Environmental Health & Safety Compliance Blog

Regulatory Compliance: New Rules for Lithium Batteries

Posted by Rebecca McDaniel on Jan 14, 2010 9:34:00 AM

Doug Graham, CHMM Sr. Compliance Advisor & Training Manager

Yes, they’re at it again! Just when you thought you knew how to ship lithium batteries, DOT has thrown in yet another potential rule change.

Currently, there are exceptions for certain “small” lithium metal (primary) and lithium ion (rechargeable) batteries, wherein the DOT allows those batteries to be shipped under a special provision. If the batteries (including those in equipment) meet the requirements described in Special Provision 188 of 49 CFR 172.102, they need not comply with the entire scope of the hazardous materials regulations. DOT defines the maximum size of the batteries applicable to this provision based upon the amount of lithium within each cell and the total within each battery. The batteries that fall within this small-sized range are those we typically find inside cell phones, cameras, and laptop computers, and have power ratings under roughly 100 Watt-hours (Wh).

In a press release on January 8, 2010, the DOT is proposing to remove those exceptions for small lithium batteries, effectively making them fully regulated Class 9 hazardous materials like their medium and large-sized counterparts. The justification for the proposed rule change was explained by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar this way, "Under existing regulations, a flight crew may not be made aware of a pallet containing thousands of lithium batteries on board the aircraft, yet a five-pound package of flammable paint or dry ice would be subject to the full scope of the regulations. That makes little sense. . .”

To follow these developments regarding lithium battery shipping issues, and other emerging rules regarding DOT hazardous materials, log onto www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat . To view the proposed rule change (docket HM-224F) as published in the Federal Register on January 11, 2010, click on the following link: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-281.htm. So. . . . . .keep your ear to the ground, if history’s any indicator, there’s sure to be more to come.

Tags: Hazardous Materials, DOT, Lithium Batteries, Training, Regulations, PHMSA, Trainings