Report From DGAC Conference & Expo: Day 2 Part I

Posted on 11/9/2011 by Roseanne Bottone

[Editor’s Note: Lion Technology Inc. instructor Roseanne Bottone is blogging from the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC) Conference & Hazardous Materials Transportation Exposition. Daily, she will provide her observations and insights from the conference in order to keep our members up-to-date with the latest regulatory news.]
It’s day 2 of the DGAC conference down in Tampa, Florida where the weather is spectacularly mild and beautiful. Spending all day in meetings didn’t leave me much time to enjoy the sunshine though. 
Sparks Fly Over Lithium Batteries
The day kicked off with batteries, batteries, and more batteries! The discussion in the morning on lithium batteries was a bit contentious. The DOT regulators are presuming that lithium batteries were a significant component to several airline incidents, including the cargo plane fire in February 2006 in Philadelphia and the cargo plane crash in September 2010 in Dubai. Others in the conference rebut the DOT’s position by stating that there’s no concrete evidence as to the actual cause of these incidents.
One speaker, Bob Richard, former Associate Administrator of PHMSA’s Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, stated that proper packaging is the key to transporting lithium batteries safely. He argued that this includes using rigid or strong outer packaging and not envelopes or packs. He also stressed that regulated lithium batteries must be tested even if they are assembled with cells that were tested. 
A few other problems with lithium batteries were addressed, including non-conforming counterfeits circulating in commerce. Also, conference presenters stressed that industry needs to understand what constitutes a “damaged” or “defective” battery. A participant asked about customers returning defective batteries and, interestingly, the DOT put out a letter of interpretation stating that these folks don’t have to have training to do so. Their reasoning: a consumer is not a hazmat employee and they are not shipping hazmat “in commerce.” Best practices, however, would dictate that if your company could be dealing with returned defective batteries, it should develop some sort of returns assistance program. 
Industry is anticipating the outcome regarding the supplemental lithium battery proposed rule [75 FR 1302, January 11, 2010]. The DOT is considering over 1,000 comments, so no one knows what they’ll keep, alter, or gut from the original proposal. There’s a sense of urgency though, because presently the U.S. domestic regulations are not in harmony with internationalstandards and that’s causing some safety concerns. 
Just to let you know what the DOT is thinking from a regulatory perspective: the Agency wanted to eliminate exceptions for air shipments of equipment containing small lithium ion batteries, but this was met with overwhelming opposition. At 49 CFR 173.220, the DOT has an exception for shipping papers for battery-powered vehicles and equipment. The DOT is going to change this to harmonize with the IMDG rules that do require shipping papers for these items when shipping by vessel. 
International Hazardous Material Regulations
The conference discussions shifted from the U.S. to the rest of the world. Jeff Hart, Head of International Negotiations from the United Kingdom Department for Transportation, addressed the RID (rail) and ADR (ground) international model regulations. Why should you care about what they are up to across the pond? Because about 80% of their amendments eventually work their way into our regulatory world.
So here are some highlights:
  • “Hermetically sealed” is understood to mean an air- and vapor-tight sealed closure; 
  • They are looking at regulating asbestos more restrictively; 
  • Addition of authorized IBCs for solids that may become liquid during transportation; 
  • Effective 1/1/2012, the UN marking on cylinders with a capacity of <e; 60 L must be at least 6 mm high. The minimum size for marking the words “overpack” or “salvage” is 12 mm high; 
  • Mark “uncleaned medical devices” on appropriate packages that are rigid, puncture-resistant metal or plastic devices; 
  • Mixed support and rejection for the U.S. proposal to mark tested lithium batteries; 
  • Rejection of German proposal to create a special Proper Shipping Name for damaged lithium batteries; 
  • Articles cannot be environmentally hazardous materials no matter what they contain; and 
  • Class 7 radioactives are exempt from being an environmentally hazardous substance. 
Tomorrow’s discussions will continue with international updates, including news from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the folks from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 
Stay warm.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries

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