New Lithium-Ion Batteries Shipping Updates 2017 (Guest Post)

(Note: Allyson Clark, ASP is an enthusiastic EHS professional and lives in the Sacramento, CA area. Like the post? You can reach Ally at or click here for her LinkedIn profile. Thank you, Ally!)

Shipping Updates for EHS Professionals

As of 30 March 2017, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) published HM 215N rule to the federal register, and while this is a somewhat delayed rule due to a regulation freeze, the update includes new requirements for shipping lithium batteries. The major hazardous communication update revises shipping labels specifics to match international UN model requirements and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code. The new Class 9 Dangerous Goods labels for packaging display a broken battery and a flame in the lower half of the Placard (Figure 1) and will be mandatory starting 31 December 2018.

Additionally, shipments of lithium batteries will be required to use a standard lithium mark (Figure 2) on each package for all transportation modes and an alternative document is no longer required. This mark is required for all packaging when more than four lithium cells or two lithium batteries are installed in the equipment or where there are more than two packages in the consignment.


Figure 1

Figure 2






Lithium Battery Air Shipment IATA Dangerous Goods 2017 Updates

Shipping lithium batteries via air cargo is now more stringent. As of 1 January 2017, shippers need to enter a UPS Dangerous Goods service agreement before shipping lithium ion batteries, or lithium metal batteries without equipment, by air. IATA published a Lithium Battery Shipping Guidelines (LBSG) guide for all carriers and a guidance document. One major change involves no longer being able to ship under the reduced regulations of Section II of IATA Packing Instructions 965 or 49 CFR 173.185(c), which previously meant shipments were not categorized fully as dangerous goods. Another great packaging reference sheet is provided by FedEx.

Hazards Associated with Lithium-Ion Batteries in Air Travel

Some of the biggest issues with lithium-ion batteries include thermal runaway, which causes fires when batteries are improperly handled during shipping; cabin pressure can accelerate this reaction. There have been two fatal cargo fires associated with lithium batteries, one of which involved a foreign vendor and improperly labeled batteries. Last year, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was banned from flights in the US due to the high amount of incidents caused by the lithium battery. There is speculation that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 carried a large shipment of lithium-ion batteries, and while yet not yet fully substantiated, it’s a theory in the aircraft’s disappearance. Additionally, the PHMSA published travel updates for passengers to consider as carry-ons and what types of devices need to be checked.

Feel free to reach out through me at or my LinkedIn profile!


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