Why that little ETL logo is so important

Equipment testing standards aren’t something that should be taken for granted.

We’ve all seen it before. That little circular logo on countless products we buy. Very seldom do we ever really give it a second thought, but the ETL mark carries with it a great deal of weight, and there are good reasons why, especially when we get in to heavy duty industrial machinery like spray booths and finishing equipment.

Any equipment or components that do not bear the mark have obviously not been tested to the same standards as products that do bear the mark, and therefore it cannot be determined with certainty what testing processes were used in the development of that product, or even if it complies with the most basic safety standards. This can have disastrous effects when dealing with the type of equipment and components typically found inside paint booths and finishing equipment such as high-powered electric motors, high-speed turbine fans, control panels, and explosion-proof lights.

On the Intertek ETL testing labs website, there is an extremely helpful FAQ section that details the real benefits to making sure that the products your purchasing carry the ETL label. Here are a few excerpts from it that we feel are particularly important from a capital-equipment perspective:
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What does the ETL Listed Mark mean when displayed on my product?
In short, the ETL Listed Mark indicates that your product has been tested by Intertek, found in compliance with accepted national standards, and meets the minimal requirements required for sale or distribution. To your distributors, retailers, and customers, the ETL Mark is assurance that the product is compliant with safety standards, having been tested and certified by a third-party organization.

Aren’t manufacturers required to use UL for their compliance testing? Isn’t this mandated by the standards themselves?
The simple answer to both questions is “no.” In fact, this misconception has misled 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 which performs the testing be a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) recognized by OSHA. Intertek is recognized worldwide as a competent testing, inspection, and certification organization, and our ETL Listed Mark serves as proof of product compliance with U.S. standards.

What’s the difference between the UL, CSA, and ETL Listed Marks?
Both 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. The only real difference between the Marks is in the service, and services, of the testing laboratory behind them. It’s here that Intertek’s clients enjoy the real differences between UL and ETL. Our custom-tailored testing, quick turnarounds, and flexible work methods are literally changing the face of the industry by promoting an environment where the testing lab and product manufacturer work more collaboratively. Together, we deliver products to market more quickly, more smoothly, and more cost-effectively than ever before.

Do local inspectors know the ETL Listed Mark?
Yes. The ETL Listed Mark is recognized by local inspectors and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) throughout North America and also in some areas of South America. As Intertek is an NRTL recognized by OSHA, the ETL Listed Mark is an accepted option to UL and, as such, inspectors and AHJs recognize, acknowledge, and accept the mark as proof of product compliance.

What are the variations of the ETL Listed Mark?
A product bearing the ETL Listed mark with the “us” identifier at the 4 o’clock position has been tested and deemed compliant to U.S. product safety standards only. An ETL Listed mark with a “c” identifier at the 8 o’clock position means the product bearing it complies with Canadian product safety standards only. And an ETL Listed mark with both “us” and “c” identifiers at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions respectively, signifies that the product bearing the mark complies with both U.S. and Canadian product safety standards.
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There are many more answers listed on the page, and if you’d like to read more, you can find it here:
Intertek ETL FAQ Page

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