Richard Sieg, Inmar Regulatory Counsel
The ever-changing regulatory landscape is off to a fast start in the transportation arena with changes to labeling and shipping of lithium batteries. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHSMA) Final Rule for “Hazardous Materials: Transportation of Lithium Batteries” (hereinafter, “Lithium Battery Rule”) is effective on February 6, 2015 and modifies the way we will be handling, labeling and shipping lithium batteries. Although changes were made for all modes of transportation, this discussion will apply only to ground or highway shipments.
The Lithium Battery Rule creates three categories of lithium cells and batteries based on lithium content (lithium metal) and watt hours (one watt of power expended for one hour of time). We will predominantly be dealing with exempt cells and batteries with most of our clients. We anticipate our automotive and sporting goods clients could bring to the table cells and batteries that do not fall into the rule exemptions. The terms cells and batteries will both be used in this discussion due to the rule defining a cell as a single battery and a battery as more than one cell connected together like with a battery pack, module or battery assembly. The requirements for lithium cells and batteries are based on several criteria, including:Battery or cell typeLithium metal (Li-metal) – not rechargeable and typically found in medical devices, toys, cameras, clocks, etc.Lithium ion (Li-ion) – rechargeable and typically found in mobile phones, laptop computers, electronic tablets, cordless phones, etc.Battery or cell-size based on:Watt hours (Watt hrs)Lithium content (grams)Method of packaging for shipment (packaged alone, packed with equipment or contained in equipment), andMode of transportation (ground/highway, rail, vessel, air).
Large lithium batteries are fully regulated under the requirements of the 49 CFR Part 172 Hazardous Materials Table including having to be shipped in UN performance packaging. Small and medium-sized batteries are exempt from many requirements which provide regulatory relief including UN performance packaging requirements. This exemption exists only if the lithium batteries are managed in accordance with the new requirements in the Lithium Battery Rule.
Sources: PHSMA and Lion Technologies
For your convenience, a table of “Lithium Battery Categories” is provided. The rule does not explicitly split lithium batteries and cells into these categories, but the Rule’s preamble does so. Categorizing in this way can help with understanding of the requirements.
Small and medium-sized batteries are regulated similarly with a notable exception in the wording of the marking for the outer package, which removes language for the vessel mode of transportation (IMDG requirements for the shipping of dangerous goods on vessels.)Medium-sized lithium cells and batteries – “LITHIUM BATTERIES – FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD AIRCRAFT AND VESSEL” Small-sized lithium cells and batteries- “PRIMARY LITHIUM BATTERIES – FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT” or “LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES – FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT.” However, the marking for small batteries is not required when lithium metal cells or batteries are packed with or contained in equipment in quantities less than 5 kg net weight (of batteries).
As discussed above, there are three means of shipping these cells and batteries: separately, packed with equipment and contained in equipment. Lithium batteries shipped separately may not be in a package having a gross weight exceeding 66 pounds. Unless the lithium cells or batteries are contained in equipment, the packaging would need to meet a performance standard of being capable of withstanding a 1.2 meter drop test, in any orientation, without damage to cells or batteries, without shifting the package content in such a way allowing battery-to-battery, cell-to-cell contact and without release of the package contents.
Finally, Hazard Communication requirements exist for many packages, but not for those containing button cell batteries installed in equipment including circuit boards, or no more than four lithium cells or no more than two batteries installed in the equipment. When the exceptions are not met, then in addition to special markings in the form of labeling an additional requirement must be satisfied which includes having a Hazard Communication Document accompany each package not meeting the exceptions.
In regards to these special marking requirements, the outer package must be marked with an indication that “lithium metal” or “lithium ion” cells or batteries (as appropriate) are present; an indication that the package must be handled with care and that a flammable hazard exists if package is damaged; an indication that special procedures must be followed if the package is damaged; and, a telephone number for additional information. The Hazard Communication Document must contain similar information.
As shippers we must comply with the general packaging requirements for packages that do not meet the exemptions and must be shipped in compliance with full DOT regulations. As always, the revised regulations in the Lithium Battery Rule should be reviewed to evaluate compliance for your specific products and quantities. In any case, this shows that we in retail must be ever ready (pun intended) to adjust our procedures for new and revised regulatory requirements.
ContactRichard Sieg with any questions or comments.