DON’T BE SHOCKED, GO WITH THE FLOW – Lithium Ion Batteries and Their Rules and Regulations
Power banks and wireless phone chargers are a fantastic promotional product. They’re versatile, easily customised and so useful to your clients and potential customers. Mostly, it is 1,000mA to 10,000mA lithium ion batteries behind all that helpful power. Charging your devices while you’re away or on the road keeps you connected in the ways that matter. But there are rules to ensure we receive safe, quality products.
Li-ion battery compliance standards are high and there are significant regulations regarding their construction and transport. For example, did you know Lithium ion batteries are classified as dangerous goods when in transit? Below is all you need to know regarding the labelling and transport regulations governing lithium ion batteries.
Why are they so regulated?
Radiocommunications Labelling (Electromagnetic Compatibility) Notice 2017 outlines promotional battery pack compliance rules. We’ll call it the EMC LN.
The EMC LN’s aim is to keep interference from poorly-shielded and low quality electrical devices to a minimum. These devices create ‘noise’ or static when they send and receive signals.
It’s the fuzzy radio interruption or buzzing and beeping that occurs as our electronics speak to and around each other on various frequencies. Do you remember that beeping noise through the stereo right before you received a text message on your phone? That’s a poorly shielded or low-quality electrical device creating interference.
Compliance and Risk Levels
EMC LN regulated products fall into three risk and compliance levels. Each level dictates what documentation, testing and standards have to be met. If a manufacturer wants to supply their product in Australia, these are the levels their product must fit.
Compliance Level 1 – includes low-risk devices where the battery is housed internally and must be removed for charging. Battery powered toys and pocket calculators fall into compliance level 1. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), that outline the regulations, gives specific guidance regarding lithium ion battery packs. They state that if the power pack used to re-charge devices has only the battery and ‘no other electronic circuitry’ it is classified as level 1 and low-risk.
Compliance level 2 – or medium-risk devices, include laptops, TVs, printers, game consoles and phone chargers, among others. Lithium ion batteries that include electronic circuitry (to control charging, for example) are considered medium-risk devices.
Compliance level 3 – products are high-risk and designed to ‘intentionally generate radio-frequency (RF) energy and/or use electromagnetic radiation to treat material’. These are high-risk products and so require stricter compliance rules.
Documentation and Labelling
Lithium ion batteries, along with the other devices the EMC LN covers, must show the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) unless they are low-risk. To receive the mark, the supplier must be registered as a ‘responsible supplier’ and hold the following for each product:
- a mandatory testing report
- a Declaration of Conformity
- an EMC label
The RCM is essential for a product to be supplied in Australia. Overseas compliance marks are not automatically valid.
These conditions help keep our radio-communication frequencies clear of ‘noise’. Without interruption and crossed signals, devices function properly and save us frustration. These conditions also weed out the sub-par products from ‘irresponsible’ suppliers that may malfunction, which as you’ll read below, is a big deal.
Lithium Ion Batteries in Transit
Lithium ion batteries are considered dangerous goods in transit because they have the potential to overheat, catch fire or explode. Dramatic, right? Even worse, battery fires are hard to extinguish and the fumes are toxic. This is bad in and of itself, but if you’re transporting a whole shipment of batteries, the damage done can be enormous.
There are a few different catalysts that could cause battery ignition, including:
- Short circuit
- Cell malfunction
- Faulty manufacturing
The Australian government has labelled lithium ion batteries a Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Good. This is to best control the risk of a shipment going up in flames, and taking anything in their vicinity with them. A Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Good label comes with strict transportation rules.
During transit lithium ion batteries must be protected to prevent any applicable catalyst listed above. The below measures
Firstly, they cannot be packed with conductive materials. Then, unless installed in their own equipment, packaging must completely enclose each individual battery. It must have ‘strong outer packaging’ that meets Australian Dangerous Goods Code of Practice (ADG) requirements. And finally, suppliers must pack lithium ion batteries in cartons weighing less than 30kg. These have to be able to withstand falls of 1.2m without damage to the product or contents spillage.
Responsible suppliers should manufacture their lithium ion batteries in clean rooms. This stops tiny metallic particles from coming into contact with the battery cells. These particles can cause short circuits, resulting in overheating and subsequent battery fires. As with other products, sub-standard internal parts will also cause malfunctions – only with batteries, the parts can be microscopic.
When a supplier becomes aware that a product is faulty or unsafe, they can voluntarily recall that product. If they do not, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will recommend that the relevant Commonwealth Minister issues the recall to protect people who have bought the product.
A recall involves; stopping the product’s manufacture and supply, notifying the appropriate authority, warning the public of the issues and then offering a fix, replacement or refund.
It’s a lot of big words and acronyms, but these regulations help to ensure that we receive quality products that are safe for use. Even though they’re promotional products, the same regulations apply to our power banks and wireless phone chargers. Our strong relationships with local and international suppliers ensures that quality and workmanship are of the highest standard. We are passionate about providing real high-quality products that deliver unreal results.