Eureka Moment with Batteries

Every year when teaching the concept of density to high schoolers, I would use the story of Archimedes and the king’s crown. They really enjoyed the part of him running naked through the streets shouting, “Eureka, I have found it.” Since that time, the concept of “eureka moments” has become a thing. The moment you finally realize, understand, or discover something is a “eureka moment”.

My most recent one occurred while updating ICC’s lithium battery courses. You see, I’ve always struggled with a few paragraphs in 49CFR 173.185. The paragraphs in question are (c)(1)(iii) and (c)(1)(iv) for those smaller or “excepted” cells and batteries. My brain just couldn’t comprehend or truly understand what they were telling me. Add to that the changes brought in by the interim final rule HM-224I and my brain was just fried. Both paragraphs are shown below for your reference.

173.185(c)(1)(iii)
Except when lithium cells or batteries are packed with or contained in equipment in quantities not exceeding 5 kg net weight, the outer package that contains lithium cells or batteries must be appropriately marked: “PRIMARY LITHIUM BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM ION BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT” or labeled with a “CARGO AIRCRAFT ONLY” label specified in §172.448 of this subchapter.

173.185(c)(1)(iv)
For transportation by highway or rail only, the lithium content of the cell and battery may be increased to 5 g for a lithium metal cell or 25 g for a lithium metal battery and 60 Wh for a lithium ion cell or 300 Wh for a lithium ion battery provided the outer package is marked: “LITHIUM BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD AIRCRAFT AND VESSEL.”

To me, much of what is in those paragraphs is in the wrong place. The information should be listed under Paragraph (3) for Hazard Communication with the battery mark. Also, with the wonky wording, exceptions, poor grammar, and multiple conditions is it any wonder I was all confused?

What exactly was my eureka moment? The first part centers around the first paragraph. If you have any cells or batteries being shipped by themselves under 49CFR that meet that 1 gram, 2-gram, 20 watt-hour or 100 watt-hour exception AND you put less than 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of them in a box THEN you must use one of the notes. Now there are 4 of them, so be sure to grab the one that applies to your shipment. There are 2 phrases that could be used for just lithium metal cells and batteries. The next is new from HM-224I, and it is for lithium ion. The final option is to just use the cargo aircraft only label. All of this must happen along with a completed lithium battery mark. None of this paragraph (iii) can be used for cells and batteries packed with or contained in equipment.

Next came from figuring out how paragraph (iv) fit into things? Basically, if you want to ship cells and batteries by themselves at the higher powers of 5 grams, 25 grams, 60 watt-hours or 300 watt-hours and still treat them as “small” or “excepted” you still can. HOWEVER, for safety and clarity, you must use the phrase in this paragraph that forbids these packages on any type of aircraft or vessel. There is no cargo aircraft only option here nor does any of this paragraph cover cells and batteries packed with or contained in equipment.

One final thing, of which you may not be aware. This centers around that battery mark. The DOT is being very clear in a letter of interpretation (18-9984) about the mark. Only the information listed in paragraph (c)(3) can appear on it. Why is that such a big deal? Well, many people want to use their 24-hour emergency number as the number on the mark. Per DOT and that letter and emergency number is not considered to be an “informational telephone number”. Sadly, this is causing some conflict with the other transport regulation which do not have these limitations.

If my eureka moment explained above helps you in any way, I’m glad. ICC is here for all of your battery needs. We have all of the class 9 battery labels, the new mark which can be customized and printed to fit your needs and several ways to provide training. Reach out to us today! sales@thecompliancecenter.com

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