What is a UN38.3 Test Report or Summary for Lithium Batteries?

Updated: May 20

You may have been asked for a UN 38.3 Test Report or Test Summary for your Lithium Battery shipment and had to frantically search for one to get your shipment moving. You might find one, ot sometimes you might get overwhelmed by the amount of different documents you find. Sometimes you will have a Lithium Battery Safety Data Sheet (SDS), Technical Data Sheet (TDS), Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or even another type of document!


This is where the confusion comes from with Lithium Batteries, especially if you're used to shipping other types of Dangerous Goods. In this post, I hope to give an introduction to the UN38.3 Test Report and Test Summary. I hope to answer what is a UN38.3 Test Summary? When do I need to provide a UN 38.3 Test Summary? and What information should be on a UN38.3 Test Summary.


If you haven't done so yet, read our posts on Why Lithium Batteries are Dangerous and How to ship Lithium Batteries, then move onto this one...


If you're looking for our Lithium Battery Training courses, they can be found here.


Why does a Lithium Battery require a UN 38.3 Test?


As we saw in our posts on Why Lithium Batteries are Dangerous and How to ship Lithium Batteries, there is a risk that a poorly-designed, or poorly-manufactured battery could develop a fault causing it to catch on fire. That's a problem!

In order to ensure that the batteries we ship cannot break down and cause a fire, we need to rigorously test the design and quality of our battery to ensure they are designed and manufactured correctly so that this cannot happen. Luckily for us, the experts over at the United Nations Transport committee have extensively researched and developed a test to check just that!


It isn't just for Lithium Batteries that they have developed tests, for decades they have been developing tests for Dangerous Goods for a whole range of uses, and these are all codified into the UNECE Reccomendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Manual of Tests and Criteria (currently Revision Number 7) and to help us out, the manual itself is available online, for free here.


So, for a number of reasons, the test was added to the Manual of Tests and Criteria in Section 38.3 (starting on page 428). This is why the test was creatively named 'The UN38.3 Test'.


What tests are actually completed under UN38.3?


In order to ensure the design and production-quality of our battery is correct, we need to test varying aspects of our battery and to do this, a selection the following tests may be required to be performed, depending on the type of Lithium Battery being tested:


Test T.1: Altitude Simulation (38.3.4.1)

Test T.2: Thermal Test (38.3.4.2)

Test T.3: Vibration (38.3.4.3)

Test T.4: Shock (38.3.4.4)

Test T.5: External Short Circuit (38.3.4.5)

Test T.6: Impact/Crush (38.3.4.6)

Test T.7: Overcharge (38.3.4.7)

Test T.8: Forced Discharge (38.3.4.8)


These tests will be done by an approved test station and will normally be commissioned by the manufacturer of the battery. Once complete, there will normally be a test report issued which documents the test, along with a Test Summary which is compiled in accordance with the below (38.3.5):

Extract from the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria (Rev.7) (38.3.5)

Further to this, manufacturers and subsequent distributors must make this test summary available, as required in the 2019/2020 editions of ICAO Technical Instructions and IATA for Air Shipping, the 2019/2020 Editions of the Road Regulations (ADR) as well as in the Sea Regulations (Amendment 38/18 of the IMDG Code). This was not in-force until 1st January 2020, however already it is becoming common for Airlines, Shipping Lines, Hauliers and Freight Agents to request this for Lithium Battery Shipments.


So now we are in the confusing situation where a Lithium Battery may have a Lithium Battery Safety Data Sheet (SDS), Technical Data Sheet (TDS), Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), UN38.3 Lithium Battery Test Report, UN38.3 Test Summary and a Dangerous Goods Note. It is down to Dangerous Goods shippers and staff to wade through this selection of documents to be sure that our battery has passed a UN38.3 test, that we have a UN38.3 Summary and a Dangerous Goods Note, if required. If we do all of that right, our shipment should travel safely and without delay to its destination.


Simple, right?


If you have any questions, you can always comment below, contact us or use the live-chat in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Thanks for reading!

*Notice: This blog aims to give you an introduction to Dangerous Goods, it is not intended as a reference material so always conduct your own research and check anything with your Dangerous Goods Specialist or DGSA before taking any action based on the subjects discussed here.*

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