DON’T BE SHOCKED, GO WITH THE FLOW – The rules and regulations of lithium ion batteries
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 they are powered by a lithium ion (Li on) battery, between 1,000mA and 10,000mA. To help make sure that we receive quality products, the compliance standard for lithium ion batteries is high. There are a lot of rules and regulations regarding their transport as well, because they 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?
The compliance rules surrounding promotional battery packs are outlined in the Radiocommunications Labelling (Electromagnetic Compatibility) Notice 2017. We’ll call it the EMC LN.
The point of the EMC LN is to keep interference from poorly-shielded and low quality electrical devices to a minimum. These devices create ‘noise’ or static as 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.
Compliance and Risk Levels
There are three levels of risk and compliance that EMC LN regulated products fall into. Each level dictates what documentation, testing and standards the supplier has to meet to be able to supply their product in Australia.
Compliance Level 1 includes low-risk devices where the battery is housed internally and must be removed for charging. Think products like battery powered toys and pocket calculators. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), where the regulations are found, gives some 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 covered by the EMC LN must be labelled with the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) unless they are low-risk. To receive the mark, the supplier has to be registered as a ‘responsible supplier’ and hold the following for each product: a report of mandatory testing, a Declaration of Conformity and an EMC label. The RCM is essential for a product to be supplied in Australia. Overseas compliance marks are not automatically valid.
All of these conditions help keep our radio-communication frequencies clear of ‘noise’. Devices free of interruption and crossed signals 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. 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
To best control the risk of a shipment of lithium ion batteries going up in flames, and taking with them anything in their vicinity, the Australian government have labelled them Class 9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods. With this label comes strict rules about the way they are transported.
To be shipped throughout the country, lithium ion batteries have to be protected to prevent any of the applicable catalysts above. 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 the requirements of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code of Practice (ADG). And finally, lithium ion batteries must be packed in cartons weighing less than 30kg. These must 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 issue a voluntary recall of 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 supply of the product, notifying the appropriate authority, warning the public of the issues with the product 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, our power banks and wireless phone chargers are bound by the same regulations as those supplied in stores. Our strong relationships with local and international suppliers ensures that quality and workmanship are of the highest standard. Impact are passionate about providing high-quality products that set your brand apart.