Lithium batteries power a wide range of consumer products and deliver superior performance and reliability in numerous applications. However, the same technology that makes them so useful also presents unique hazards for shippers, carriers, and receivers if not safely packed and handled when transported.
While the transport of lithium cells and batteries is fundamentally safe there have been incidents that should raise concern. Recent incidents reveal a lack of safety oversight of shippers who either don't take the time and effort to comply with safety regulations and best shipping practices or intentionally violate regulations and offer their shipments illegally.
In recent years, both U.S. and international agencies have made significant changes to the regulations governing the shipping of lithium batteries by land, sea, and especially air.
Those responsible for the transport of goods that include lithium batteries must soon adhere to new safety standards established by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Ruling HM-224F strengthens the safety conditions for shipping lithium batteries. Mandatory compliance, originally required back in February, now takes effect on August 7.
HM-224F will affect a wide range of businesses – beyond those involved in the manufacturing, distribution and shipping of lithium batteries, and have a major impact on commerce in this country. Thousands of lithium battery shipments take place every day in the U.S. for use in everything from notebook computers and tablets to cameras, medical devices, cell phones, power tools and electric cars.
The HM-224F standard reduces the excepted exception allowances for shipping lithium batteries and requires new battery packing, marking and labeling requirements as part of this revised rule. Shippers will need to determine the types of lithium battery, their electric capacity and number, and how they are packaged.
If companies have not changed their procedures and packaged shipments appropriately by the mandatory compliance date, the carriers will reject their shipments. Mishandling these new regulations can result in your company's lithium battery shipments being delayed, returned or even subject to fines.
Take a look at the infographic below for highlights of the many uses of lithium batteries, some basics on how lithium batteries work, and how thermal runaway can occur if a battery is damaged. We've also included tips on how to ship the batteries safely and compliantly. Of course, the real key to safe shipment of lithium batteries starts with sourcing the batteries from only trusted, reputable manufacturers.