We’ve all heard the horror stories of a restorer’s equipment catching fire in a customer’s home. What if that happened on one of your jobs? Is the manufacturer of the equipment the only one at fault? The answers may surprise you. You chose and purchased the equipment. You maintain it. You brought it onto the customer’s property. You are also liable if something goes wrong. But how can you limit your liability?
A common misperception in the restoration industry is that all of the electrical equipment on the market has been tested and certified to meet applicable safety standards. This would seem logical considering the fact that restorers and contractors often use this equipment under extreme conditions.
What happens if an air mover isn’t tested to run continuously for hours or even days? What if motor temperature, housing flammability, grounding integrity or other safety issues are never tested? How about cycle testing – on/off, on/off?
Should you care? If certain manufacturers are not spending the time and money on this testing, should other manufacturers bother? Does it make a difference in your purchasing decisions? We all want to know specifications such as amp draw, cfm, etc.; but shouldn’t we be just as concerned if an air mover, portable air scrubber, dehumidifier, etc. is approved to operate safely under our work conditions? Shouldn’t contractors consider safety and their liability at least as important as price and performance?
Most IICRC instructors emphasize safety from the first day of class. I certainly did when I was a trainer. Every contractor must insure that their employees and customers are not subjected to unsafe or potentially dangerous conditions. One way you can do this is to make certain that your equipment has been tested and certified to applicable safety standards.
The testing and certification process is time-consuming and costly. It starts by submitting equipment for rigorous testing at an OSHA-accepted Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), such as Intertek Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Testing a piece of equipment can range from $5,000-$20,000 and can take up to three months to complete. It is important to note that even if the unit’s components are certified, the unit as a whole must go through the entire process as well. Stating a “UL approved motor” only means the motor has been approved, not the unit in which the motor is operating.
OHSA safety standards for construction and general industry require the use of electrical products that meet applicable UL standards per the NEC (National Electrical Code). Products simply made with UL Recognized components do not meet this requirement. The only way to know that the overall product has met required safety standards is if it has been tested and listed by a NRTL.
Unless a unit is tested, end-users have no way of knowing whether it is properly and safely designed to meet the requirements of the applicable electrical and safety codes. For liability issues, it is wise to require that the products you purchase are NRTL certified and bear the label showing the certification In the USA.
OSHA safety standards for General Industry and Construction (OSHA 29 CFR Part 1910 and Part 1926.20) and the National Electrical Code (UL 507 Fans and Blowers Standard) require testing and listing (certification) of electrical products to applicable standards. Most manufacturers state certification in the unit’s manual.
Electrical safety is only part of the picture. Flammability is a major consideration in the testing process. Many of the plastic resins commonly used are highly flammable and not intended or rated for use as enclosures housing energized electrical components. Cabinets made with these resins can burn aggressively if exposed to a flame.
There is only one way to ensure that a product is fire safe: make sure that the manufacturer has submitted to a NRTL, such as UL, ETL or CSA for thorough testing and that the NRTL has certified it to pass the UL flammability and flame-spread standards.
Besides employee and customer safety and contractor liability , there are other potential equipment safety ramifications such as OSHA fines, increased Worker’s Compensation rates, occupant and building owner lawsuits as well as emotional effects from causing serious injuries
Safety considerations should be at the top of everyone’s list when making purchasing decisions. The cost of using non-certified equipment could potentially be many times what you “saved” in the purchase price.