Battery Safety

Batteries are very common today in portable electronics, tools and other applications. But did you know that they can become a source of dangerous heat, sparks or fire if they are improperly packaged for shipping? For this reason, Estes customers must follow applicable safety regulations and appropriate precautions when preparing batteries for transportation. Battery shipments may be subject to both U.S. and international safety regulations, and because of the potential dangers associated with violations of those regulations, people who do not follow the regulations when packing their shipments could be subject to fines, other penalties or liability issues.

In some cases, such as with alkaline or certain nonspillable lead-acid batteries, your responsibilities may be limited to simple steps such as: selecting strong outer packaging; carefully protecting battery terminals to prevent sparking or short circuit; and carefully preparing the interior package components to keep tools or other metal objects away from batteries.

Other types of batteries, including lithium ion and lithium metal types, may be fully regulated as hazardous materials (also known as dangerous goods) for transportation, so that in addition to those basic safety precautions they require use of specialized packaging, specific hazard labeling, and documents certifying compliance with the applicable regulations.

What are some ways I can help prevent a short-circuit or activation of lithium batteries in my shipment while in transport?

Battery Shipping Figure 5

A major risk of shipping lithium batteries is short-circuit of a battery or inadvertent activation while in transport. All batteries should be packed to eliminate the possibility of a short-circuit or activation (see Figure 5 for an example). Ensure no batteries can come in contact with other batteries, conductive surfaces or metal objects while in transport.

What does the abbreviation "Wh" mean?

“Wh” stands for “watt-hour.” It is a measure used to indicate the energy capacity of a lithium ion cell or battery.

What is the "state of charge" or SOC?

This term refers to the percentage of the electrical stored capacity in a rechargeable cell or battery (e.g., lithium ion cells or batteries) that is available for use. A fully charged lithium ion battery has a 100% state of charge (SOC). Research has demonstrated that for lithium ion batteries, reduced SOC may provide an additional level of safety during transport and reduce the likelihood of a thermal event. Effective April 1, 2016, all lithium ion batteries (without equipment) shipped by air must not exceed 30% SOC.

What is a "button battery"?

A button battery is a small round battery where the height is less than the diameter also commonly referred to as “coin batteries.” Examples can be found in watches, calculators, electronic clocks, toys and other applications.

What is a "cell" versus a "battery" under this regulation?

  • A battery is two or more cells electrically connected together by permanent means, including case, terminals and markings.
    • Note: “Battery packs,” “modules” or “battery assemblies” are treated as batteries under this regulation
  • A cell is a single encased electrochemical unit. It has one positive and one negative electrode that exhibit a voltage differential across its two terminals.
    • Note: Many cells can be termed “battery” or “single-cell battery” in common conversation, but under this regulation a single cell must use the requirements related to “cells” only. Examples of a “cell” would be a CR123 primary lithium cell used for cameras and flashlights
Follow the link for additional information. This information covers several common battery types and how to properly ship them. Please compare it to how you currently prepare your battery shipments.
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(804) 353-1900, Ext. 2241
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