DG Advisory Council tries to make sense of lithium battery provisions

Why would anyone choose to spend three days in Washington a few days after the city was shut down for the Storm of the Decade? That’s what 70 or so DG experts asked ourselves, before we got down to the serious business of the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council January quarterly meeting in Alexandria last week.

We were there to make sense out of, amongst other hazmat transport issues, the continuously confusing lithium battery provisions.

Collegial brainstorming on hazmat issues

I find the DGAC meetings to be a unique opportunity to get updated on the broad spectrum of regulatory issues that affect the hazmat transport industry. And let’s face it, these days, that now includes every enterprise in every sector of today’s modern economy.

Transport, logistics, OSHA, insurance, safety, training—the list is incredibly diverse and lengthy. No one person can be on top of it all, and that’s why I relish the DGAC. It’s a chance to brainstorm issues with a group experts such as you’d not find anywhere outside a UN Subcommittee of Experts meeting in Geneva, but with a more collegial atmosphere.

Last week’s meeting was no exception. Intense, informative and rewarding.

Severe difficulties from battery ban

Labelmaster VP of Regulatory Compliance Services Bob Richard and myself led the Council’s lithium battery working group through the most recent developments. Those have been extensively covered elsewhere and I won’t go over them again. Suffice to say, we expect the ICAO Governing Council to decree in late February that lithium ion batteries will be prohibited on passenger aircraft.

While it’s possible that decision might be implemented immediately, best estimates suggest a 1st April date.

The prevailing view of the shipping industries present at DGAC is that this ban will cause severe difficulties in meeting mission critical and medical necessity applications. Some expressed a concern that the safety of patients and others in certain parts of the world without scheduled air cargo flights was being sacrificed, and serious consequences would ensue.

With that in mind, Mr. Richard indicated he would pursue a simplification of the urgent shipment requirements in an effort to mitigate the consequences.

In the meantime, industry was asked to provide concrete examples of the impact of the various prohibitions, so ICAO will have more practical data on which to base future decisions.

Unintentional costs of the GHS

In other matters, DGAC continues its action plan designed to highlight and eliminate one by one the growing number of conflicts the UN Global Harmonized System (GHS) standards have triggered in Dangerous Goods transport operations worldwide.

I myself participated on the DGAC delegation to the UN GHS sub-committee, and saw and heard firsthand how different it was from the Transport meeting I have attended since 1991. This is an incredibly important area since the unintentional costs to industry are huge. DGAC’s success in clarifying and simplifying the use of pictograms has far-reaching effects across the globe.

At Labelmaster, we assist wherever we can to help in this process and explain to our clients the various best and most economic practices for international and domestic compliance.

Labelmaster is a full service provider of goods and services for the Hazardous Materials and Dangerous Goods professional, shippers, transport operators, and EH&S providers. See our full line of solutions at www.labelmaster.com.


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