Publication 52 — Important Updates to USPS Dangerous Goods RegulationsCommonly known as "Pub 52", this document describes both the type and quantity of hazardous materials that may be sent through the U.S. mail. It spells out the labeling, packaging, marking, and handling instructions for allowable dangerous goods for postal employees and the general public. Per the publication... the Publication 52 purpose is to provide important information to help mailers determine what may be mailed and how certainitems must be packaged to keep the mail safe. It also provides guidance to Postal Service™ employees accepting this mail.
Publication 52 is available on Postal Explorer® at http://pe.usps.com.
As of mid-2015, two of the most common allowable dangerous goods shipped through the mail are lithium ion batteries and lithium metal batteries.
August 17, 2017: The Postal Service has released its update to "Pub 52", which is the agency’s own regulations regarding shipping dangerous goods. This update mainly concerns—wait for it—lithium batteries. Major changes include:
- Restricting Standalone Lithium Ion Cells and Batteries (UN3480) to Surface Mail Only
- Authorization to Use the New Lithium Battery Mark
- Inclusion of the New Class 9 Lithium Battery Label in the Prohibited Label Section
- Additional Packaging Requirements for Small Lithium Cells and Batteries
- Changes to “Contained in Equipment” Marking Exception
- Elimination of the "Accompanying Document" Requirement
Get the full summary from the USPS published Postal|Bulletin.
July 26, 2017: Although it’s not often thought of in the DG community, the US Post Office is actually quite a large carrier of such materials, albeit in what we’d think of as being very small packages. The agency has just revised its rules covering the shipment of lithium batteries to harmonize with the ICAO TI and 49 CFR. A very general way of thinking about the new setup might be to say that the USPS rules largely reflect those for batteries which under DOT rules would be covered under the 49 CFR 173.185’s exceptions. If your battery needs a DOT Class 9 label, the post office won’t take it. [Read the details in the Federal Register.]
February 22, 2017: The Postal Service announced it is preparing to revise Publication 52 in various sections to provide new mailing standards for lithium batteries. Prior to making these revisions, the Postal Service believes that it is appropriate to invite comments regarding the nature and scope of the contemplated changes. The Postal Service must receive written comments on or before March 24, 2017.
Revisions proposed include:
- Eliminate the current text marking option for mail pieces bearing the lithium battery markings and limit markings to the DOT-approved lithium battery handling marks only
- UN3090 will still be required to bear the current text marking in addition to the DOT-approved lithium battery handling mark
- Eliminate the requirement for an accompanying document
- Add the Class 9 lithium battery hazard label though any mail pieces bearing this mark will be prohibited in the mail
- Rigid outer packaging requirements of adequate size; they will allow the use of padded or poly bags for button cells installed in equipment
- Prohibit UN3480 in USPS air transportation
- Revise quantity limitations for UN3480 in surface transport to an aggregate mail piece limit of 5 pounds of lithium ion cells = 20 Wh/cell and batteries = 100 Wh/battery)
Lithium batteries have been getting a great deal of attention recently from regulators and carriers alike. Both lithium ion (rechargeable) and lithium metal (non-rechargeable) batteries are becoming more and more common in an ever-expanding array of electronic devices.
Effective March 2016, the USPS revised Pub 52 to reflect recent changes in US 49 CFR governing Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail. You can read about the updates here.
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