PHMSA Releases Safety Advisory for Defective or Damaged Lithium Batteries

Posted on 9/22/2016 by Roger Marks

The US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today posted a safety advisory to the Federal Register to inform the public of the hazards posed by defective, damaged, or recalled lithium batteries and devices containing these batteries.

Lithium battery shipments have faced increased scrutiny over the past few years, in part due to incidents like an ongoing smartphone recall that affects millions of customers worldwide. The lithium batteries that power these smartphones (the Samsung Galaxy Note 7) have been identified as a cause for dozens of incidents that resulted in fire.

Lithium ion button cells

US DOT Rules for Shipping Defective or Recalled Lithium Batteries

For consumers, PHMSA’s guidelines for preventing lithium battery incidents include turning off the device and disconnecting it from the charger, protecting the power switch to prevent inadvertent activation, and keeping devices in carry-on baggage, not checked luggage.  

Battery and device manufacturers and shippers, meanwhile, must comply with specific requirements that apply to the transport of damaged or defective batteries, found at 49 CFR 173.185(f).

To ship lithium batteries designated by the manufacturer as defective, shippers must:
  • Completely enclose each cell or battery in an individual, non-metallic inner packaging 
  • Surround the inner packaging with non-combustible, non-conductive, absorbent cushioning material
  • Select an outer packaging suitable for Packing Group 1–level materials
  • Mark the outer package to indicate it contains a “Damaged/defective lithium ion battery” and/or “Damaged/defective lithium metal battery”   
See the full PHMSA lithium battery safety advisory in the Federal Register here.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a similar note about lithium batteries to the public earlier this month.

Read more about how lithium batteries become a workplace and transportation hazard.

DOT, IATA &IMDG Lithium Batteries Shipper Training

If you ship lithium batteries, staying up to date on the latest rules is crucial to avoid incidents in transit, injury to employees and transportation workers, rejected shipments, and DOT fines now as high as $77,114 per day, per violation. The Shipping Lithium Batteries Online Course is designed to satisfy US DOT training mandates for hazmat shipping personnel at 49 CFR 172.704, and help employees follow the specific, unique requirements for lithium battery shipments.

Want live, instructor-led training? The next Shipping Lithium Batteries Webinar will cover the latest updates to US and international regulations from the shippers’ perspective and will be presented on November 8, 2016. Sign up now! 

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries, PHMSA

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