Lithium Battery Safety and Other Hot Topics at COSTHA

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June 19, 2019Stephanie FleischerBlog

I had the distinct pleasure of representing Verisk 3E at the 2019 Annual COSTHA FOrum & Expo in Long Beach, CA. COSTHA stands for the Council on Safe Transportation of Hazardous Articles and is comprised of industry professionals working to collaborate on regulatory harmonization, enforcement and responsiveness to an ever changing global risk environment.

This was an opportunity for approximately 300 dangerous goods transportation professionals to meet up and exchange ideas and concerns from our different perspectives. Overall it seemed like a mix of people who live and breathe hazmat along with the people who are just starting to dip their toe into the deep waters of dangerous goods. Some organizations represented include carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx as well as shippers like Honeywell, GlaxoSmithKline, Genentech and Amazon in addition to manufacturers like AkzoNobel and Millipore Sigma.

Though there were several opportunities for socializing and networking (I had several conversations about Verisk 3E’s new partnership with SAP), the main focus was on training and topical working groups.

Lithium Battery Safety

The kickoff training focused on Lithium Batteries, unsurprisingly, as they are one of the hottest topics around; shipping them safely and compliantly through Ground and/or Air is on everyone’s mind! The training started with videos of lithium batteries on fire, powerfully demonstrating the potential danger.

Besides basic classification, labeling, and marking, we discussed the Lithium Battery Test Summary expected to be adopted in the second quarter of this year under 49 CFR and required as of January 1, 2020 for IATA.

So many products contain batteries especially for retailers – look to our classification services to receive information about lithium metal vs. ion and to implement a battery program. Though not everyone was able to attend this training, a working lunch later in the week attracted nearly half of the conference to continue the lively discussion.

Other trainings included refreshers on topics like Hazardous Materials Classification Training, Exceptions Training, and IMDG. Knowledge of these principles underpin our classification solutions and guide the decisions we make when examining product constituents on an SDS.

Roundtables featured representatives from North America, China, Latin America and many US agencies such as the USPS, DOT PHMSA, FAA, USCG and FMCSA. One key concern is harmonization among the many areas of the world as most people don’t only ship through one country, one mode.

A gentleman from Emergencias Químicas showed the path a shipment would take along the Pan-American highway and how each country would require slightly different placarding and labeling for the same cargo to remain compliant! A goal is to have that harmonized. Another plan being pursued is to allow limited quantity shipping in China – currently everything must be fully regulated, which places an extra burden on the many companies who source from China.

Developing a Dangerous Goods Internal Audit/QA Process

Another topic receiving a great deal of attention was the importance of developing and maintaining an internal audit/QA process for dangerous goods programs. Several key takeaways reinforced the Verisk 3E mission of supporting our clients in developing strategies for intelligent compliance. The presenters acknowledged that compliance doesn’t tend to be a money-maker for a company but it does keep people, property and the environment safe.

The best practice takeaways included:

  • Begin how you mean to continue; start out in compliance rather than having to retroactively retool processes to bring them into compliance in addition to paying fines and being censured.
  • Follow the trends in what you’re handling. With 3E Protect™, Verisk 3E’s SDS and chemical management platform, you have access to a wide variety of reports that can allow you to investigate what is on site at your different locations as well as assess how your people are using the tool. Is someone active in adding and deleting inventory in response to changes? What chemicals do you have in site the most?
  • Frame compliance as helping people to do the right thing. Who wakes up in the morning and wants to perform badly or cause someone harm? Most of us want to do the right thing and simply need some help and guidance.

Do you have questions about hazardous materials safety and compliance? At Verisk 3E we are here to help.