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UL vs FM Certifications

Confusion abounds with regard to certifications for material handling equipment, and concern is well founded when determining which product to purchase and use, especially when the product must be used in a Classified Hazardous Environment - see OSHA 1910.178 (b) and (c).

Following is a tutorial to help clarify some of the issues.

To be absolutely certain that you purchase an "approved" product for use in your plant, you must consult your insurance underwriters, local fire protection authorities, and local building codes agencies.

If additional assistance is needed, do not hesitate to contact John Jordan by e-mail at johnj@neonmaterialhandling.com or by telephone at 216-587-0400.


The OSHA Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program regulations, policies, procedures, and guidelines are found in 29 CFR 1910.7, and in Appendix A to this section.

Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program

The NRTL Program recognizes mainly private sector organizations that provide product safety testing and certification services to manufacturers.

The testing and certification are done, for purposes of the Program, to U.S. consensus-based product safety test standards.

These test standards are not developed or issued by OSHA, but are issued by U.S. standards organizations, such as:

A) the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) safety-designated product standard, or
B) the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) test standard used for evaluation of products or materials.

The range of products covered by the Program is limited to those items for which OSHA safety standards require "certification" by an NRTL. The requirements mainly affect electrical products.

Recognition is granted to organizations that meet the requirements established by OSHA for an NRTL. The Program regulations list the requirements, which are summarized as follows:

1. Capability (including proper testing equipment and facilities, trained staff, written test procedures, and quality assurance programs) to test and evaluate equipment for conformance with appropriate test standards.

2. Adequate controls for the identification of certified products, and for conducting follow-up inspections of actual production.

3. Complete independence from users (i.e., employers subject to the tested equipment requirements) and from any manufacturers or vendors of the certified products.

4. Effective procedures for producing its findings and for handling complaints and disputes.

Which NRTL's Label Should I Trust?

All NRTL marks demonstrate that the product that bears it has met the minimum requirements of widely accepted (consensus) product safety standards as determined through the independent testing of a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). And, as part of that testing regimen, the product manufacturer has agreed to periodic follow-up inspections to verify continued compliance.

The only real difference between the marks is in the service, and services of the testing laboratory behind them.

NRTL Certification Marks

Each NRTL uses certification marks that they have registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office to certify products for purposes of OSHA product-approval requirements.

However, the presence of the mark on a product does not necessarily mean that it meets OSHA requirements, since NRTLs sometimes use these same or similar marks for non-OSHA purposes.

OSHA accepts only those products that contain the NRTL's mark and that the NRTL has certified within its scope of recognition, which includes the test standards and testing sites that OSHA has recognized for the NRTL.

See the OSHA web page for the Office of Technical Programs & Coordination Activities (OTPCA) (http://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html) for information on each NRTL's scope of recognition, or contact OSHA or the NRTL for additional information.

FM Approvals LLC (FM)

FM Approvals LLC, formerly Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FM) is recognized by OSHA as an NRTL for the following consensus standards which apply to material handling equipment:

Product Standard UL 558 - Industrial Trucks, Internal Combustion Engine-Powered

Product Standard UL 583 - Electric-Battery-Powered Industrial Trucks

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL)

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is recognized by OSHA as an NRTL for the following consensus standards which apply to material handling equipment:

Product Standard ANSI / UL 558 - Industrial Trucks, Internal Combustion Engine-Powered

Product Standard ANSI / UL 583 - Electric-Battery-Powered Industrial Trucks

Certification - Listing - Approval

Certification is often mistakenly referred to as an "approval" which is often not true.

Some NRTL's for instance, only "list", they do not approve anything except the use of the mark to show that a product has been certified as meeting the consensus standard.

Approvals are up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

FM Global does use the term "Approvals" for its certification listings, which are intended for use of the products within buildings that are insured by FM Global.

What is FM?

FM Global is a commercial property insurance company.

FM Global offers worldwide industrial and commercial product certification and testing services through FM Approvals.

FM Approvals offers certification services to manufacturers of fire protection equipment, electrical equipment, hazardous location equipment, fire and smoke detection, signaling and other electrical equipment, building materials and cleanroom materials.

FM Approvals is one of the NRTL's.

What is UL?

UL's Web site states: "UL is the trusted source across the globe for product compliance. Benefiting a range of customers - from manufacturers and retailers to consumers and regulating bodies - we've tested products for public safety for more than a century."

UL is one of OSHA's NRTL's.

And, because UL also performs certification testing on a wide variety of consumer products, the UL label is probably the certification mark that is the most well recognized by the general public.