On the job, you’ve probably seen the UL Mark on a control panel, motion detector, locking mechanism or some other form of electronic security and life-safety product. At home, you might see it on your toaster, hairdryer, lamp, or another electronic or electrical product used in your daily routine.
Regardless of whether you’ve seen it on the job or in your home, most people will encounter dozens of products on a daily basis that have earned the UL Mark. But do most of them understand what is behind the UL Mark and what it means in terms of safety? Do most of them understand the product certification process, and what it means when a product or system has earned a UL Mark?
We will forge ahead to answer those questions as well as how they specifically apply to the electronic security industry. Better understanding what UL stands for, its focus and application provides systems integrators with the knowledge they need to make the best, informed decisions for their businesses and customers.
What UL and the UL Mark Mean for Billions of Products Worldwide
The UL Listing Mark on a product indicates that samples of the product have been tested against nationally recognized safety standards and found to be reasonably free from foreseeable risk of fire, electric shock and related hazards. Billions of products — yes, that’s billions with a “b” — all over the world bear the UL Mark. In the electronic security and fire industries, an additional element of performance testing is required to earn the UL Mark.
While there are other reputable testing and certification companies located throughout the world offering their own certification marks, what makes the UL Mark so distinctive is what transpires before and after a product or company earns the Mark.
Receiving authorization to use the UL Mark is only the beginning. A product must maintain safety requirements in order to continue to use the UL Mark. UL field representatives worldwide are trained to periodically visit manufacturing facilities to audit manufacturer programs and to determine that the products coming off the production line continue to meet UL’s safety requirements.
Unannounced factory inspections — at least four visits per year at a minimum per facility — help to determine that the product consistently meets safety requirements. These regular visits that take place during the lifetime of a product’s UL certification help protect the integrity of the UL Mark and are what distinguishes the Mark in the marketplace.
Electrical Fires Ignited Birth of UL More Than 100 Years Ago
UL is an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization. UL was founded in 1894 as a result of the insurance industry’s concerns about electrical fires during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Since that time, fire safety and security have been at the core of UL’s existence.
The UL family of companies has more than 62 facilities worldwide and nearly 6,000 employees, many of which are employed in the engineering discipline. Many people mistakenly think of UL as a government agency, trade association, professional society, publicly traded company or simply a for-profit company. In fact, UL is none of these.
UL’s mission is public safety. Its goal is to help companies bring safer products to the global marketplace, while supporting the management and quality system processes of these same companies. The entire UL team is charged with supporting this mission and goal on a daily basis. For example, UL’s Regulatory Services group interacts and supports thousands of jurisdictional authorities; working to provide them with information regarding UL-certified products as well as help them answer any code-related questions. UL’s Certificate Services group also interacts with jurisdictional authorities as well as with UL fire and security customers to help all parties work toward the common goal of providing the appropriate information necessary to address regulatory needs.
UL’s Conformity Assessment group tests and evaluates products for safety and authorizes the use of the UL Mark on compliant products. UL’s Follow-Up Services group establishes continued safety compliance of products by performing unannounced manufacturer product facility inspections. UL’s Sales and Customer Service groups work with manufacturing clients to facilitate the process of achieving UL certification. All of these groups serve diverse functions, but they all share in UL’s overall public safety mission.
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