New USPS Mailing Standards For Lithium Batteries
What are Lithium Batteries?
Used in a diverse range of products such as cameras, laptops, cell phones and many other consumer products, lithium batteries are designed to provide significant levels of power. While the high power levels make them an effective choice, these batteries can produce a substantial amount of heat if short circuited. Additionally, the chemical contents of these batteries can catch fire, if damaged or incorrectly assembled.
New Shipping Regulations
Starting February 2015, businesses must comply with new U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) standards for preparing shipments that contain lithium batteries. The new standards were issued to ensure the safe transportation of shipments that include these batteries and cells. Shippers are responsible to comply with these new regulations or risk fines.
To align with these new DOT and PHMSA regulations, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has also revised its mailing standards for lithium batteries.
Changes to USPS Standards for Domestic Shipments Containing Lithium Batteries
Effective March 2nd, 2015, the new regulations impact shipping processes as follows:
- Lithium-ion cell and battery size was previously determined by lithium content. Under the new regulations, watt-hours will be used (Example: An iPhone 5 battery includes 5.45 watt-hours).
- Lithium metal (non-rechargeable batteries used to power calculators, remote car locks etc.) and lithium ion batteries (rechargeable batteries used to power laptops, cell phones, camcorders etc.) will be classified under separate shipping descriptions.
- All shipments containing lithium batteries or cells (standalone, packed with or installed in equipment) must include markings (or a lithium battery handling label) and documentation that indicates:
- Whether the package contains lithium metal or lithium ion batteries or cells.
- Potential of a flammability hazard if the package is damaged.
- The special procedures to be followed in case the package gets damaged.
- A telephone number for additional information.
- Shipments that only include button cell batteries that are already installed in equipment do not need to display any marks or labels or be accompanied by any document. Additionally, no markings or documentation are required for packages that include up to 4 cells / 2 batteries (lithium ion or lithium metal) that are already installed in the equipment they power.
- Air shipments, including Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express, can include a maximum of 2 batteries or 8 cells when they contain standalone lithium ion cells or batteries, or lithium cells or batteries packed with or contained in equipment.
Shipping Lithium Batteries to International Destinations?
With the exception of using watt-hours to determine size, there are no additional new USPS requirements that will impact international shipments of lithium batteries. Lithium batteries can only be shipped internationally if they are installed in the equipment they operate. Shipping carriers are not allowed to ship packages containing only lithium batteries or cells to international locations – they must be included inside a product. No markings or documentation are allowed on these international mailpieces. This rule applies to all international as well as APO/FPO/DPO destinations.
More info on the U.S. Postal Service’s Lithium Battery mailing standards is available on the USPS.com site.