Companies Shipping Defective, Damaged Lithium Batteries Face Many Challenges

The transportation of lithium ion batteries continues to garner significant attention, especially with recent reports of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s batteries overheating, catching fire, and even exploding. The company is now recalling 2.5 million smartphones due to this flaw in the battery system.

The Samsung recall is just one example highlighting how numerous companies worldwide today must safely and expediently transport damaged lithium cells and batteries or equipment containing them. This includes businesses that recycle lithium batteries, phone stores, home electronics companies, retailers, manufacturers, consumers and many more. However, meeting current regulations for such shipments can be costly and options are often limited.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines prohibit air shipments for any lithium battery products recalled for safety reasons. Shipping returned lithium products by ground transportation also is complicated.

To make defective lithium battery shipping easier, Labelmaster, a provider of solutions for hazardous material transport compliance, now provides an option that allows businesses to ship such products via ground at a reduced expense based on a special permit from the DOT.

The special permit grants relief from the DOT 49 CFR §173.185 regulations that do not permit the use of common and less expensive fiberboard packaging products for damaged, defective or recalled lithium cells. The permit also authorizes small cells and batteries to be shipped in the fiberboard packagings without having to declare them as Class 9 fully regulated shipments.

“The current regulations leave companies with only two options for shipping such materials within their supply chains,” said Bob Richard, Vice President at Labelmaster. “Either they purchase very expensive packaging or choose not to move these batteries in transit.”

The Labelmaster alternative packaging allows companies to transport damaged lithium batteries by ground using less expensive materials. It also offers relief from shipping small cells and batteries as fully regulated taking into account that shipments needs to be sent by consumers and retail employees.

“Businesses increasingly need to ship damaged or defective lithium cells, batteries and equipment for product performance tests, to analyze product failure or to provide forensic evidence in litigation matters,” said Bill Barger, Senior Product Manager at Labelmaster. “Businesses must assess potential causes of product failures to respond quickly and take necessary action to correct potential safety flaws. The Labelmaster alternative packaging responds to this need.”

The company offers both custom and in-stock packaging for businesses to transport lithium ion cells under 20-Watt hour (Wh) and batteries under 100 Wh.

To meet regulations, the Labelmaster packaging is prominently marked with the appropriate hazard communication makings and labels, battery safety document and the phrase boldly marked, “Do Not Transport by Air – Ground Shipment Only, Damaged/Defective Lithium Ion Battery.”

In addition, detailed closure, packing and shipping instructions are provided that help shippers to properly package the damaged cells, batteries and equipment for transport. The Labelmaster alternative packing product is available for ground and domestic sea transport only. Sea shipments are limited to applications where ground transport is not practical (e.g., shipments from and to Puerto Rico or Hawaii).