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IATA's 4 Steps to Safer Lithium Battery Shipments

Posted on 7/22/2022 by Roger Marks

Transportation of lithium batteries has been one of air carriers’ most pressing safety concerns for many years.

Following the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Air Transport Forum in Qatar last month, the organization posted an article titled Mitigating the Danger of Lithium Batteries to their website. In the article, IATA suggests four steps that governments and industry can take to limit incidents involving lithium batteries in air transportation.

We explore the four steps IATA has suggested below. The full article is available on IATA’s website.

1. Create awareness

A rapidly growing global lithium battery market is creating more risk of undeclared or mis-declared lithium battery shipments entering the supply chain.

Because lithium batteries are so common in electronic devices and equipment big and small, many new shippers may not realize that these batteries are regulated as hazardous materials/dangerous goods, and they may not fully understand the hazards lithium batteries pose in transportation.

By increasing awareness of the risks and the regulations for air shipments, IATA aims to limit unintentional non-compliance among new and inexperienced shippers.  


2. Appropriate regulations, standards, and processes

Regulators around the world face a challenge—how to prevent undeclared or improperly packaged lithium batteries from entering the supply chain without slowing down compliant shipments.

To support this effort, “IATA has called for the development of outcome-based, harmonized safety-related screening standards and processes for lithium batteries.”

In the article, IATA highlights recent actions taken to improve lithium battery transportation safety, which include more restrictive standards for smaller lithium batteries included in the latest edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR).

3. Effective enforcement and stiffer penalties

IATA advocates for stiffer penalties for shippers who disregard the rules. IATA also feels that egregious or willful offenses should be criminalized.

Each national government is responsible for enforcing lithium battery regulations within their borders. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), part of the US DOT, oversees enforcement of hazardous materials regulations for air shippers. Civil penalties for hazardous materials shipping violations increase annually in the US. As of January 1, 2022, the maximum civil penalty is about $90,000 per day, per violation.

For willful violations, individuals can be penalized with monetary fines of $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison under US law (49 USC § 5124).
In 2013, US DOT added a number of lithium battery shipping mistakes to its list of frequently cited violations found in 49 CFR Part 107, Subpart D.

4. Better protective measures for lithium battery incidents

The fourth and final step IATA presents is improvement of protective measures to limit the impact of incidents involving lithium batteries that occur aboard aircraft.

IATA encourages governments to develop a fire-testing standard specific to lithium batteries. Existing fire suppression systems in airplane cargo compartments can be overwhelmed by fires involving lithium batteries, which have potential to burn out of control.

Other possibilities raised in the article include fire resistant aircraft containers, fire containment covers for pallets, and fire containment bags.

An Evolving Safety Challenge 

As the energy storage potential of lithium batteries increases to meet consumer demand, so does the potential for a major incident. Shippers, transporters, and regulators must work together to limit the risk of incidents involving lithium batteries in transportation.

By increasing awareness, improving regulations and enforcement, and creating new tools to contain fires, we can ensure that lithium batteries are transported safely and continue to power the devices we all rely on every day.

Source: Mitigating the danger of lithium batteries (airlines.iata.org)

Shipping Lithium Batteries Training

The Shipping Lithium Batteries online course provides required hazardous materials/dangerous goods training for managers and employees who ship lithium batteries by ground, air, or ocean.

The course covers the latest 49 CFR (US DOT), IATA DGR, and IMDG Code regulations that shippers must know to ship lithium-ion and -metal batteries and cells in-equipment, with-equipment, or by themselves. The course also covers additional requirements for damaged, defective, and recalled lithium batteries and cells.

Train at your own pace or join us for the next live, instructor-led webinar on August 25, 2022.  

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