Are Lithium-Ion Batteries 'Dangerous Goods'? | Checkfire Ltd.
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Are lithium-ion batteries ‘dangerous goods’?

From smartphones to power tools to e-bikes, lithium-ion batteries are everywhere. What makes these batteries so popular in portable devices is their ability to be recharged again and again. But for an energy source so prevalent in everyday life, these power-packed batteries come with their own unique fire risks – particularly when it comes to transporting them. 


With so many specific hazards relating to these power sources, are lithium-ion batteries dangerous goods? And just how safe are they to ship, whether by air, sea, or road? Here, we look at the classification of lithium-ion, dangerous goods guidelines, and responsible shipping of lithium-ion batteries.


What are dangerous goods?

In global regulations, the term ‘dangerous goods’ refers to substances or articles that pose a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment during transportation. These dangers mean that any materials classed as dangerous goods are subject to specific regulations and guidelines to get them from A to B with minimal risk. These regulations differ depending on different classifications, which range from Class 1 (explosive substances and articles) to Class 3 (flammable liquids), to Class 9 (miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles). 


Are lithium-ion batteries considered dangerous goods?

In order to ensure maximum safety when transporting lithium-ion batteries, they are classified as miscellaneous dangerous goods (Class 9) and subject to international regulations. These regulations are primarily covered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, and the Regulations concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID) and by Road (ADR).


Understanding lithium-ion battery dangerous goods classification

Within the lithium-ion battery dangerous goods classification, each different form of lithium-ion battery is assigned a UN number and proper shipping name. This indicates the nature of the goods being transported and helps govern materials under UN regulations and transport bodies set out above. These depend on whether the lithium-ion battery is on its own, inside a piece of equipment (such as a calculator, laptop, or watch), or packed separately with a piece of equipment to power that equipment (for example, a power tool packed alongside a spare battery).


UN numbers for different types of lithium-ion battery dangerous goods:

  • UN 3480: Lithium-ion batteries
  • UN 3481: Lithium-ion batteries contained in equipment
  • UN 3481: Lithium-ion batteries packed with equipment 


The consignor or sender is responsible for classifying, packaging and marking lithium-ion batteries as dangerous goods to be transported. 


What other considerations need to be made?

As well as labelling lithium-ion batteries according to regulations, a responsible person must ensure that packaging and shipping methods are carried out to minimise the risk of a battery being damaged or short-circuiting. This includes:

  • Ensuring lithium-ion batteries do not come into contact with each other
  • Making sure batteries do not come into contact with a conductive metal or surface
  • Securely packing all batteries to eliminate movement within packaging during transit (as this can loosen terminal caps and activate batteries). 


This can be done by packing battery or lithium-ion powered devices in fully enclosed packaging made from non-conductive materials, such as plastic bags, as well as separating them with cushioning and dividers. 


Exemptions and special provisions

To mitigate fire risks, all lithium-ion batteries being shipped alone (UN 3480 only) must be at a state of charge not exceeding 30% of their rated capacity. Those greater than 30% may only

be shipped with the approval of the State of Origin and the State of the Operator under the written conditions established by those authorities. Other special provisions include small lithium-ion batteries, which may be exempt from certain regulatory requirements, but compliance with size and quantity limits is still essential.

Strict adherence to dangerous goods regulations is imperative when shipping lithium-ion batteries. Failure to comply can result in fine, reputational damage, jail sentences, and potential fatalities. As technology continues to advance, regulations evolve. To stay up to date with the latest fire safety news and regulations, visit our resource centre or sign up to our newsletter.

The content of the CheckFire blog is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.

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