Electrical Product Safety Testing: A Mutual Trust
Electrical product safety is one workplace compliance standard any organization, systems integrator or project manager takes seriously. Research statistics we see from IEEE and NFPA demonstrate just how dangerous electricity can be if work safety and health concerns are not enforced. The business impact resulting from careless electrical accident prevention ultimately causes downtime and costs both lives and revenue.
To help organizations understand and have the capacity to implement their own electrical safety protocols, The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that 38 different types of products, devices, assemblies, or systems used in the workplace be tested and certified by third-party organizations identified as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs). Since its establishment in 1970, OSHA’s goal has been to create safe workplaces.
A Shared Vision
OSHA has shared that vision with a number of support organizations in order to eliminate the danger of working with electrical products. This safety mindset has helped cut workplace fatalities by 62 percent and occupational injury and illness rates by another 40 percent over the last four decades. For businesses, protecting workers’ safety and health is the right thing to do.
The responsibility for interpreting and enforcing the requirements of a code (NEC) or standard (NFPA 79) falls to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). The AHJ can be an organization, office, or individual tasked with enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. The most common AHJ is the fire marshal, but can also be labor, health or building officials. The job of the AHJ is to ensure that all electrical products be listed with a NRTL and labeled as such as a basis for approval. This is important because insurance and liability coverage may also rely upon the use of approved products in the facility.
If there is an electrical incident, coverage may be denied if an unapproved product was installed and had any impact on the occurrence or severity of the incident. As a contractor or installer, the firm could face liabilities if they are guilty of installing unapproved products at any time. Using approved products wherever they may apply is always recommended.
Most organizations can use various methods to establish compliance with these approved standards. By employing a conformity assessment – defined as any activity designed to confirm that a product or service meets requirements contained in a specification – product compatibility and safety can be affirmed. In the world of security and safety compliance, ‘‘third-party conformity assessments’’ are generally valued and prioritized by regulators.
Why? As the complexity of technology increases, a CA (conformity assessment) provides the reassurance both organizations and providers depend on with products whose design and construction have become more difficult to understand. The benefits of that independent assessment usually result in renewed confidence in the safety and security of the products. That benefits the manufacturer who has demonstrated a commitment to safety and due diligence. It also reassures the public that manufacturers and systems integrators are striving for a safe and secure working environment. Other interested parties such as regulatory authorities, insurers, retailers and employers often seek or require third-party approval in the form of certification for these same assurances.
Organizations like UL have instituted certification requirements and standards with the intent of establishing compatibility of the product/system needs with applicable model installations. UL is also looking to create compatibility with other codes such as those published by the National Fire Protection Association, including the NEC, and the International Code Council.
How to Ensure Project Safety and Success
Manufacturers can achieve the regulatory insurance they need by establishing a baseline of best practices during the planning stages of a project. Upfront planning will lead to a successful UL testing and certification experience, or any other NRTL experience. During the planning stages, it is crucial that you understand all of the formal requirements appearing in written laws and contracts, as well as the informal policies related to all applicable AHJs who will inspect and provide their approvals. Make it standard procedure to highlight all NRTL approved products to your customers and users.
Manufacturers should contact one or more NRTL directly to obtain a time and price quotation for product certification. The NRTL will advise what documentation and samples are required for testing and certification. OSHA does not need to be contacted for product evaluation, testing, registration or certification. OSHA’s authority is limited to employers, so OSHA does not require manufacturers or suppliers to have the products they manufacture or supply certified by an NRTL. However, it is in the best interest of manufacturers or suppliers to have products requiring approval under OSHA standards to be NRTL-certified.
Leveraging the use of appropriate UL Recognized Components helps promote conformance with the applicable requirements for safety. Reviewing the relevant standard as the design process unfolds helps prevent surprises in the certification process. For manufacturers with the ability to conduct tests, it is always helpful to understand how the product performs compared to the test requirements in the standard.
The Bottom Line
When workers stay healthy it saves money and adds value to the organization. The benefits include lower workers’ compensation insurance costs, reduced medical expenditures, decreased payout for return-to-work programs, fewer faulty products, and lower costs for job accommodations for injured workers. There are also indirect benefits such as increased productivity, lower costs for training replacement workers, and decreased costs for overtime.
DITEK strongly supports electrical product safety regulations and gladly submits our surge protection products for NRTL testing and approval by UL, the premier standards and testing agency. Insist on NRTL listing and approvals for electrical devices used for your systems.