by Tom Adams
Since 1983, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with Underwriters Lab, and we take great pride in our ability to put the UL certified sticker on the control panels we build. But do you know what that certification means and why it’s important?
Virtually all cities and states require a third party inspection of industrial control panels in order for those panels to be brought on line. They do this to assure that the panels operate safely. That means they won’t cause shocks or fires. Inherent in this requirement is the issuance of standards that panel builders must adhere to. Building/electrical inspectors around the county insist on such third party inspection.
To earn the right to put UL-certified stickers on our panels, our procurement and production processes, in addition to our finished panels, must undergo examination and inspection on a regular basis. Because of the volume of panels we produce, we are inspected by UL examiners monthly.
There are three different certifications that we are allowed to apply to our panels. The primary certification for industrial control panels is UL 508A. This essentially parallels the National Electrical Code and assures that we are in compliance with it for such products.
Because we work in many industries that have hazardous environments, we have also obtained UL 698A certification which addresses panels installed in locations with intrinsically safe circuit extensions into the following hazardous locations: Class I-Division 1; Class 1-Zone 0 and Zone 1; Class II-Division 1; Class III-Division 1; and Zone 20 and Zone 21.
An even more stringent version of UL 698A certification is the UL 698 NNNY Category for panels actually located in a hazardous location. This certification involves explosion-proof panels, and, depending on the environment class, can require purge/pressurization or non-incendiary features.
A significant share of our business involves building panels that our customers design, referred to as build-to-print. Using our expertise in UL requirements, we will review customer designs to determine any changes that may be needed to allow the certification label to be applied when we build the panels. Additionally, we can go to a customer’s location to examine in-place panels for compliance and apply the labels to the installed panels.
We are also qualified to place CSA labels on panels. This is a Canadian standards organization, and their label is often required for panels that will be installed in Canada. We also have experience applying the CE label, a requirement for European installations.
Third party inspection is a virtual universal requirement across the country, and without it, your panels, and the related equipment and processes controlled by those panels, will not be allowed to go on line. But even more importantly, the safety and well-being of your employees and your plant could be put at risk if you put in place panels that don’t meet third party inspection requirements, and the safety standards inherent in those requirements.