Environmental Health & Safety Compliance Blog

Lithium Battery EH&S Safety Concerns

Posted by Rebecca McDaniel on Dec 14, 2009 9:11:00 AM

By Doug Graham, Senior Environmental Compliance Advisor

Most shippers and carriers are now aware of several regulatory changes that have effectively tightened up the shipping requirements for both lithium metal and lithium ion batteries. Both the US Department of Transportation and the International Air Transport Association have made significant revisions to the rules in both 2008 and 2009. 

Packaging Lithium Batteries per updated DOT Regulations

Guidelines for New DOT Regulations Regarding Batteries sent for Recycling

What’s this all about?

Here are a few interesting facts and statistics raised during a November 19, 2009 hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous materials:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gathered information on 90 hazardous materials incidents occurring from 1991 to 2008. That data indicated that 27 percent of these incidents involved lithium batteries.
  • The vast majority of those lithium battery incidents (73%) resulted from either internal or external short-circuiting; 12% from charging or discharging; and 6% from activation of devices containing lithium batteries. The balance of the incidents resulted from either malfunctions or improper handling.
  • FAA testing has indicated that current aircraft cargo fire suppression system would not be capable of suppressing a fire if a shipment of metal lithium batteries were ignited in flight.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated a February 7, 2006 incident at the Philadelphia International Airport in which a fire – suspected to have been caused by lithium batteries – destroyed a United Parcel Service cargo aircraft and most of its cargo.
  • That incident lead to the NTSB making five recommendations to the DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

In light of this increased awareness and dynamic rule-making environment, offerors and transporters are well-advised to check and double check the most recent requirements before getting lithium batteries moving over the road, water, or especially, through the air.

Tags: Hazardous Materials, DOT, IATA, Lithium Batteries

Compliance with the DOT HAZMAT Shipping Regulations

Posted by Rebecca McDaniel on Dec 2, 2009 7:33:00 AM

By Doug Graham, CHMM

The DOT hazardous materials regulations are a lengthy, complex set of rules with wide-sweeping applicability in many facilities. Investigating all the employees, vendors, materials, and shipment types involving hazmats can be challenging. To make matters worse, shipments may be originating from numerous departments, not necessarily immediately obvious to EH&S staff. Here are a few examples, I’ve heard many times over the years- “I didn’t know the lab was shipping dry ice by air”, “the engineering department has their own FedEx account?”, “Materials Management sent back hazardous chemicals to the supplier in a regular box?”, and my personal favorite- “who authorized him to sign hazardous waste manifests?”.

Here are 10 steps one can take to get a handle on DOT hazardous materials compliance-

1. Identify all potentially-regulated hazardous materials (hazardous wastes, medical /biological wastes, biological products and specimens, dry ice, radioactive materials, and hazardous chemicals (e.g., poisons, corrosives, gases, oxidizers, and flammables) that could potentially be shipped from each department.

2. Identify the modes of transport and carriers and the regulations applicable to each (e.g., 49 CFR for ground and UPS domestic air; IATA for FedEx Express; IMDG for international marine).

3. Identify all employees who have responsibilities related to preparing hazardous materials for transport (“hazmat employees”).

4. Develop training program(s) for those employees addressing general awareness, function-specific, and security issues, including training specific to 49 CFR, IATA, and IMDG, when applicable.

5. Train new hazmat employees within 90 days and retrain every 36 months.

6. Create shipping procedures for regularly-offered hazardous materials, and an auditing system to check shipments prepared by contractors, such as hazardous waste profiles, manifests, and labels prepared by waste vendors.

7. Keep up to date by reviewing regulatory changes on a yearly basis (49 CFR effective each Oct. 1, IATA effective each Jan. 1).

8. Maintain records and administrative programs, including annual registration, security planning, training records, past shipping papers, incident reports, and current regulations.

9. Know when and where to ask for help, e.g., Hazmat hotline, consultants.

10. Self-audit on a regular basis, be prepared for a regulatory or corporate audit, and reinforce through training, review and accountability.

Tags: Hazardous, Hazardous Materials, EHS, DOT, IATA, 49 CFR, Hazardous Chemicals