Staying compliant with electrical product safety in the United States can be a challenge. Here is a basic primer for contractors and facility owners.
Electrical product safety is specified at the federal level and the local level:
- Federal law governs electrical equipment utilized in the workplace
- Local building code officials enforce local standards ordinances and laws pertinent to a given occupancy
On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires safety for employees. As specified in 29CFR1910 subpart S, electrical equipment used in the workplace must be certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), like MET Labs.
Approval of NRTL certifications is governed by the policies of the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), which is typically a governmental electrical inspector, fire marshal or third party inspection agency.
The AHJ also enforces local building codes. These codes can be state, county, or city, and they do not apply to equipment used by employees in the workplace. Historically, electrical inspectors have only looked at the fixed wiring within the installation, but have recently increased surveillance of installed equipment for electrical safety compliance.
There are thousands of local jurisdictions in the U.S., and regulations are not uniform across all localities. The AHJ can defer to the NRTL recognition (as with San Francisco) or may specify its own list of approved labs for product certification.
Typically, local code is based on NFPA 70 National Electrical Code (NEC), although there are addendums to the NEC in many jurisdictions.
Under local electrical codes, an inspector must sign off on the installation before it can be energized. If the equipment is not already safety certified (listed or labeled), it can be field evaluated if required by the AHJ to satisfy the requirements of federal or local regulations.
Read more about field evaluation and listing/labeling.