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When you think of a product testing lab, usually one in particular comes to mind – Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL has been around for a very long time, and is the author of many product safety standards to which products are tested and certified. But UL is just one of 18 independent Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories that are “recognized” by OSHA as being qualified to perform product and material safety testing and certification.

A little history on NRTLs

When first adopted, OSHA regulations cited 2 examples of approval (i.e., testing and certification) agencies: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FMRC). After a successful lawsuit filed by a private lab in 1983, OSHA was ordered to remove specific references to UL and FMRC from any and all OSHA regulations.

In 1988, in order to give recognition to other equally qualified private testing and certification organizations, OSHA revised its regulations removing all lab-specific references and established the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) Program.

Since its inception, the NRTL Program has grown steadily and is currently made up of 18 separate organizations, both national and international in scope. (See Table 1 below)

What is an NRTL?

An NRTL is a third party organization recognized by OSHA as having the capability to act as both a product safety testing lab and a certifying body. All NRTLs are subject to the same requirements for recognition, including:

the capability to perform testing for each item to be certified;
adequate controls for identifying the items it certifies;
conducting follow-up inspections of actual production of items to evaluate conformance with test standards;
conducting field inspections to assure proper use of marks or labels;
complete independence from employers, manufacturers and vendors of products it tests and certifies;
effective procedures for producing its findings and reports, and for handling complaints and disputes.
The testing and certifications are based on product safety standards created by North American-based standards developing organizations. Over 600 individual product safety standards have been approved for NRTLs.

Standards of the following organizations have been accepted for NRTLs:

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
Canadian Standard Association (CSA)
Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FMRC)
Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
Product Certifications

Manufacturers obtain NRTL marks for various reasons. The primary reason is that such a mark is evidence that the product design and performance have been evaluated and found to comply with recognized safety standards. In the case of electrical products and components, the presence of an NRTL mark exhibits diligence on the part of the manufacturer to design, manufacture and sell "safe" products that adhere to national and city fire and electrical codes. And, b ecause all NRTLs evaluate and certify products using the same exacting standards, regardless of the NRTL used, there is a significantly reduced chance of product safety liability claims.

More information on the NRTL Program and OSHA regulations is available at http://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html#NRTLs

Table 1: NRTL Labs and Associated Marks

Applied Research Laboratories, Inc. (ARL)        
           
Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
      Used for products meeting only U.S. standards Used for products meeting both U.S. and Canadian standards Used for gas-fueled products meeting U.S. standards
           
Canadian Standards Association (CSA)(mark formerly used by the American Gas Association (AGA), exclusively licensed to CSA until June 30, 2001 )        
           
Communication Certification Laboratory, Inc. (CCL)

       
           
Curtis-Straus LLC (CSL)        
           
Electrical Reliability Services, Inc. (ERS) (also known as eti Conformity Services and formerly Electro-Test, Inc. (ETI))        
           
Entela, Inc. (ENT)      
  Used for products meeting only U.S. standards Used for products meeting both U.S. and Canadian standards      
           
FM Global Technologies LLC (FM) (also known as FM Approvals and formerly Factory Mutual Research Corporation)        
       
Intertek Testing Services NA, Inc. (ITSNA)
(formerly ETL Testing Laboratories, Inc.)
   
 
  Used for products meeting only U.S. standards Used for products meeting both U.S. and Canadian standards  
           
MET Laboratories, Inc. (MET)        
           
NSF International (NSF)        
           
National Technical Systems, Inc. (NTS)        
           
SGS U. S. Testing Company, Inc. (SGSUS) (formerly U.S. Testing Company, Inc.)        
           
Southwest Research Institute (SWRI)        
           
TUV America, Inc. (TUVAM)        
           
TUV Product Services GmbH (TUVPSG)        
           
TUV Rheinland of North America, Inc. (TUV)      
  NRTL previously used but ceased authorizing on or about January 2000. Used for products meeting only U.S. standards Used for products meeting both U.S. and Canadian standards    
       
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL)   Used for products meeting only U.S. standards Used for products meeting both U.S. and Canadian standards  
Basic marks      
"Used on products which UL has evaluated for specific properties, a limited range of hazards, or suitability for use under limited or special conditions. Typically, products Classified by UL fall into the general categories of building materials and industrial equipment." Examples: fire doors, protective gear for fire fighters, industrial trucks.  
           
Wyle Laboratories (WL)        

 

         
   
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