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New International Laws Pertaining To The Shipment of Batteries

December 06, 2012

New international laws pertaining to the shipment of batteries will go into effect January 1, 2013. The revisions have been issued in an attempt to reduce the risk of fires aboard aircrafts and protect the safety of passengers and their property. Below is an overview of what to expect but the below information is to be used as a guide only.

To review the complete air regulation information published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) click here or the U.S. Department of Transportation click here and enter keywords ‘transportation lithium batteries’ (an updated version is expected in December 2012).

Proper packaging is one of the most important steps to prevent an accident from occurring. Certain battery types are of greater concern when transported. Dangers associated with batteries include chemical burn, fire, and electrical shock. Batteries should be individually packaged (when practical) or separated to prevent damage and short circuiting.

Types of Batteries
Lead-acid batteries: Common in cars, electric wheelchairs, some continuous computer power sources, and other applications. These batteries contain highly corrosive acid and can cause fires from short circuits. Tested, proven non-spillable batteries are allowed to be shipped as non-hazardous within the U.S. Batteries and packages must be marked “NON-SPILLABLE” or “NON-SPILLABLE BATTERY.”

Lithium and lithium ion batteries: Both rechargeable and non-rechargeable power sources, common in computers, cell phones, cameras, and other small electronic devices. If dropped, crushed, or short-circuited, these batteries can release dangerous amounts of heat and may ignite, and are dangerous in fires. Special regulations apply to shipping these batteries. Shipments requiring hazardous materials shipping papers are accepted from contract hazmat shippers only and certain lithium batteries may not qualify.

Other Batteries: Although common dry cell (e.g., AA, C, D batteries) may not be regulated as hazardous materials, all batteries can cause fires from short circuits if batteries and terminals are not protected. Do not package any batteries loose or with other metal objects such as tools or keys. Effective January 2010, packages containing dry cell batteries of more than nine (9V) volts must be marked “not restricted.”

Protect Batteries and Terminals
When preparing batteries for shipment, all terminals must be protected against short circuits by completely covering the terminals with an insulating material (e.g., by using electrical tape or enclosing each battery separately in a plastic bag).
Short circuits can cause fires.
Batteries are to be packaged to keep them from being crushed, damaged, or shifting during handling.
Metal objects or other materials that can short circuit battery terminals should always be kept securely away from the batteries.

Prevent Fires
It is imperative that any device with installed batteries not turn on while in transit. Switches that can be accidentally activated must be protected or batteries must be removed and terminals protected.  Even very simple devices like flashlights or rechargeable drills can generate a dangerous quantity of heat if accidentally activated.

Recalled or Recycled Batteries
Damaged, defective, or recalled batteries are FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORTATION BY AIRCRAFT (see e.g., IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations, Special Provision A154). Also, batteries accumulated for recycling are not to be sent via air services.