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02/05/18 Recommendations for Industrial Product Certification (NRTLs)

Article - February 5, 2018 By

Vehicle Mount LED Light - 40 Watts - 3600 Lumen - 9-46VDC - MILSPEC 461

Recommendations for Industrial Product Certification (NRTLs)

For industrial manufacturers, product testing and certification are essential to releasing a product that is reliable, high quality and in demand by businesses or consumers with stringent requirements. Products that require certification from a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) include consumer appliances for safety, industrial equipment and components (usually for durability, safety and code compliance) and electrical equipment.

A product that is certified by an NRTL can be verified by checking for markings on the label. This provides peace of mind for consumers; and in some cases, buyers will specifically seek out certified products to meet certain standards or project requirements. By comparison, an uncertified product leaves businesses open to safety, compliance and equipment performance risks.

General Overview and Highlights

Getting a product certified starts with choosing a third-party testing lab that is approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for manufacturers based in the US. Technically speaking, manufacturers have the freedom to choose their testing partner. In the US, the top two testing labs are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Electrical Testing Labs (ETL), which was acquired by Intertek Testing Services (ITS) in 1996 – also an OSHA-recognized NRTL. Both have over 100 years of experience in large-scale, industrial testing and compliance.

It is vital to emphasize that OSHA does not do the actual testing of products. Instead, the institution recognizes third-party labs (29 CFR 1910.7); and as a result, acknowledges their markings and standards. Another point to consider is that UL authored a large bulk of standards in circulation today. This does not mean a manufacturer has to partner with UL for testing. It is possible to work with a different, OSHA-recognized lab to meet UL standards. Perhaps the most important point to take into account is that NRTL certification is not effective for gauging the quality or performance of the product – it is mostly applicable to safety.

Factors to Consider

There are several factors to consider, when choosing a third-party testing lab to collaborate with for certification:

• Price: Product certification is not cheap. Manufacturers can expect to fork out thousands of dollars to complete the process. It is more cost-effective to go with a recognized NRTL that is less popular. Generally speaking, UL’s certification services, being the most preferred NRTL, costs more than other third-party labs.

• Timeline: Testing can take months, which is also dependent on the availability of the third-party lab. Some facilities may quote 3-6 months for the testing timeline.

• Market Preference: Some markets have a preferred NRTL. This does not mean that other markings are considered to be invalid – as OSHA governs the recognition of NRTLs (in the US). However, there is a risk in not getting one’s product “accepted” by the market.

• Timeline: Testing can take months, which is also dependent on the availability of the third-party lab. Some facilities may quote 3-6 months for the testing timeline.

• Consumer/Business Preference: Businesses and consumers in your target market may have a preference in certification markings. Failing to meet or cater to those preferences could result in getting shunned by buyers – even though one’s product is superior and meets the same set of OSHA safety standards with other labs. To address this problem, some manufacturers go out of their way to educate their potential customers about uncommon product markings.

• Location: This is very important to get right. NRTLs have jurisdictions over where their markings can be acknowledged and applied. For example, ETL Listed and C-ETL Listed markings are recognized in the US, Canada and Mexico. In Europe, a CE Marking is required. To streamline the certification process, some facilities allow testing for multiple standards.


ATEX certification, which applies to standards for industrial equipment in explosive locations, is only applicable to the European Union. In some ways, the ATEX directive is similar or comparable to NEC standards in the US. However, they are not interchangeable – meaning an ATEX marking is not recognized; and therefore, not enforceable in the US and vice versa. Third-party labs that test for ATEX certification are called Notified Bodies, such as FM Approvals.

IECEx is a voluntary program that aims for global recognition and acceptance of safety standards. The IECEx certificate is recognized in a handful of different countries, such as Australia, the US, Singapore, South Africa, Finland, China, Brazil, Russia and the UK. In locations where both IECEx and ATEX are recognized, the certification process can be complicated when they are mixed. For instance, an IECEx test document can be used as a basis for ATEX certification, but not vice versa. This is because ATEX is not recognized internationally. Because of this, some products feature two markings (IECEx and ATEX).

Ingress Testing and Other Standards

Testing for Ingress Protection (IP) is voluntary and can be facilitated by a third-party lab using International Standard IEC 60529. In some cases, the third-party tester will cater to both safety and ingress certifications, as well as other types of compliance testing services – depending on the needs of the manufacturer. For industrial manufacturers interested in IP certification, it is important to partner with a third-party lab that is recognized in the applicable location. Other standards, like MIL-SPEC or MIL-STD, may also be tested by third-party labs or recognized facilities, such as MET and CSZ Testing.

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