Electrical products and NRTLs

Logos courtesy of OSHA and the European Commission on Enterprise.

Logos courtesy of OSHA and the European Commission on Enterprise.

There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of electrical appliances and products across the Fermilab site. We expect that if a product comes with a cord and a plug, we can plug it into a receptacle and be safe. That’s not always true, though. Electrical products of inferior quality can be legally sold and bought that may not be safe to use.

The Department of Energy, which owns the Fermilab site, has a higher standard that we, by contract, must follow. All electrical products here must be listed by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) or pass a special inspection by electrical and fire protection SMEs. The special inspections are reserved for experimental apparatus and unique or limited-production equipment, such as the ones that power our accelerators.

If a product plugs into an electrical receptacle (outlet), it must be listed by a NRTL if you want to use it at Fermilab. This applies to items that you bring onto the lab site (even a cell phone charger), as well as products that the laboratory buys. If something is NRTL-listed, it will bear that NRTL’s seal on a label or embossed into its case. You can see examples of some of the more common NRTL seals to the left. Please note that a CE (European Conformity) mark is not a NRTL seal and does not meet this requirement.

A NRTL seal alone is no guarantee that a product will meet your needs. You may want a product to meet higher standards, but those standards have to be in addition to, not in place of, a NRTL listing.

If you buy electrical products for the laboratory, it is your responsibility to be sure that the products you buy are NRTL-listed prior to purchase. If you use electrical products, it is your responsibility to check for that NRTL seal before placing a product into service.

There is an increasing problem with counterfeit NRTL seals. Many seals are now printed on holographic stickers to make counterfeiting more difficult. If you have or receive products with an odd-looking NRTL seal or that otherwise don’t look right, please do not use that product and notify your Suspect / Counterfeit Item (S/CI) coordinator.

If you have any questions or concerns about electrical products and NRTL listings, please contact your Electrical Coordinators or Division Safety Officers.