In the US, workplace legislation requires electrical products to be certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). With COVID-19 and homeworking guidelines further blurring the lines between workplace and home, manufacturers and retailers are advised to ensure their products comply with workplace legislation to mitigate the risk of later censure.
According to the provisions in General Industry Standards (Part 1910 of Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations - 29 CFR Part 1910) 39 different product categories must have approval by an NRTL before they can be used in the work environment. This list of product categories includes everything from portable fire extinguishers to scaffolding. It also includes many electrical products that can be used in the home – cookers, hair dryers, power tools, food processors, coffee machines, computers, washing machines, etc.1
What is an NRTL?
An NRTL is an independent testing laboratory that is recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is a division of the US Department of Labor. They are authorized to test and certify products for the workplace, depending on their scope, but it does not amount to an endorsement of the company by OSHA.
OSHA is charged with ensuring US workplaces are safe. It has the right to enter all workplaces and can, if its inspectors deem the workplace to be unsafe, close a business with immediate effect. If there is a workplace accident or a disgruntled employee reports unsafe work practices, it is OSHA that will investigate. Among the things they will want to see when investigating a business is NRTL certification for all electrical products.
Electrical inspectors and fire marshals will also want to see the appropriate NRTL mark on products during inspections. NRTL certification is a clear demonstration that a product complies with the minimum product safety requirements for use in the workplace.
Does My Electrical Product Need NRTL Certification?
OSHA has no jurisdiction in the home. Products sold purely for the domestic market do not, in theory, need NRTL certification, but is this really practical in today’s retail and workplace environments?
Many products available in retailers will be used in both the workplace and the home. As more of us are encouraged to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, this crossover only looks set to grow. Everything from vacuum cleaners to coffee machines can be bought in general stores and then used in the work environment. Once those products are in the work environment, they must conform to OSHA’s requirements.
OSHA also has no jurisdiction over manufacturers or distributors. Their authority only affects employers and yet, if an employer utilizes a product that should have NRTL certification and it does not, then the employer could be held to be at fault. The products they choose must therefore be NRTL certified, no matter where they buy them.
It therefore makes sense for manufacturers and retailers to only sell electrical products that are NRTL certified. In a litigious culture, a key component of risk mitigation and any smart compliance strategy must be the removal of the possibility that an electrical product without NRTL certification may accidentally be sold for use in the work environment.
What is Certification?
Certification means the NRTL has tested and certified that the product has passed the relevant OSHA approved safety standard, as defined by bodies such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and UL. The scope of an NRTL is dependent upon which specific safety standards it has been approved by OSHA to test and certify.
Once a product has been certified, the NRTL will issue a certificate detailing the scope of the test standard that has been applied. In addition, every product that has been certified by an NRTL must bear that NRTL mark.
When looking for a product for the workplace, it is therefore important to check that the product bears an NRTL mark. This is the employer’s assurance that the product is certified and therefore meets OSHA requirements. Since many electrical products can no longer be clearly defined as domestic or workplace, manufacturers and retailers looking to mitigate themselves against the risk of later legal issues are advised to get their products NRTL certified.
SGS offers a range of services to help manufacturers and retailers ensure their products comply with OSHA and other government requirements. We are accredited to test and certify a wide variety of products, including power tools, household appliances, lighting, medical equipment, batteries, IT equipment, audio-visual equipment, and products for hazardous and potentially explosive environments. Once a product has been certified it can bear our SGS North America Listed Mark.
Learn more about our competences and global network of testing laboratories, and our SGS North America Listed Mark service.
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