Be Cautious When Shipping Samples Off-Site

November 2017
Lesson Learned Statement: 
On August 11, 2017, staff at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) received a shipment sent by LBNL researchers containing a sample identified as lithium nickel dioxide and ruthenium oxide. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) considers both of these substances to be non-hazardous and researchers can ship them without any special precautions. Staff at ORNL opened this shipment and found charring inside the packaging material surrounding the end of a vanadium tube that contained the sample. Upon inquiry, the Energy Technologies Area (ETA) researchers who sent the package identified the sample as a combination of the two substances indicated by the SDSs included in the shipping documents - Li(0.3)RuNiO2, a "delithiated" cathode material. While the shipped sample belonged to a class of compounds whose hazards are well characterized, the sample itself was a newly synthesized material.  
Discussion: 
While the exact cause of the charring is still unknown (ETA is currently investigating), based on preliminary hypotheses the following Lessons Learned apply:
- Use special caution when handling and shipping novel materials, as their hazards may differ from similar known compounds
- Be mindful of the potential for cross contamination within a shipment?s package

Most importantly, prior to releasing a package for shipment containing hazardous materials, the party shipping the package should seek guidance (see resources listed below) when shipping requirements are unclear and/or hazards not fully characterized, and not rely on LBNL's shipping department to determine whether a material is safe to ship. For materials produced at LBNL and shipped offsite, the party shipping the package must identify all potential hazards of the materials (and of the specific samples to be shipped) and communicate them through SDSs and container labels.  

Resources for help with questions on shipping include: 
- Your Division Safety Coordinator
- Your EHS Liaison
- EHS Lab Safety Specialist 
- LBNL Shipping Department

Lessons Learned are part of the ISM Core Function 5, Feedback and Improvement. Applicable Lessons Learned are to be considered during working planning activities and incorporated in work processes, prior to performing work.

Please contact the following subject matter experts if you have any questions regarding this briefing:
- Alyssa Brand, EHS Lab Safety Specialist