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How to Safely Ship Lithium Batteries in 2020

With so many products using lithium batteries, it’s important to understand how to ship them. Learn here how to safely pack and ship lithium batteries.
How to Safely Ship Lithium Batteries in 2020
Jules

By Jules

 

February 18, 2020

These days, many products are powered by batteries. And, naturally, many of these products are being shipped around the world. The problem here is that these batteries can be dangerous and pose safety risks if they’re not properly packed and shipped. This article will show you how to go about shipping lithium batteries without putting anyone at risk.

Products with Lithium Batteries

Which Products Have Lithium Batteries?

You may not realize it, but many of the products and devices you use every day have batteries that contain lithium. And, with people turning to online retail, these products are being shipped around the world. That’s why it's so important that these products and batteries are mailed carefully. Some consumer products that use these types of batteries include:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Mobile phones
  • iPhones
  • iPads
  • Medical devices
  • Power tools
  • Measuring equipment
  • Drones
  • Automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

These devices all contain batteries that are classified as dangerous goods and there are good reasons for this. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to that your shipments comply with lithium battery shipping regulations:

  • They’re highly flammable and can cause fires if wrongly packaged
  • They react sensitively to environmental factors
  • There’s a higher chance of their short-circuiting

With all this in mind, it’s crucial that retailers - and their chosen courier services - take the time to ensure that during shipping, these lithium batteries are correctly declared, packed, labeled, and stored appropriately.

The Truth About Mailing Batteries

If you’ve ever wondered, “can you mail batteries?” then you’ll be pleased to know that the short answer is yes. But, it’s a little more complicated than putting your battery in an envelope and mailing it off. To reduce the chances of your lithium batteries exploding or being damaged while in transit, you should use a reputable courier that has guidelines in place for shipping these dangerous items. These include

  • FedEx
  • USPS
  • UPS
  • DHL

The major reason why you should entrust these couriers with the task of shipping lithium batteries by ground/sea/airplane is that they have trained personnel who understand how lithium batteries work and how to handle them safely. They also understand all the detailed regulations that must be complied with to ship these batteries.

What are the Requirements to Mail These Devices?

If you’re planning on shipping lithium batteries, there are certain regulations and requirements you’ll have to follow. Some of these include:

  • Lithium batteries weighing more than 35kgs must be approved by the national authority before shipment
  • Defective or damaged lithium batteries must not be transported
  • Batteries should be packaged to prevent short-circuiting while in transit
  • Waste lithium batteries meant for recycling shouldn’t be transported by air unless they’ve been approved by the national authority and airline
  • Any package bearing a lithium battery shipping label should also be marked as dangerous goods and have the necessary documentation
  • It may be necessary to use specialized packaging to ensure safety
How to Mail Lithium Batteries

Lithium Metal Batteries
These are batteries that use lithium as an anode. They have a long life and can produce anywhere between 1.5V-3.7V. However, not every courier accepts shipments containing lithium metal batteries. For example, DHL forbids the shipment of loose lithium metal batteries with its DHL Time Definite Service.

Lithium Ion Batteries
The main characteristic of lithium ion batteries is that they are rechargeable, and therefore, often used in portable consumer electronics. These are the batteries you can’t check in with your luggage on a flight. However, because products with these batteries are so prevalent, many couriers accept these batteries, as long as they’re packaged carefully. DHL Express is one such service that accepts lithium ion batteries.

The Consequences of Non-Compliance
Couriers, airlines, and governments have battery regulation guidelines in place for good reason. They can be dangerous if not handled carefully and the consequences can be hard to handle.

At best, not complying with these guidelines might mean that your shipment is rejected by your chosen courier and you can't get your battery where it needs to go.

However, if you mid-declare your goods and get caught, you could be on the line for more serious consequences. Most dangerous goods are inspected for non-compliance these days, and fines can run into the tens of thousands of dollars; your business could also be blacklisted and prevented from shipping in the future.

Unfortunately, non-compliance can also result in tragic consequences. If your battery shipment doesn't comply with regulatory guidelines - perhaps it's not packed properly and isn't labeled correctly - it could start a fire or other dangerous situation. There have been numerous plane crashes and boat sinkings - and related deaths - as a result of this.

10 Tips for Safely Sending Batteries By Mail

To make sure you’re staying safe, you should ensure that your shipments are in line with battery shipping regulations. Here are a few tips on how to ship lithium batteries safely:

  • Make sure that batteries and terminals are well protected to avoid short-circuiting
  • Cover terminals with insulating, non-conductive materials
  • Pack each battery in fully-enclosed interior packaging to protect the terminals
  • Don’t place heavy items on packed batteries
  • Keep batteries away from other metal objects that may cause short-circuiting
  • Avoid turning on devices with installed batteries while being shipped
  • Put protective covering on the switches of any device with these batteries to prevent accidental activation while in transit
  • Don’t store batteries in extreme heat
  • Ensure that batteries are not defective or placed incorrectly in devices
  • Pad the device in the package to avoid movement that might lead to accidental activation
  • Label the shipment to make it obvious that it contains lithium batteries or dangerous goods.

Shipping Batteries Installed in Consumer Products

If your eCommerce business requires you to ship consumer goods or products with lithium batteries installed, you should know that you'll have to jump through a number of hoops before you can get your goods to your customers. That's because shipping goods with batteries is far more complicated than your average shipment.

There are a number of regulations you’ll have to comply with, both from government agencies, world organizations, and couriers. These guidelines might include regulations like:

  • Having the national authority/courier approve the shipment of your product.
  • Ensuring the shipment is labeled appropriately (it might need a “Dangerous Goods” label
  • Packing the shipment according to specific guidelines (this might require specific boxes or insulating material, for example).
  • Your shipment might need to be packed by someone with a current HazMat certification.

In many cases, you may also need to get several documents and certifications together before a courier will accept your package for shipment. Below are some of the paperwork you may need for shipping lithium batteries contained in a product, though you should check whether your courier requires anything specific that isn’t listed here:

  • Dangerous Goods Contract: Some couriers, such as UPS, will ask you to sign a separate contract in order to ship a package containing lithium batteries; this is considered on a case-by-case basis, so you’ll need to check whether this is necessary for your shipment.
  • Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): This document is required for shipments containing potentially hazardous materials; your airline or courier may ask to see this before they accept your shipment.
  • UN38.3 Certificate: You might be asked to present this certificate, which testifies that your battery has been tested according to UN guidelines and can be safely transported.

Don’t forget that it will take time to get all these approvals, documents, and certificates together. It can sometimes take months for all the testing and paperwork to be done; that’s assuming your products and batteries pass all their inspections.

However, some of these documents are only valid for a year; after they expire, you won’t be able to use them to book shipments. That’s why it’s essential that you plan for this alongside your campaign - you want to get the timing right so that your backers are not waiting around for their shipments once the campaign is over.

Start Sending Your Battery-Operated Products Safely

If your retail business involves the distribution of products like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, medical devices, or other items that use lithium batteries, it’s important that you ensure your shipments adhere to shipping lithium batteries regulations. Easyship offers a range of courier solutions, many of which will be able to ship lithium batteries. Sign up for a free account today to start shipping with zero worries.