Equipment Safety: UL Ratings and More

By Roy, Ken | The Science Teacher, February 2011 | Go to article overview

Equipment Safety: UL Ratings and More


Roy, Ken, The Science Teacher


Smart consumers look to buy appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines with the familiar UL, or Underwriters Laboratories, label. Why? The UL label signifies that the appliance has been safety-tested in accordance with a specific set of standards. This ensures safer operation and built-in protection for the user. Science teachers might find themselves asking whether the same is true for science laboratory equipment--are there similar agencies that review, test, and certify this kind of equipment?

The answer is "yes!" There are a number of Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) that certify a wide variety of products for equipment manufacturers. These requirements help ensure that products are designed for safe use in the workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards for general industry (29 CFR 1910) require NRTL approval of certain products used in the workplace. High school labs are likely to include hot plates, power supplies, electronic balances, computers, ovens, and generators--all of which require certification by NRTLs.

What exactly does NRTL certification mean? OSHA acknowledges that certain organizations have the necessary qualifications to do safety testing and certify products covered within its scope of recognition. According to OSHA, "properly certified" means the following:

1. The product is labeled or marked with the registered certification mark of an NRTL.

2. An NRTL has issued certification for the product, which is covered within the scope of an OSHA product-safety test standard.

3. An NRTL has issued the certification from one of its OSHA-recognized sites (i.e., locations).

OSHA recognition in no way means the equipment has been OSHA-approved--it means that the equipment has been certified and meets certain safety-test expectations. The actual list of specific test standards can be found on the OSHA website (see "On the web"). Also be aware that once an NRTL certifies a product, it monitors the product, manufacturer, marketplace, and use of its certification mark.

How do I know equipment is NRTL-certified?

NRTLs have unique certification marks for compliance that are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The equipment manufacturer places the registered certification mark on products the NRTL has certified.

OSHA's Typical Registered Certification Marks website provides more information (see "On the web"). This site contains many examples of registered certification marks and NRTLs. The following organizations are currently OSHA-recognized NRTLs:

* Canadian Standards Association (CSA) (also known as CSA International)

* Communication Certification Laboratory (CCL)

* Curtis-Straus LLC (CSL)

* FM Approvals LLC (FM) (formerly Factory Mutual Research Corporation)

* Intertek Testing Services NA (ITSNA) (formerly ETL)

* MET Laboratories (MET) (formerly Maryland Electrical Testing)

* NSF International (NSF) (formerly National Sanitation Foundation)

* National Technical Systems (NTS)

* SGS U. …

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