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Guidance Information From PHMSA/USDOT for the Transportation of Recalled Lithium Batteries

Guidance Information From PHMSA/USDOT for the Transportation of Recalled Lithium Batteries

Whether you are a consumer forced to return a lithium battery to the manufacturer due to a recall announcement or you are the manufacturer/distributor who is arranging for the recall, you should be aware of the regulations affecting the transportation in commerce of lithium batteries.  The PHMSA/USDOT has published a guidance document with precautions to be taken by anyone who offers for transportation or transports a recalled lithium battery.  It’s recommendations are summarized below.

Recommended Practices for Consumers Returning Recalled Batteries:
  • Upon learning that a battery is part of a recall, stop using the recalled battery immediately and contact the manufacturer.  Do not attempt to recharge it.
  • If the manufacturer recommends discharging the battery, follow the instructions to safely discharge the battery.
  • Ship recalled batteries only in the packaging provided by the manufacturer in association with the recall.
  • Assemble and close the packaging in accordance with the recall instructions you receive from the manufacturer.
  • When shipping multiple recalled batteries to the manufacturer, individually package each battery.  Never consolidate multiple batteries into a single package.
  • Only ship recalled batteries by ground transportation.  Do not use express mail, overnight mail, or air-mail.
  • Do not pack a recalled battery in checked or carry-on baggage if traveling by plane.
Recommended Practices for Manufacturers and Distributors of Recalled Batteries:
  •  Recalled batteries should not be transported by aircraft (passenger or cargo).
  • Recalled batteries should always be individually packaged when shipped by the consumer.
  • Consolidated shipments of recalled batteries should remain in their individual packagings until they reach the recycle or disposal facility.
  • If the manufacturer recommends discharge of the battery is necessary for safe transportation, simple and clear instructions to the consumer should be provided outlining acceptable means to discharge the battery.
  • Prior to public announcement of a recall, PHMSA should be consulted regarding the following information:
    • Why are the batteries being recalled?
    • How many batteries are being recalled?
    • How will they be packaged and identified for transportation?
    • Which carriers will be involved in the transportation of the recalled batteries?
    • Are there any additional risks in transporting the recalled batteries?
  • If a recalled battery is determined by the manufacturer to be unsafe for transportation (see 49 CFR 173.21), the manufacturer must obtain an approval from the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, prior to initiating a recall.  Contact information is available on the PHMSA/USDOT guidance document.

Lithium batteries may pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce and are therefore subject to the regulations of the PHMSA/USDOT as a hazardous material.  If you are involved in any stage of the recall of a lithium battery, be sure to follow the PHMSA/USDOT guidance and the Hazardous Material Regulations.  Any employees of yours involved in the recall would need to receive HazMat Employee training, please don’t hesitate to contact me for a free consultation.