This piece was originally published in the July 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Joel Solis, Conformity Assessment Manager, NEMA
Recently confirmed Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta oversees more than 28 regulatory agencies and boards under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor. One of them, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is responsible for enforcing the standards, rules, and regulations with which employers comply to demonstrate that a workplace is free from recognized hazards.
The electrical industry is keenly interested in OSHA’s National Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) program, which accredits electrical product testing laboratories as NRTLs. The program relieves employers of the burden of demonstrating that an electrical product used in the workplace is safe by showing that it is NRTL “approved” or “labeled.”
The NRTL program currently recognizes 18 certification and testing laboratories: 13 in the United States, four in Canada, and one in Germany. The German Product Safety Act, incidentally, bars reciprocal privileges to U.S. and Canadian NRTLs to issue its mark that indicates that electrical products meet German safety requirements.
The NRTL program continues to expand the number of certification and testing laboratories. Bay Area Compliance Laboratories (BACL) in California is the latest certification and testing laboratory to receive recognition. BACL’s scope of recognition is limited to UL 60950-1 Information Technology Equipment.
Since August 2014, OSHA has been updating its policy on how NRTLs comply with the requirements in the OSHA NRTL Directive, which addresses manufacturers’ testing of electrical equipment intended for hazardous locations and to align the program’s policies to ISO/IEC 17065 and 17025, and the IECEx electrical equipment scheme.
NEMA contributed comments to the latest draft of the directive, which was circulated to stakeholders in June 2016. The process for finalizing the directive will require a determination of whether the revision would result in a shift of OSHA policy, followed by approval by Secretary Acosta.
Publication of the final version is anticipated by the end of the year. It should not be affected by the recent Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, which requires that at least two existing regulations be repealed for every new one that is promulgated.