Lithium batteries - changes to IATA regulations

Lithium batteries - changes to IATA regulations
17 November 2016

In a world where technology is continually advancing, we are seeing more and more products that contain lithium batteries flood the market. While this technology ultimately serves to make our lives easier, it also comes with added safety risks.

Over the past few months we have seen many reported incidents involving e-cigarettes catching fire while being charged and in people’s pockets and just last month the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), banned all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone devices from air transportation in the United States following widespread reports of units exploding. Occurrences such as these no doubt pose a number of risks for airlines and airports involved in the transportation cargo containing lithium batteries.

The transportation of lithium batteries is highly regulated and as such, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) have recently announced the changes coming in the 58th edition of its ‘Dangerous Goods Regulations’ publication.

The major change concerning lithium ion batteries is that those shipped outside of equipment (UN 3480) are now to be limited to cargo aircraft only. While this change was already in effect from April 1st 2016 this is only now being amended in IATA. Furthermore lithium ion batteries being transported at more than 30% of their rated charge capacity require special permission before they can be shipped. This is not the case should you be shipping lithium ion batteries with equipment or contained in equipment however (UN 3481).

The new Class 9 Lithium Battery hazard label has been added and it will come into effect from January 1st 2017. There will be a two-year transitional period where either the previously used Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods hazard label or the new Class 9 Lithium Battery hazard label can be applied to packages containing lithium batteries. Additionally in this two year period the old lithium ion battery handling label will be replaced by the new lithium battery mark (IATA 58th edition figure 7.1.C). As with the new hazard label this will be in effect from January 1st 2017 and have a two year transitional period where the old handling label will still be accepted.

Instructions for employees responsible for the preparation of lithium ion battery packages has been expanded upon and there is now a paragraph detailing what needs to be established by employers to constitute “adequate instruction”. This will help reduce ambiguity and introduce a greater degree of consistency for how Section II packages should be prepared. Changes to A181 have also been made to more clearly describe the requirements for all packages that contain lithium batteries with equipment and contained within equipment.

Overall there have been several key changes to the IATA regulations regarding lithium batteries, most notably: lithium ion batteries are no longer permitted on commercial flights; they require new marks and labelling which will be in effect from January 1st, however, you will have two years to meet these requirements; and adequate instruction has been better defined as have the regulations regarding moving lithium batteries with or in equipment.

NCEC’s team of regulatory experts support companies across the world in overcoming the complex requirements of chemical regulations. One such way is through the provision of a guide entitled ‘Global Legal Standards for Emergency Telephone Numbers’. The guide outlines the global regulations concerning the provision of an emergency telephone number (including those stipulated by IATA) that require compliance for those transporting or supplying chemicals and is free to download, alongside many other useful resources.

If you have any questions concerning the transportation of hazardous cargo by air or realted to emergency telephone response, please do not hesitate to get in touch at [email protected].