Lighting products may present hazards if not properly designed and constructed. These hazards include fire, electrical shock, and physical injury. To reduce these risks, nationally accredited safety standards specify testing and construction requirements for lighting equipment. These safety standards are developed in a consensus process by technical panels composed of diverse stakeholders including safety experts, product experts, product users, and regulators. Lighting product safety standards are primarily developed by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) in the United States, and The CSA Group (CSA) in Canada.
In both countries, wiring regulations are enforced to help ensure safe installation and use of electrical equipment. In the United States the National Electrical Code (NFPA-70)[i] applies, while the Canadian Electrical Code Part I, Safety Standards for Electrical Installations (CSA C22.1)[ii], applies in Canada. Both specify that luminaires (lighting fixtures) must be certified compliant with the appropriate safety standards.
It is apparent that there is a robust system in place to help ensure lighting safety. This system depends on products being certified. Without this certification, the product you buy may be hazardous.
Who certifies products?
While Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and The CSA Group (CSA) are standards developers, the also certify products. However, UL and CSA are not the only accredited testing laboratories that can certify a product. Other lighting product certifiers include Intertek (ETL), QAI Laboratories (QAI), and TÜV SÜD America Inc. (TUV).
How can I tell if a lighting device is certified for safety?
All product certifiers have a certification mark that is applied to products that comply with the safety standards. Manufacturers typically mention the safety certification in product descriptions or specifications. Product certifiers maintain on-line searchable directories of certified products that can be accessed to determine if a product is certified. Examples of certification marks:
Here are links to the on-line searchable directories of certified products:
Intertek - ETL
What is involved in getting a product certified?
A manufacturer contracts an accredited independent test laboratory that oversees product testing and construction evaluation. When the test laboratory judges that a product complies with the relevant safety standards, the manufacturer is authorized to apply the certification mark on the product. Ongoing factory audits, conducted by the test laboratory, help ensure continued product compliance. The test laboratories also maintain a published list of certified products.
Is CE a certification mark?
For lighting products, the “CE” symbol is a manufacturer’s self-declaration of conformity with applicable European Union (EU) directives. EU lighting safety standards are not typically adopted in North America. This is primarily due to differences in voltage, frequency, and electrical infrastructure. Therefore, the CE is not an appropriate certification mark for products sold in the US and Canada.
How can I be sure that the lighting equipment I buy has been certified for safety?
If you shop at a lighting showroom, your customer service representative will be able to confirm that the lighting equipment you are considering is certified. At mass retailers and on-line, product certification may not be as easily confirmed. While retail packaging may optionally exhibit the certification mark, the certification mark is only required on the actual product. So, personnel at a retail store may not know if a product is certified without opening the package. Online product descriptions do not consistently state if a product is certified, so you may not be able to confirm if the product has a safety certification until you receive and open it.
Why do some lightbulbs have certification marks and others do not?
Older metal and glass lightbulbs, such as incandescent lamps and fluorescent tubes, require a highly specialized manufacturing process to produce. Safety considerations are integrated in the manufacturing process and are statistically controlled, these bulbs are therefore not certified. However, newer lamps with integrated electronics, such as LED and CFL, rely on product safety standards and are therefore certified.
Is product certification important to my electrician?
Since electricians are typically required to be licensed, they are well versed on electrical code requirements. Accordingly, they understand the importance of product certification and may refuse to install a product that is not properly certified. Also, if the installation will be subject to an inspection by the local building authorities, products lacking the correct certification can be cause for rejection. Installing a lighting product that does not have a safety certification may also have liability implications.
I have a 3D printed desk lamp that has a socket that has a listing mark inside it, where the bulb goes, but I see no other listing marks. Is this desk lamp properly certified?
Electrical components, like sockets, in-line switches and dimmers, flexible cords, or attachment plugs, need to comply with their individual safety standards and sometimes show a component listing mark as evidence. However, just because component parts are listed does not mean that the complete product using them meets the safety standard that applies to it.
I would like to change a shade on a light fixture. Will this impact safety?
The size, shape and materials of a shade can impact the product operating temperature. This can result in damage to the product and increase the risk of hazardous conditions. Unless the original manufacturer’s suggested alternate or replacement shade is used, making such a product change will void the product safety certification.
[i] Free access to NFPA 70: NEC
[ii] Free access in Canada: CEC
ALA – 6/23/21