Recently we ran a short mini-survey to learn from our members what their experience is with standards for hazloc instrumentation. Members noted that a very wide variety of standards are used with their products including ATEX, IECEx, FM, UL and CSA Standards as well as many from countries around the world including Canada, Russia, Brazil, Korea and the European Union. We asked members whether they had experience with an NRTL refusing to accept the test reports from another NRTL for use in a new certification of the same product to the same hazardous area rating. This does appear to be a common source of delay and cost among companies seeking the same safety scheme certification for the same product at multiple NRTLs. Lack of reciprocal treatment has long been identified by MCAA and its member company representatives as a critical bottleneck in the certification of their products. We especially note that customers often know nothing about the NRTL program run by a department within the Occupational Health & Safety Administration and specify that products must carry a specific testing laboratory mark. One-by-one education of customers is not a viable option.

This NRTL program has been identified by some as a “Regulatory Capture” situation. Wikipedia defines Regulatory Capture 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.” In this case, OSHA has been “captured” by some of the large NRTLs who were recognized by OSHA for product testing before the NRTL program was thrust on them by a court decision. The regulations that frame the program favor practices that help the NRTLs, not product manufacturers and which have no bearing on product safety. Additionally, the practices put American businesses behind the 8-ball in competing with products from sources around the world.

Last fall, we attended a Stakeholders Meeting held by OSHA and it seemed to us that the OSHA staff may have gotten the Regulatory Capture message and are going to propose some changes in the program that could significantly ease the time delays and cost issues that our members face. A significant one is a proposal to separate the testing function from the certification function. By default, NRTLs requested to certify a product would have to accept the test data from any recognized testing laboratory.

MCAA has other issues with the NRTL program including the the use of proprietary standards rather than ANSI-approved and the frequency of factory inspections. Does this strike a chord with you? Please contact me and serve on the Product Approvals Process Committee which is again ramping up its efforts to push OSHA forward to remove the mantle of Regulatory Capture.