Product Testing, Certification and the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories
The Measurement, Control & Automation Association believes that the current Product Approval Process is broken. The Association has been looking at the process for many years and developing a game plan to try to improve it.
A committee of MCAA manufacturing members have been working with OSHA to improve the product approval process. For a background summary of our activities or a list of our NRTL policy regarding certification of products for use in flammable atmosphere, please click the buttons below for more information.
The issues we look to address fall under the broader context of overly restrictive governmental rules and the special issue of “regulatory capture”. This latter term is defined by Wikipedia as “a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure; it creates an opening for firms to behave in ways injurious to the public (e.g., producing negative externalities). The agencies are called “captured agencies”.” To be fair, OSHA’s complicity in the matter is more one of omission rather than commission or, in our opinion, a failure to write rules sufficiently strong to prevent or at least strongly discourage the creation of monopolistic enterprises among the NRTL’s.
The Association’s game plan addresses five avenues along which the Product Approvals Process Committee will work in order to achieve the goals:
1. Increase cross-recognition of product testing and production audit results between NRTL’s on a voluntary basis.
2. Support and track harmonization of individual NRTL standards to IEC equivalent standards and identify the local (USA) exceptions which may be raised.
3. Encourage OSHA to create new rules that breakdown the monopolistic behaviors and outcomes the current NRTL program unintentionally promotes.
4. Educate MCAA members, MCAA customers, local authorities and industry press about the actual intent of the NRTL program, the current aberrations in the program, proposals to correct the program and the interchangeability of OSHA accepted approval standards and NRTL’s for the full range of protection schemes available in the USA.
5. Seek out potential allies from among other industry trade associations, technical societies, influential individuals and relevant political persons. Cultivate and create public visibility of shared goals and strategies among these allies on this topic. Leverage the combined strengths of the commonly aligned organizations towards achieving the sought after improvements in operational efficiencies in the NRTL program.
In the fall of 2014 OSHA held a Stakeholder’s Meeting to hear reaction to a variety of proposals they have made to change the current system. MCAA filed comments in advance of the meeting and the proposals, and our comments are available HERE. A summary of that meeting is available HERE. MCAA’s 2014 Chairman, Todd Lucey, General Manager of Endress+Hauser made a presentation at that meeting and Vice Chairman Robert Carrell (Hoffer Flow), and 3 other member company representatives also attended the meeting. MCAA plans to file informal comments with OSHA to reinforce our positions and urge OSHA to consider a Regulatory change that would permit some of the issues that we care most deeply about to become policy. OSHA has published all of the comments and the presentations HERE and we have created a Zip file of those documents for your convenience in downloading from our site.
Information about the NRTL program has been briefly outlined in a one-page document as well as a summary and scope of the current recognized laboratories which outlines their capability to test to the variety of standards applicable to products in our industry.
In 1999 and again in 2006 MCAA requested the following information from Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) which are among the 18 certified by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA):
- Capabilities to test/approve products (instruments/systems used in process control and factory automation to measure or control a variety of parameters such as weight, level, flow, temperature, physical or chemical properties including field measurement and centralized control systems) under standards for explosion proof (division 1 and 2), intrinsically safe and general-purpose design in both hazardous and non-hazardous locations.
- The typical approval period from time of application through to certification for shipment.
- All test locations capable of such test and approval and the most senior contact person at each such location responsible for the approval process.
- Any additional information that would be useful to our members in obtaining timely testing and approval of their products.