papers for lithium batteries must be trained once every three years under US DOT rules.
 

Tags: DOT, FRA, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries, PHMSA

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

Lion's training was by far the best online RCRA training I've ever taken. It was challenging and the layout was great!

Paul Harbison

Hazardous Waste Professional

The instructor clearly enjoys his job and transmits that enthusiasm. He made a dry subject very interesting and fun.

Teresa Arellanes

EHS Manager

The instructor does a great job at presenting material in an approachable way. I have been able to save my company about $30,000 in the last year with what I have learned from Lion!

Curtis Ahonen

EHS&S Manager

I tried other environmental training providers, but they were all sub-standard compared to Lion. I will not stray from Lion again!

Sara Sills

Environmental Specialist

I really enjoyed this training. Even after years on both sides of the comprehension coin, I find myself still learning! The quality of the delivery exceeded much of the training I have received in the past.

Neil Ozonur

Safety Officer

Excellent. I learned more in two days with Lion than at a 5-day program I took with another provider.

Francisco Gallardo

HES Technician

The instructor was probably the best I ever had! He made the class enjoyable, was humorous at times, and very knowledgeable.

Mary Sue Michon

Environmental Administrator

The instructor's energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the subject make the class a great learning experience!

Brian Martinez

Warehouse Operator

Attending Lion Technology classes should be mandatory for every facility that ships or stores hazmat.

Genell Drake

Outbound Lead

The instructor made the class enjoyable. He presented in a very knowledgeable, personable manner. Best class I've ever attended. Will take one again.

John Nekoloff

Environmental Compliance Manager

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

A guide to developing standard operating procedures, or SOPs, that help you select, manage, and audit your hazmat agents and contractors.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.