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Training Requirements for Persons Involved in the Transportation of Lithium Batteries

Training Requirements for Persons Involved in the Transportation of Lithium Batteries

Lithium ion battery for cell phoneIn case you haven’t heard, the transportation in commerce of lithium batteries of all types – and of almost all sizes – is subject to the regulations of several regulatory agencies depending on how it is to be transported.

  • Transportation to, from, or through the U.S. (including its overseas territories and states) is subject to the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR) of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
  • Transportation by air anywhere in the world (including to, from, or through the U.S.) will likely be subject to the Dangerous Goods Regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
  • Transportation by vessel in international waters (which may include U.S. territorial waters if so chosen by the shipper) will be subject to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  • Even the United States Postal Service (USPS) has regulations for the transportation of lithium batteries.

There is not enough space here to document all of the requirements of all of these regulations for all of the possible modes of transportation.  In an earlier article I provided information to assist you with the process of the classification of a lithium battery for transportation; the information in that article pertained to all modes of transportation.  In this article I will explain just one small – though critical – requirement of the regulations for the transportation in commerce of lithium batteries by air:  The responsibility of the employer to provide training for persons involved in the transportation of lithium batteries.


As stated above, the HMR of the PHMSA/USDOT apply to all transportation in commerce of a hazardous material (aka: dangerous goods by the international community) to, from, or through the U.S.  This includes transportation by air.  It gets a little tricky, however, because the Dangerous Goods Regulations of IATA are adhered to by almost all air carriers of HazMat and therefore the shippers of HazMat that use those carriers must comply with the IATA DGR as well; and PHMSA/USDOT is fine with that.  To briefly summarize:  If you ship HazMat/dangerous goods by air anywhere in the world, you’ll have to comply with the IATA DGR.  If the transport by air begins or ends in the U.S. you must also comply with the requirements and limitations of the PHMSA/USDOT identified at 49 CFR 171, subpart C of the HMR.

What training do the respective agencies require?

The IATA DGR at subsection 1.5 mandates training for a variety of personnel involved in the transport by air of dangerous goods, including shippers of dangerous goods.  This training must be provided initially, before the person begins performing a regulated function and every 24 months thereafter.  Training must include:

  • General familiarization training – which must be aimed at providing familiarity with the general provisions.
  • Function specific training – which must provide detailed training in the requirements applicable to the function for which that person is responsible.
  • Safety training – which must cover the hazards presented by dangerous goods, safe handling, and emergency response procedures.

The Hazardous Material Regulations of PHMSA/USDOT at 49 CFR 172, Subpart H mandate initial training within 90 days of performing a regulated function (HazMat Employee must be supervised by trained and knowledgeable personnel in that time) and every three years thereafter.  Training must include:

  • General awareness/familiarization training designed to provide familiarity with the requirements of the HMR and to enable the employee to recognize and identify hazardous materials.
  • Function-specific training concerning requirements of the regulations that are specifically applicable to the functions the employee performs.  IATA training may suffice to meet these requirements.
  • Safety training concerning:
    • Emergency response information contained in the Emergency Response Guidebook.
    • Measures to protect the employee from the HazMat to which they may be exposed.  To include specific measures implemented by the HazMat Employer to protect HazMat Employees from exposure.
    • Methods and procedures for avoiding accidents, such as the proper procedures for handling packages containing hazardous materials.
  • Security awareness training that provides an awareness of security risks associated with HazMat transported and methods to enhance transportation security.
  • In-depth security training for certain HazMat Employees of only those facilities that ship hazardous materials covered by the Safety and Security Plan.  Read more about the Safety and Security Plan and the applicable hazardous materials subject to the Plan.

So there you have it!  Those are the training requirements of IATA and PHMSA/USDOT, respectively, for persons involved in the transportation of hazardous materials/dangerous goods, which includes most lithium batteries.

But wait!  Though most lithium batteries are fully regulated HazMat/Dangerous Goods, some – because of a lower level of lithium content – are subject to an exception from full regulation.  That exception from regulation includes the formal training identified above.

Contact me with any questions you may have about the transportation of hazardous materials by air, highway, vessel, or rail

International and Domestic

Daniels Training Services




What are”smaller lithium batteries”:

Though they go by different names, both the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations and the PHMSA/USDOT HMR have established the same lithium content thresholds for what I call “smaller lithium batteries”, they are:

Lithium metal battery:Lithium ion batteries

  • A cell containing ≤1 gram of lithium
  • A battery containing ≤2 grams of lithium

Lithium ion battery:

  • A cell with a watt-hour rating of ≤20 Wh
  • A battery with a watt-hour rating of ≤100 Wh

Some good news:  Most consumer electronics, e.g. laptops, cell phones, tablets, &etc., operate on lithium ion batteries that are below the lithium content thresholds and are therefore “smaller lithium batteries”.

These “smaller lithium batteries” are not subject to the full training requirements identified above nor are they subject to many of the regulations of larger lithium batteries.  Instead, both the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (in section II of packing instructions 965, 966, 967, 968, 969, & 970) and the PHMSA/USDOT HMR (at 49 CFR 173.185(c)(4)(v)) offer this break from full training for “smaller lithium batteries”.  Remember:  This is just for personnel who are involved in the transportation of the “smaller lithium batteries.

49 CFR 173.185(c)(4)(v):

Each person who prepares a package for transport containing lithium cells or batteries, including cells or batteries packed with, or contained in, equipment in accordance with the conditions and limitations in this paragraph, must receive adequate instruction on these conditions and limitations, commensurate with their responsibilities.

Section II, Packing Instructions 965 – 970:

An person preparing or offering cells or batteries for transport must receive adequate instruction on these requirements commensurate with their responsibilities.

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“Adequate instruction” for shippers of “smaller lithium batteries”:

So, full training is not required.  But what is meant by “adequate instruction”?  I could find no reference to it in the PHMSA/USDOT HMR, nor in the IATA DGR.  It is explained, however, in the Lithium Battery Guidance Document – Revised 9 March 2016 provided by IATA.  The following comes from page 10 of that document.

The following is offered as a starting point for an employer on what could be considered as being adequate instruction:

  1. The employer must identify the different configurations of lithium batteries that they ship, i.e. lithium batteries and/or lithium batteries packed with equipment and/or lithium batteries contained in equipment; lithium metal batteries and/or lithium ion batteries.
  2. The employer must document the procedures that apply to the configurations and battery types that they ship as determined in 1, above.
  3. The procedures should be written up as a clear work instruction or other information that is available to all employees responsible for the preparation of lithium battery shipments.
  4. All employees that are involved in the process of preparing lithium battery shipments must be taken through the procedure to ensure that they understand and can demonstrate the correct application of documented procedures for the packing, labelling, marking and documentations requirements, as applicable to their job function.
  5. A record must be maintained that identifies each applicable employee and the date(s) that this instruction was provided.
  6. Employees should be given periodic refresher, or at least demonstrate that they remain “adequately” instructed on how to perform the task. This should be done at least every two years or whenever the procedure is revised, or regulations are changed, whichever is the sooner.
  7. Companies that are involved in reverse logistics, i.e. arranging for returns of lithium batteries, lithium batteries packed with equipment or lithium batteries contained in equipment must develop a clear instruction for consumers on the process to be followed for returning products. This instruction must include packaging materials and lithium battery handling labels, as necessary. The instruction must also include the transport method and mode that must be followed; this must include a clear statement on applicable prohibitions.

But you don’t read my articles just for me to transcribe text for you.  Below are my comments on the above guidance:Lithium ion battery and flip phone

  • It is being offered by IATA as a “starting point” for “adequate instruction”.  Don’t hesitate to do more.  The responsibility to provide “adequate instruction” is the same as that for the formal training, namely:  the employer of the person engaged in the regulated function.
  1. Need help identifying the different configurations of lithium batteries that you ship?  Refer to my article to help you determine the configurations of the lithium batteries you ship:  Classification of Lithium Batteries for Transportation.
  2. There are packing instructions for lithium batteries depending on their configuration and battery type (determined in step 1).  These packing instructions must be documented as procedures (e.g. work instructions) for employees to follow when shipping lithium batteries.
  3. Procedures from step 2 must be made available to applicable personnel in written form.  A lecture or training program alone won’t suffice.
  4. Applicable employees should be taken through the written procedure to ensure understanding.  Applicable employees must also be able to demonstrate they can follow the written procedures to comply with the regulations.
  5. Employer must maintain a record of the instruction provided in step 4 to include the following:  Name of employee and date(s) of instruction.
  6. One of the following must be provided every two years or when procedure or regulations change:
    • Refresher of instructions.
    • Employee demonstration of “adequately instructed” on how to perform task.
  7.  Provide instructions to consumers if arranging for return of lithium batteries, i.e. reverse logistics.

Contact me with any questions you may have about the transportation of hazardous materials by air, highway, vessel, or rail

International and Domestic

Daniels Training Services





Remember, this exception from full training applies solely to employees involved in the transportation of lithium batteries under the following conditions:

  • Mode of transportation must be by aircraft.
  • Batteries must have a lithium content below the regulatory threshold (see above), i.e. “smaller lithium batteries”.

There’s a lot more to shipping lithium batteries than just training.  And, of course, there’s a lot more to the transportation industry than just lithium batteries.  Whatever hazardous materials you offer for transportation (shipper), transport in commerce (carrier), or merely receive at your facility, I can provide the training required by the PHMSA/USDOT, IATA, or IMO.