VIDEO: Australian gov’t urges safe carriage of lithium batteries

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Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has produced a short educational video to help instruct travelers how to carry lithium batteries safely in their luggage, in the face of growing concerns about the fire hazards posed by these batteries.

“Lithium batteries were named the ‘Least Wanted’ dangerous goods for 2014, after they ignited a fire inside the cargo hold of an aircraft just before passengers boarded the flight from Melbourne to Fiji,” notes CASA in a statement. “All spare batteries, regardless of size, must be in your carry-on luggage,” it warns passengers.

CASA has also developed a Can I pack that?’ Dangerous Goods App’ to inform travelers about the dangers associated with these items, what they can and can’t pack in their luggage, and, if an item can be brought on board, guide them on how to do it safely.

Lithium batteries have been traced to a multitude of smoke and fire incidents in both aircraft cabins and cargo holds. There seems to be a heightened risk of smoke incidents when lithium battery-powered personal electronic devices (PEDs) slip into electrically adjustable premium seats, and are crushed.

“A lot of us have aircraft with seats that move mechanically within our premier cabins. We have had problems at Emirates where we’ve had mobile phones fall down by the side, where the passenger has moved it [the seat], and it’s crushed – the battery inside the mobile phone,” Emirates safety manager, cabin, Anabel Carter told attendees at IATA’s Cabin Operations Safety Conference this spring in Madrid.

As soon as a passenger reports that his or her PED has slipped down the side of the seat, Emirates cabin crew are now instructed not to move the seat in any way. “Because moving it could crush the battery so that’s one of the things we’re looking at,” explained Carter, who chairs the IATA Cabin Operations Safety Task Force.

Noting that most people “are not aware that lithium batteries are dangerous goods and can pose a safety risk if not prepared in compliance with the transport regulations”, IATA has developed guidance information for shippers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airlines and passengers. And it has issued updated guidance for how crew should handle dangerous goods incidents and lithium battery fires in the passenger cabin.

Meanwhile the US DOT in July issued a new safety rule for lithium battery transport in cargo holds. However, an advisory panel to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has since called for sweeping changes in packaging to limit the fire hazard posed by bulk shipments of lithium batteries on aircraft, reports the Wall Street Journal. “The proposals call for inserting gels or other types of cooling agents between batteries or power packs. If adopted, the changes would lead to higher costs and extra weight for shippers,” reports the newspaper.

See CASA’s new video below.

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