MIT Fined $175,000 for Air Cargo Package Fire

FAA alleges that MIT offered a fiberboard box containing 33 electronic devices to FedEx for transportation by air from Cambridge, Mass., to Seattle on Aug. 25, 2009.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $175,000 civil penalty against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for alleged violations of Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Regulations.

FAA alleges that MIT offered a fiberboard box containing 33 electronic devices to FedEx for transportation by air from Cambridge, Mass., to Seattle on Aug. 25, 2009. Each electronic device consisted of a lithium battery attached to a circuit board and tube-like container.

The package was discovered with smoke and flames coming from it while it was moving on a conveyor at the FedEx sorting facility in Medford, Mass. Two of the devices in the package heated and melted, which caused the surrounding cushioning and packaging to catch fire. Because the package was not properly labeled and marked, FedEx employees did not know the shipment contained hazardous material. They made several unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher.

Specifically, the batteries were not packaged in a manner that would prevent a short-circuit that could create sparks or generate a dangerous quantity of heat.

MIT allegedly offered the box when it was not packaged, marked, classed, described, labeled, or in condition for shipment as required by regulations. The airbill accompanying the shipment specifically stated the shipment did not contain dangerous goods.

In addition, FAA alleges MIT employees were not properly trained and tested to handle hazardous material.

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