When you head out to the post office to ship your perfect gift or send someone their forgotten favourite item, you are probably not intending to do anything illegal or dangerous. But if you are shipping anything that has lithium batteries in it, you’re doing both.
Lithium batteries are found in laptops, scales, children’s toys, cell phones, and e-cigarettes, just to name a few.
Unexpected situations in which items that were shipped with these batteries in them dangerously combusted brought the urgency of the situation to the attention of the general public, but it seemed to many people like these instances were extreme.
The harsh reality of shipping lithium batteries is that the results can be hit and miss. Some items may arrive safely, but the ones that don’t have the potential for catastrophic consequences.
If you’re shipping a product that contains lithium batteries, do your research ahead of time. Doing so can help you avoid these 5 tragic mistakes.
5 Colossal Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make When Dealing With Lithium Batteries
Whether you’re shipping electronics or transporting them through other means, you need to understand the basic safety risks involved.
Just about everything electronic today uses lithium batteries to power it, but even though they are standard, that doesn’t mean they are safe.
In fact, they are far from safe. Lithium-ion batteries are protected from combusting by a very thin, fragile piece of polypropylene. This little wisp of material keeps the battery’s electrodes from connecting.
If it shifts out of place and the electrodes touch each other, they heat up fast. Since they are made of flammable materials, the heat combined with the oxygen in the air creates an explosion.
But Li-ion batteries are just as efficient as they are dangerous, letting the manufacturers use a little battery to pack in a lot of energy. This ability to keep the product running for long periods of time is a selling point to customers.
The manufacturers and distributors of products that are powered by these batteries must follow strict protocols to ship them. Unfortunately, many of these guidelines were created as a follow-up to a tragic incident that preceded the new rule.
Here are 5 mistakes that were learned the hard way to help you prevent making a tragic decision.
1. Don’t transport them via your travel plans
Purchasing products in other states or countries can get you a great discount, especially if you’re looking to resell them for a profit.
But there are many guidelines that were set in place back in 2014 by the Department of Transportation to serve as precautions against the Li-ion batteries.
When electronics with these types of batteries, especially larger or spare batteries, are taken on a plane, they can get shifted around. This movement affects the connection to the separator and can cause the battery to catch on fire.
The global effort to eliminate terrorist acts, as well as the general inherent danger, has resulted in the DOT limiting what can and can’t be carried on or checked on a plane, and if you have more than their limit, you won’t be able to take them now and ship them later.
2. Hoverboards are a big no-no
Hoverboards, or self-balancing boards, have become extremely popular over the last few years. They’re a common Christmas and birthday present, a great exercise for kids and adults, and fun in general. But they’re also dangerous to ship.
After hundreds of reports of hoverboards exploding in the mail, on planes, in homes, and – in some extreme cases – literally beneath the users’ feet, over half a million of these self-balancing boards were recalled.
It was determined that the battery packs installed in the hoverboards were overheating, causing them to spark and smoke and then catch fire or explode.
Hundreds of victims were injured and tens of thousands of dollars of property damage was reported by the time the recall was issued.
Amidst all of the outcry and public concern, the USPS restricted the shipment of hoverboards to only Standard Post/Parcel Select, products that travel via ground transportation only.
There are other ways to safely ship your batteries and Li-ion products, however.
3. Choose your battery wisely
Even the big-name distributors aren’t immune to the dangers of lithium batteries.
People who have ordered inexpensive replacement batteries online without checking into the brand or seller’s reputation have found themselves in danger as their batteries overheat and explode because they were cheaply made.
4. Be careful shipping e-cigarettes
Hundreds of documented cases of e-cigarette explosions have been all over the news since the popularity of these alternatives to tobacco versions has risen.
The point of the lithium battery in e-cigs is to light a fuse that burns the liquid vaping product. Combining an already flammable battery with a fuse is a recipe for disaster and many shipping companies refuse to handle these sensitive products.
5. Don’t take shortcuts when you ship your batteries
When you send a package that contains a product with a lithium-ion battery, you are taking responsibility for ensuring it has been appropriately prepared.
Use Li-ion battery compliant packaging, don’t ship damaged or defective products, and let the person who accepts your package know that it contains a product with one or more of these batteries. You are putting someone else’s life at risk; shortcuts are not an option.
If you aren’t sure how to properly package your product, ask a professional for assistance. That seemingly harmless little battery is a hotbed waiting to explode in the wrong circumstance.
We’re saying…Don’t Take Chances With Lithium Batteries
It may seem like the easy, quick way out when the person behind the counter asks you if your package contains anything harmful, like a product with lithium batteries. But by taking that shortcut, you have now exposed countless people to danger.
Instead of taking chances, learn how to ship your lithium products correctly and take them to a shipping agency that can handle and transport them safely.
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