The Lithium Batteries Label: Update

New Lithium Batteries Label and Mark to come under changes to dangerous goods transport regulations, effective 1st Jan 2017.

The UN has designated lithium batteries as Dangerous Goods and when transported by road, rail, sea and air, they are governed by strict regulations. Changes regarding the labelling of lithium batteries will be adopted from amendments to the 19th edition of the UN Model Regulations.

Lithium Batteries labels image


Types of lithium battery

Lithium batteries are generally split into two broad categories: metal and ion.

Lithium-metal batteries are generally non-rechargeable, feature a higher energy density than other non-rechargeable batteries, and contain metallic lithium. They are used to power devices such as watches, pacemakers, hearing aids, cameras and calculators.

Lithium-Ion batteries were developed later and are usually considered to be more stable than their metal counterparts, but they are still a cause for concern. Lithium-ion batteries offer a high energy density, but they are rechargeable and they do not contain metallic lithium. They are commonly used in consumer electronics such as mobile telephones, computers and laptops.

WHY ARE Lithium Batteries DANGEROUS?

All Lithium batteries may be subject to a so called ‘thermal runaway’. This occurs when the internal circuitry is compromised, causing an increase in temperature in one or more of the cells. The heat can reach a point where the cells vent hot gasses, which can then increase the temperature in neighboring cells until there is ignition and a fire. In short; because of the tendency of lithium batteries to ignite and burn violently when exposed to heat or fire, large quantities of batteries pose a significant safety risk, especially to aircraft. A shipment of lithium batteries can intensify the severity of a fire considerably and a relatively small incident can lead to an uncontrolled fire.


Lithium batteries are classified as Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous goods:

  • UN 3090, Lithium metal batteries (shipped by themselves)
  • UN 3480, Lithium ion batteries (shipped by themselves) or, if inside a piece of equipment or packed separately with a piece of equipment as:
  • UN 3091, Lithium metal batteries contained in equipment; or
  • UN 3091, Lithium metal batteries packed with equipment; and
  • UN 3481, Lithium ion batteries contained in equipment; or
  • UN 3481, Lithium ion batteries packed with equipment.

The labelling requirements differ for the transport of lithium batteries as cargo depending on whether the batteries are:

• Contained in the equipment (like a watch, calculator or laptop)
• Packed with the equipment (like in a power tool, packed alongside a spare battery)
• In small quantities (which may be covered by Limited Quantities – the lowest of the four levels of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods)
• In very small quantities, which are not subject at all to the provisions of the dangerous goods regulations (like two batteries installed in equipment).

In order to identify packages containing lithium batteries it is essential to label them as specified under the appropriate dangerous goods regulations. The two new Lithium Batteries labels shown below apply to all modes of transport.


There are two new Lithium Battery labels under the amended labelling requirements for IATA, ADR and IMDG. The new handling label or ‘Lithium Battery mark’ now includes a new symbol and the relevant UN Number as well as a Telephone number:

Lithium Batteries label image

The new handling label must be in the form of a rectangle (120x110mm-minimun). It must have a red, hatched edging (5mm wide). The symbol (a group of batteries, one damaged and emitting flame) must be black and white. This symbol must sit above the UN number for lithium-ion or lithium-metal batteries or cells. If the package size is too small to hold this label then it may be reduced to not less than 105x74mm.

The telephone number included on the lithium batteries label should be of a person knowledgeable about the shipment, but this is not intended to be for the purposes of obtaining immediate emergency response guidance, and is therefore not required to be monitored at all times that the package is in transit. It is acceptable for the number to be monitored during the company’s normal business hours in order to provide product-specific information relative to the shipment. However, it also is acceptable to use an emergency response, 24-hour phone number on the label, such as Chemtrec.

A NEW Class 9 Lithium Batteries label replaces the existing Class 9 label for shipments that are subject to the full regulation as Class 9 hazardous materials.

class 9 lithium battery label

The new Class 9 Lithum batteries label must have seven vertical black stripes in the upper half of the label. The symbol (a group of batteries, one damaged and emitting flame) and an underlined number 9 must be black and white and appear in the lower half of the label.


Lithium Batteries (Ion and Metal) shipped without equipment are no longer allowed to be transported by PASSENGER aircraft. Lithium batteries not packed in equipment must be transported by cargo aircraft or by ground.

Lithium-metal batteries shipped by themselves – UN 3090 (not contained in, or packed with equipment), have been banned from being transported as cargo on passenger aircraft since 2014, after lithium-metal batteries were linked to two fires aboard aircraft; unstable, over-charged batteries were thought to be a contributing factor.

From 1st April 2016, lithium-ion batteries shipped by themselves – UN 3480 (not contained in, or packed with equipment), are also to be forbidden for transport as cargo on passenger aircraft. In addition, when transported in dedicated cargo planes, they must also be shipped at a state of charge (SoC) not exceeding 30% of their rated design capacity.

The latest prohibition on lithium-ion batteries from passenger aircraft has come after extensive reviews by the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ban applies to shipments in passenger plane cargo holds and does not include the batteries inside gadgets that passengers travel with – for now.

The ban will remain in force until a new fire-resistant packaging is designed to transport lithium batteries more safely. A new packaging standard is expected to be in place by 2018 and until then, the ban is mandatory for all states that are members of the ICAO.

While the majority of lithium-ion batteries are transported on cargo ships, about 30% are still delivered by air and a single cargo container can hold thousands of batteries. New labelling requirements for IATA which include the new handling label and Class 9 label are effective from 1st January 2017.

IATA lithium batteries labels

A single handling label may be used to identify that both lithium metal and lithium ion batteries are contained within the package. The label may bear the words “lithium ion and lithium metal batteries” to identify that both types of batteries are present.


Both the new Lithium Batteries label and Class 9 Battery label have a voluntary compliance beginning January 1, 2017.  Mandatory Compliance begins January 1, 2019.


This article should not be used in substitute for checking the exact requirements in the applicable modal regulations.

Hibiscus Plc has been providing regulatory advice and labelling solutions for dangerous goods retailers and wholesale chemical suppliers for over 35 years.