The trade show industry is not alone with having problems in this area. A discussion has been taking place among LED Lighting Professionals on Linked In on the unsafe nature and unfair competition that has arisen as a result of some companies selling (LED) lighting products that are not LISTED to UL standards. Even at LightFair in April (the largest lighting trade show in the U.S.) attendees had to specifically inquire among some exhibitors as to whether or not their products were listed to UL standards – and not all were listed.
Yes, non listed products are almost always less expensive than listed products. Logically, this is because of those companies are not incurring the significant expense of testing and maintaining records to assure their customers and the facilities where the products are installed that the products they are using are safe and meet a minimum standard.
So, what does all of this mean and what is the difference between a product that is listed to UL standards and those that are not and just use some UL approved components? Let’s explore!
What does it mean for a product to be LISTED to UL standards?
A product that has the listing mark of UL or ETL means that the entire product and all of its components have been tested as they are used in connection with one another and have been deemed to meet the applicable UL standard. This means that the entire product meets the standard - not just the power supply or cord. The denotation by the mark “US” stands for the United States and “C” for Canada.
This is not a trivial or inexpensive standard. Testing is completely documented and reported components used are essentially registered in connection with the testing process. Assembly factories are subject to unannounced inspections to assure ongoing compliance. Independent testing authorities, if the product passes testing, issues an authorization to mark or label the product for the particular compliance that has been achieved.
What is the difference between the ETL Listed Mark and those issued by others?
Certification marks – like the ETL or UL Listed Mark – demonstrate compliance to the requirements of widely accepted product safety standards, as determined through independent testing and periodic follow-up inspections by Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs). ETL and UL are recognized as an NRTL in the United States and, in a similar capacity, as a testing organization and certifying body in Canada by the Standards Council of Canada. Interestingly, Canada has legislation requiring products being sold to be listed to the UL standards. Still, not all companies are complying.
Is the ETL Listed Mark the legal equivalent to the UL Listed Mark?
Yes. The true legal requirement to test and certify products for sale in the United States is a designation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a NRTL.
Do local inspectors know the ETL and UL Listed Mark?
Yes. Inspectors and the Authorities having jurisdiction recognize and accept the ETL and UL Mark as proof of product compliance throughout North America and in some areas of South America.
Why does DS&L primarily use ETL and others use the services of UL?
One of the key reasons we choose to use ETL certifications is that the timeframe in which Intertek™ (ETL) can test and certify products is usually much faster than UL. ETL tests to the exact same standards as UL and their certification has the same recognition by OHSA since they are both NRTLs. DS&L also distributed products that contain the UL mark.
What’s the difference between the UL and ETL Listed Marks?
Nothing. Both marks demonstrate that the product that bears the mark has met the minimum requirements of widely accepted product safety standards as determined through the independent testing of a NRTL. As part of that testing regimen, the product manufacturer has agreed to periodic follow-up inspections to verify continued compliance.
What does the ETL or UL Mark mean when displayed on a product?
The ETL or UL Listed Mark indicates to distributors, retailers and customers that the product has been tested by a NRTL and found in compliance with accepted national standards. This means that you can rest assured that you are purchasing and using products that minimize the risk of damage when used as intended.
Why do some companies choose not to test?
As DS&L is committed to providing safe products for use by its customers, we cannot offer an answer to this question. Certainly the time, expense, management and understanding of the testing process as it relates to the product development cycle may play a role in this decision making process.
Why is DS&L so committed to safety?
Aside from a long standing belief that providing safe products to use is the responsible thing to do, DS&L’s management team includes an accountant and an attorney who believe that part of the obligation of manufacturers and suppliers is to provide safe products that minimize risk and exposure to liability. Selling products that are ETL or UL listed provides that security not only to DS&L but to its customers who re-distribute its products as well.
(some of the information provided in this section has been adapted from the Intertek/ETL website)