The great NRTL debate!

Got my email newsletter from Ken Kirschenbaum today and was interested to see lots of input from various industry players on the NRTL debate and the rise of Intertek/ETL. I wrote about this before, as did my colleague, Martha. I like Kirshenbaum's email's. They're frequent, touch on important issues and include input from many industry luminaries. You can sign up for Ken's newsletter here. Ken opens the newsletter thusly:
The issue is NRTL and ANSI. Nationaly Recognized Testing Labs. American National Standards Institute. Most familiar, at least to me, is UL. you need to be UL listed in order to issue UL Certificates. In NYC you need UL listing for your central station before applying for approval to monitor fire alarms in the City of New York. But NYC FD will accept any NRTL listing. UL isn't the only NRTL. ETL/Intertek is another. FM, which stands for Factory Mutual, is another NRTL that lists central stations for fire alarm monitoring only. ETL and UL list for fire alarm and burglary.
So what's the big deal? Why is ETL's entry into the NRTL space ruffling some feathers? Ken then goes on to add newsletter reader commentary. Mark Hillenburg of Digital Monitoring Products had this to say:
Actually, the Standards are not UL standards; they are ANSI standards and are therefore available for any NRTL to test to under the authority of OSHA ... We recently brought a new control panel to market. A WHOLE NEW PANEL. ETL had all the testing done and completed by the time that UL got back to us with the quote. You guys couldn't stay in business if you were that lax in getting your customers quotes. We're talking about testing to the exact same standards as ANSI in the exact same rigorous manner. The costs are only slightly lower, but the time savings is a fraction of the time to do a UL project. This is why most of the manufacturers are moving to ETL, because they will actually get your project done in a time frame that the product is still relevant when you can introduce it. At the end of the day, our economic system is founded on competition and competition makes all of us better.
That makes sense to me. More competition on any playing field assures better pricing, better service, better quality, better standards, etc. It's the American way. Thomas F. Connaughton of Intertek spoke up with the following:
Why did Intertek enter the Life Safety and Security space? Manufacturers wanted and needed CHOICE in NRTLs ... During our product service launch to the manufacturing community it became clearly evident that these companies [central stations and ASCs] were also in in need of a choice in third party certification. Why? Their current service provider accepts only 1 NRTL brand (their own) which puts owners, operators and service professionals at a distinct disadvantage as the manufacturing community continues to diversify their NRTL providers, be it Intertek and our ETL brand, FM, CSA, etc. Their pool of acceptable and available equipment will continue to shrink as competitor market share grows. History shows that as the goods pool shrinks, the costs of these goods will rise directly impacting these organizations. In addition, when an organization has a CHOICE regarding the equipment that they can purchase and use they can effectively manage their bottom line (while still complying with the OSHA NRTL third party requirements).
Again, it's all about choice, and as long as their testing to the same standards as the other NRTLs, choice is a good thing. Bart Didden of U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp. was pleased with the discussion but advocated for UL more than some others.
So many correct points have been made about the Standards and ANSI and NRTLs, I love it--more great information ... Remember, I am all about increasing PROFITS, maximizing return on investment (ROI), and separating my organization from those who are substandard ... SOON WE WILL PRESS FOR AN ADDITIONAL LISTING CATEGORY FROM UL FOR MULTI- OFFICE CONFIGURATION, and if UL won't author it with us we can go to NBFAA (ESA) and get it done. But back to certificates because that is where the money is. Let's hear about how is ETL going to support the creation of more jurisdictions requiring certificates. UL, for all its faults has been working with various CSAA committees to expand these jurisdictions for years. If equality for ETL begins to dilute that effort, as small as it may be and does not pick up the shortfall, we will be the ones that lose in the long run.
Pete Tallman from UL added his voice to the discussion as well:
The alarm industry really consists of two parts: 1) manufacturers of equipment and 2) alarm services companies. OSHA's NRTL program only addresses organizations that assess the equipment and materials for manufacturer's so that an OSHA inspector can determine a product installed int he work place is safe. The eveluation of alarm service companies and the alarm systems they install, service, maintain and often monitor is beyond the scope of OSHA's NRTL program. So being a NRTL has no relevance to the certification of alarm services or the evaluation of central stations. Does that mean being a NRTL is a bad thing? Of course not. Nor does it mean that as a NRTL the organization necessarily has competency in the alarm service side of the industry. What is important is to tone down and clarify the sweeping claims and broad statements being made by others that have in effect brought confusion to a relatively simple question. What is relevant in a discussion about the certification of alarm systems and central stations is competency of the staff performing those assessments. Competency of staff which can only be determined by technical certifications such as NICET and independent accreditation agencies assessing the process by which staff makes certification decisions, not by having an OSHA designation of being a NRTL. All will agree that the industry should have choices; but let's agree to ensure that the industry has correct information from which to make an educated choice.
It's an interesting debate.


[...] blogged last year on the great NRTL debate. There was a kind of a showdown brewing between the old standby nationally recognized testing labs [...]