At Big Ass Fans, safety is our top concern. We own the world’s only research-and-development laboratory built specifically for testing large-diameter fans. Beyond the extensive testing conducted by our more than 75 degreed engineers, our products proudly carry Intertek’s ETL Mark or the TÜV SÜD America blue octagon as proof they meet North American safety standards. Intertek/ETL and TÜV SÜD America are two of more than a dozen official Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories, or NRTLs, as designated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the United States Department of Labor (https://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/nrtllist.html). Occasionally questions arise and, unfortunately, misinformation is promulgated about the use and acceptance of testing services other than Underwriters Laboratories (UL), another NRTL on OSHA’s list. Read on to learn more about Intertek’s and TÜV SÜD’s history and how their marks are a sign of product safety.

The original Electrical Testing Labs (ETL) was founded by Thomas Edison in 1896 to address concerns of lamp safety and performance. Edison sought to provide assurance to consumers through a variety of tests. Over the next few decades, ETL grew to provide testing to General Electric and other industries. In 1988, ETL was acquired by the global testing and certification company now called Intertek, which dates back to the 1880s.

Today, Intertek/ETL is the largest tester of consumer products in the world. Its certifications of product safety are done to precisely the same standards and carry the same value as UL and every other NRTL. The ETL Mark is accepted by retailers from McDonald’s to IKEA to Sears to Wal-Mart.

TÜV SÜD’s roots go back even further, dating to 1866 and steam boiler inspection in Germany. In the century and a half since, TÜV SÜD and its subsidiaries have grown into a global provider of product testing and other technical services.

Big Ass Fans, like thousands of other responsible, engaged and progressive companies globally, chooses to use Intertek, TÜV SÜD and other NRTL certification entities for the testing and certification of its products. Which NRTL entity a company chooses to test and certify its products is an individual decision. They key is that each NRTL certified lab is accredited to perform the certifications, just like all the others.

Are all NRTL marks the legal equivalent to the UL Listed Marks?

Yes. The true legal requirement to test and certify products for sale in the United States is a designation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). An NRTL functions to provide independent evaluation, testing, and certification of any electrically operated or gas- and oil-fired product. A product bearing any NRTL mark is determined to have met the minimum requirements of prescribed product safety standards. Moreover, the mark indicates that Big Ass Fans’ manufacturing facilities conform to a range of compliance measures and are subject to periodic follow-up inspections to verify continued conformance.

What is the difference between the UL and other NRTL marks?

Nothing. All NRTL marks demonstrate that the product that bears it has met the minimum requirements of widely accepted 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.

What are the specifics of the NRTL program?

The Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) program is part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Directorate of Technical Support. As part of OSHA’s directive to ensure that products are safe for use in the U.S. workplace, the NRTL program recognizes the capabilities of private sector organizations to determine if specific products meet consensus safety standards. OSHA safety standards are United States law and can be found in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). More specifically, the provisions for NRTL certification can be found within Part 1910 of the CFR (29 CFR Part 1910). It is important to note that OSHA’s recognition of an NRTL is not a grant of government authority, but rather an acknowledgment of the organization’s ability to perform product safety testing and certification within the scope of its OSHA recognition.

Aren’t manufacturers required to use UL for their compliance testing? Isn’t this mandated by the standards themselves?

No. In fact, this misconception has led many manufacturers to believe that they don’t have a choice in their third-party testing partner. To satisfy the prerequisite of having your products tested by an independent organization, the true legal requirement is that the laboratory that performs the testing be among the more than 15 Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

If you have further questions about certifications for any Big Ass Fans products, send a message to certifications@bigassfans.com.