• Publication Date:
  • Publication Type:
  • Fed Register #:
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  • Title:
    Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories; Supplier's Declaration of Conformity
[Federal Register: November 15, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 219)][Notices]               [Page 69355-69359]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Occupational Safety and Health Administration

[Docket No. NRTL03-SDOC]
RIN 1218-AC21

Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories; Supplier's 
Declaration of Conformity

AGENCY: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Labor.

ACTION: Request for information.


SUMMARY: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 
requests comments on a specific proposal submitted to OSHA to permit 
the use of a Supplier's Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) as part of, or 
as an alternative to, the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories 
(NRTLs) product approval process.

DATES: You must submit information or comments by the following dates:
    Hard copy: Your information or comments must be submitted 
(postmarked or sent) by February 13, 2006.
    Electronic transmission or facsimile: Your comments must be sent by 
February 13, 2006.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information or comments to this Request for 
Information, identified by docket number NRTL03-SDOC, by any of the 
following methods:
    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
instructions for submitting comments.
    OSHA Web site: http://ecomments.osha.gov. Follow the instructions 
for submitting comments on OSHA's Web page.
    Fax: If your written comments are 10 pages or fewer, you may fax 
them to the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-1648.
    Regular mail, express delivery, hand delivery and courier service: 
Submit three copies to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. NRTL03-SDOC, 
U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room N-2625, 
Washington, DC 20210; telephone (202) 693-2350. (OSHA's TTY number is 
(877) 889-5627). OSHA Docket Office hours of operation are 8:15 a.m. to 
4:45 p.m., e.s.t.
    Instructions: All comments received will be posted without change 
to http://dockets.osha.gov, including any personal information 
provided. OSHA cautions you about submitting personal information such 
as social security numbers and birth dates.
    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments received, go to http://dockets.osha.gov. Contact the OSHA 

Docket Office for information about materials not available through the 
OSHA Web page and for assistance in using the Web page to locate docket 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Press inquiries: Kevin Ropp, Director, 
OSHA Office of Communications, Room N-3647, U.S. Department of Labor, 
200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. Telephone: (202) 
693-1999. General and Technical information: MaryAnn Garrahan, Office 
of Technical Programs and Coordination Activities, NRTL Program, Room 
N-3653 at the address shown immediately above. Telephone: (202) 693-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: OSHA requests information and comments on a 
specific proposal submitted to OSHA to permit the use of a Supplier's 
Declaration of Conformity (SDoC) as part of, or as an alternative to, 
the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) product approval 
process. To help the public better understand the issues presented in 
this Request for Information (RFI), OSHA is first providing information 
about its current requirements regarding NRTLs and product approval. 
This RFI then describes and asks specific questions about the SDoC 
proposal submitted to OSHA.

I. Background

A. What Are NRTLs?

    NRTLs are qualified private organizations that meet the 
requirements in 29 CFR 1910.7 to perform independent (i.e., third-
party) safety testing and product certification, and thereby receive 
OSHA recognition. To be recognized by OSHA as an NRTL, an organization 
must: (1) Have the appropriate capability to test and evaluate products 
for workplace safety purposes; (2) be completely independent of the 
manufacturers, vendors, and users of the products for which OSHA 
requires certification; (3) have internal programs that ensure proper 
control of the testing and certification process; and (4) establish 
effective reporting and complaint handling procedures (29 CFR 
    Many of OSHA's workplace standards require that certain types of 
equipment be approved (i.e., tested and certified) by an NRTL. (In this 
RFI, OSHA refers to these provisions as ``NRTL approval 
requirements.'') Most of OSHA's standards that require NRTL approval of 
equipment (also called ``products'' herein) used in the workplace are 
found in the Agency's General Industry standards, 29 CFR Part 1910. For 
example, 29 CFR 1910.303(a) (read together with the definitions of 
``approved'' and ``acceptable'' in 29 CFR 1910.399) generally requires 
electric equipment or products used in the workplace to be approved by 
NRTLs. The term most often used in the standards to require NRTL 
approval is the term ``approved.'' Other terms in the standards that 
require NRTL approval include ``certified,'' ``listed,'' and ``listed 
and labeled.'' A comprehensive listing of NRTL approval requirements 
and the categories of product that must be approved can be found on 
OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html.

    Similar provisions for third-party approval of products exist to 
varying degrees in other OSHA standards. For example, OSHA's Electrical 
standards for Construction (Subpart K of 29 CFR Part 1926) require that 
approval of electric equipment be provided by a ``qualified testing 
laboratory'' (QTL). OSHA's definitions for NRTLs and QTLs are 
essentially equivalent.

B. Why Did OSHA Develop the NRTL Program?

    Prior to 1971, national consensus organizations and other code 
developers had provisions for independent testing and certification of 
products to meet the safety requirements of their voluntary standards. 
For example, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has long 
required safety testing of electric equipment in various provisions of 
the National Electrical Code (NEC). The NEC is the dominant electrical 
safety code in use in the United States.
    During OSHA's first 2 years, the Agency adopted many established 
Federal standards and national consensus standards as OSHA standards 
under section 6(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), 
29 U.S.C. 655(a). Many of these standards contained requirements for 
equipment to be ``approved,'' ``listed,'' or ``labeled'' by certain 
qualified organizations that could provide consistent determinations 
about the safety of equipment. By adopting these standards, OSHA 
continued the long history in the United States of equipment testing 
being performed by independent testing organizations. The Agency wanted 
to assure itself, through such testing, that products used in the 
workplace would be safe. However, the consensus standards adopted by 
OSHA through section 6(a) of the OSH Act primarily sanctioned product 
approvals of only two organizations: Underwriters Laboratories Inc. 
(UL) and Factory Mutual Research Corporations (FMRC).
    In the early 1980s, a successful lawsuit was brought by another 
testing organization that required OSHA to conduct a rulemaking to 
establish a program under which it would recognize any qualified 
testing laboratories that could test and certify equipment to meet 
these approval requirements, not only UL and FMRC. In 1988, OSHA 
finalized 29 CFR 1910.7, which established the NRTL Program and set 
forth procedures for evaluating and recognizing testing laboratories as 
NRTLs. (53 FR 12102, April 12, 1988.) Approval by NRTLs provides OSHA 
assurance of the safety of certain types of products used in the 
workplace, and the NRTL Program assures that the approvals are done by 
qualified testing and certification organizations.

C. What Is the NRTL Recognition Process?

    OSHA's NRTL recognition process involves a thorough analysis of an 
NRTL's policies and procedures to ensure that the NRTL meets all of the 
requirements of 29 CFR 1910.7. OSHA reviews detailed documentation 
submitted by an applicant for NRTL recognition, and performs a 
comprehensive on-site review of the applicant's testing and 
certification facilities. The staff also conduct annual on-site audits 
to ensure that the NRTLs adequately perform their testing and 
certification activities and maintain the quality of those operations. 
(See Chapters 2 through 6 of the NRTL Program Directive CPL 1-0.3.)
    NRTLs may be based in the United States or in other countries. 
Currently, there are 18 NRTLs, of which 16 are established in the 
United States and 2 are foreign-based. The recognition process 
(described in 29 CFR 1910.7) is the same for all laboratories, 
regardless of where they are established or located.
    The States and territories operating OSHA-approved State plans are 
expected to adopt standards that rely on Nationally Recognized Testing 
Laboratories accredited by Federal OSHA, i.e., where workplace 
equipment and materials require safety certification or testing, the 
testing laboratory must have received Federal OSHA recognition as an 
NRTL for that equipment or material. A State plan may establish its own 
program for accrediting testing laboratories but only for in-State 
applicability, and the State must accept accreditation of NRTLs 
recognized by Federal OSHA for testing equipment and materials where 
State safety requirements are the same as the Federal.

D. How Are Products Designated as NRTL Approved?

    NRTLs generally test and certify (i.e., approve) a product for its 
manufacturer before it is sold or shipped. When it has approved a 
product, the NRTL issues a certification document and permits the 
manufacturer to place the NRTL's registered certification mark or 
symbol on all units of the product manufactured. This certification 
mark on a product indicates that a particular NRTL has tested and 
certified that specific product. If it is not feasible to apply the 
certification mark directly on an NRTL-approved product, the mark may 
appear on the smallest packaging of the product. The NRTL Web pages 
within the OSHA Web site show the certification marks generally used by 
each NRTL. (http://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/index.html).

    As indicated above, the NRTL performs two key operations in its 
approval process. First, it must test the product; i.e., it tests a 
representative unit or prototype of the product it will certify to 
ensure that it has appropriate safety features. NRTLs conduct such 
tests under their product safety-testing program. Second, it must 
certify the product, not only by issuing a certificate and authorizing 
use of its mark, but more broadly by operating a product-certification 
program, which, for purposes of OSHA requirements, consists of a 
listing and labeling and follow-up inspection programs. The 
certification program is fundamentally important to the approval 
process because through it the NRTL gains assurance that all 
manufactured units of the product have the same safety features as the 
unit initially tested and certified. For this purpose, the NRTL 
conducts regular inspections at the product manufacturer's factories or 
assembling facilities. These inspections involve NRTL review of 
specific operational areas, including testing that has been performed, 
quality and production controls, and control of the use of the NRTL's 
mark. The NRTL can also perform limited testing of samples of the 
product during the inspection or full retesting after the inspection.

E. Can Any NRTL Test and Certify Any Type of Product That OSHA 
Standards Require to Be ``Approved?''

    An NRTL applicant provides OSHA with a list of ``appropriate test 
standards'' that the applicant wishes to use for purposes of testing 
products. To be considered ``appropriate,'' the test standard must be a 
recognized safety standard in the U.S., compatible with and maintained 
current with national codes and standards, and developed by a standards 
developing organization (SDO) under a consensus-based process. (See 29 
CFR 1910.7(c).) Each test standard covers particular types of products. 
If the applicant is recognized, OSHA then limits the NRTL's ``scope of 
recognition'' to those test standards, and thus certain products, for 
which the NRTL demonstrates to OSHA that it has the requisite technical 
capability. International test standards used in European and other 
countries may be applied if they have been harmonized to U.S. 
requirements by a U.S. SDO.
    NRTLs have been recognized in the aggregate for more than 600 
individual product safety standards, which cover thousands of 
individual types of products and, in actual usage, cover literally 
billions of certified products. A list of these standards is available 
on the NRTL pages of OSHA's Web site, which also provides an 
informational Web page for each NRTL that details its scope of 
    The NRTL's scope of recognition also includes specific ``recognized 
sites,'' which are the facilities that can perform the full range of 
testing and certification activities, and ``programs,'' under which the 
NRTL can use other parties in performing activities necessary for 
product testing and certification. Depending on the activity in 
question, these other parties may include other NRTLs, other non-NRTL 
independent testing labs, and product manufacturers, as appropriate.

F. What Are the Benefits and Significance of Using These Programs?

    Allowing NRTLs to use testing done by other parties often reduces 
the time and cost necessary for product approval. While using these 
other testing resources can minimize the work of the NRTL, the NRTL is 
still required to exercise adequate control to ensure that other 
parties are performing their testing activities appropriately. OSHA 
allowed the use of testing done by other parties through an 
interpretation of its requirements, which was published in the March 9, 
1995, Federal Register notice (60 FR 12980). OSHA commonly refers to 
these programs as the ``March 9 programs.''
    In permitting NRTLs to use these programs, OSHA allowed practices 
that were already being utilized by NRTLs, but defined the necessary 
minimum elements for their use. By doing this, OSHA improved the 
effectiveness and uniform application of these practices by all NRTLs 
and assured that all NRTLs would properly utilize the resources 
provided by other parties in testing and certifying products. 
Permitting these programs furthers OSHA's performance-based regulations 
for the NRTL Program, i.e., providing general criteria that must be 
met, but allowing particular NRTLs latitude in determining how they 
will meet them.
    One program allows NRTLs to use product testing data that have been 
developed by other testing organizations under an international scheme 
for the exchange of test data, the ``International Electrotechnical 
Commission--Certification Body (IEC-CB) Scheme.'' This scheme 
facilitates the export and import of products by allowing NRTLs to 
utilize test data developed by testing organizations in foreign 
countries and similarly allowing those organizations to use data 
developed by NRTLs.
    Today, the NRTL Program continues to evolve in response to other 
practices that NRTLs want to use or are using to address challenges they 
face or that are faced by manufacturers for which NRTLs certify products. 
Those manufacturers must often compete globally, and NRTLs have responded 
by expanding their overseas operations. As OSHA did in formalizing and 
accepting the March 9 programs, OSHA continues to investigate ways to 
be flexible to meet the business needs of the NRTLs. In fact, OSHA is 
considering the addition of a new program that would permit a qualified 
NRTL, which meets certain criteria, to perform approval activities at 
many more locations than OSHA currently allows. This program could 
potentially expedite any NRTL's approval activities, thus serving its 
needs and the needs of manufacturers of the products being approved. 
While the NRTL Program must evolve in the face of new challenges, we do 
so with the clear objectives of maintaining the effectiveness of our 
monitoring of the NRTLs and assuring that the safety of NRTL approved 
products is not compromised.

G. Is Approval by an NRTL Always Required for Equipment That Must Be 

    In general, products that are required to be ``approved'' in OSHA's 
standards must be NRTL-approved.\1\ However, there are exceptions. For 
example, under OSHA's electrical standards for general industry and 
construction, if electric equipment is of a kind that none of the NRTLs 
approve, then OSHA allows approval by a Federal agency or by a State or 
local code authority that enforces National Electrical Code workplace 
safety provisions. Similarly, NRTL approval is not required for 
``custom-made equipment,'' which is equipment designed, made for, and 
used by a particular customer (i.e., unique or one-of-a-kind items). In 
this case, the employer must demonstrate safety based on test data 
provided by the manufacturer. (See definition of ``acceptable'', 29 CFR 

    \1\ While OSHA uses the term ``NRTL approval'' to describe the 
type of testing or certification activities performed by NRTLs, the 
international community often uses a different term for such 
activities: conformity assessment. An international guide, ISO Guide 
2, defines ``conformity assessment'' as ``any activity concerned 
with determining directly or indirectly that requirements are 
fulfilled.'' Similarly, organizations such as NRTLs that perform 
these conformity assessments are referred to in ISO Guide 2 as 
``conformity assessment bodies'' (CABs). Under OSHA's NRTL Program, 
each NRTL must perform both testing and certification functions. 
However, in countries such as France and Germany, testing 
laboratories and certification organizations (CABs) must be separate 

    As indicated above, NRTLs are ``third-party'' testing and 
certification organizations. Under the current NRTL program, a 
manufacturer of any equipment that must be NRTL-approved is not 
permitted to approve products, even if it has a testing laboratory that 
would otherwise qualify for NRTL status. The NRTL provisions in 29 CFR 
1910.7 require that the testing laboratory be independent of any 
manufacturers of products being tested. The provision for independence 
is the cornerstone of the NRTL Program. OSHA relies upon this element 
of independence to assure that products have been properly tested and 
certified without the need for the Agency to engage in an extensive 
inspection and audit of manufacturers. Under the NRTL Program, the 
NRTLs perform this auditing function.

II. Proposal To Provide Alternative Approval Through ``Supplier's 
Declaration of Conformity''

    OSHA has received a proposal (Exhibit 1) from the Information 
Technology Industry Council (ITIC) to allow an employer to accept a 
``Supplier's Declaration of Conformity'' (SDoC) as an alternative means 
of approval for information technology (IT) equipment or products, 
i.e., in lieu of NRTL approval of these products. An SDoC is a written 
statement--produced by an equipment manufacturer or supplier--that a 
product meets or conforms to a specified test standard or a set of 
requirements. OSHA has long been aware of the concept of manufacturer's 
self-approval and has known that it is allowed, for certain types of 
products, by a few other countries.
    The proposal does not define the term ``IT equipment'' but instead 
gives three examples: computers, computer peripherals, and 
telecommunications equipment. (Exhibit 1, page 1.) However, the term 
could encompass many other types of equipment, especially if OSHA were 
to use, as a guide, all equipment covered under the relevant U.S. ``IT 
equipment'' test standard (identified below). For example, this test 
standard includes the following as examples of IT products: copying 
machines, facsimile machines, modems, personal computers, telephone 
sets, answering machines, and visual display units. Virtually all of 
these IT products are electric equipment under OSHA standards, and thus 
generally must be ``approved'' in order to be used in the workplace. 
(See definition of ``equipment,'' 29 CFR 1910.399.) Under the ITIC 
proposal, OSHA would allow an employer to use IT products that are 
``self-approved'' by a manufacturer through SDoC rather than approved 
by one of the NRTLs. In its proposal, ITIC suggests that OSHA could 
classify the approval of a product through SDoC as a ``de minimis'' 
violation of the NRTL approval requirements. (Exhibit 1, page 3.)
    A principal concern raised by ITIC on behalf of its members and 
other manufacturers, which it seeks to address through the SDoC, is the 
delay in bringing products to market (``time-to-market''), particularly 
in different countries, because of country-specific testing 
requirements and approval procedures. (Exhibit 1, page 2.) ITIC also 
alleges that IT equipment and IT manufacturers have a good workplace 
safety record, and that this record supports the use of SDoCs in lieu 
of NRTL testing.
    ITIC further suggests that all IT equipment should be approved to 
meet the technical requirements of a test standard issued by the 
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC): IEC 60950. (Exhibit 
1A.) The IEC is a leading organization in the development of 
international test standards, and IEC 60950 represents IEC's test 
standard for IT equipment. ITIC advocates the use of this test standard 
by all countries. As discussed earlier, under OSHA's requirements, 
electric products must be tested by NRTLs to meet the requirements of 
appropriate U.S. test standards. In that regard, for IT products, OSHA 
notes that for OSHA and NRTL purposes, the IEC 60950 standard has 
already been harmonized to a corresponding U.S. test standard, UL 
60950. Many NRTLs already use UL 60950 for approving IT equipment.
    Finally, the proposal includes a study by Industry Canada, an 
agency of the Canadian government. (Exhibit 1B.) The study discusses 
ways that agencies in various countries use SDoCs for approvals of 
equipment. The study notes the importance, in an SDoC system, of having 
a responsible regulatory authority for audit and enforcement, focusing 
on their ability to identify ``bad actors'' after products are sold. 
(Exhibit 1B, page 2.) In contrast, under current OSHA regulations, 
NRTLs must perform key functions ``before'' sale. As noted earlier, an 
NRTL approving a product needs to ensure, generally before a 
manufacturer sells or ships a product, that (1) a representative unit 
of the product meets the provisions of applicable test standards (i.e., 
the NRTL tests and approves the product), and (2) the manufacturer or 
supplier of that product is complying with the terms of the approval. 
An NRTL also performs some ``after sale'' functions (e.g., by 
occasionally testing products taken off the store shelf, by responding 
to complaints from product users, and by ``recalling'' products that they 
find through such testing or complaints to pose safety concerns).
    OSHA has reviewed information and documents pertaining to SDoC and 
met with ITIC and a few interested parties who provided some input on 
SDoC and their view of its advantages and disadvantages. Documents we 
have gathered to date, including the ITIC proposal, are available at 
the OSHA Docket Office. In general, these documents are available 
through the OSHA Web site at http://dockets.osha.gov.

    After reviewing ITIC's proposal, OSHA has decided that it needs to 
learn more about SDoC and the assurances behind them. Accordingly, this 
request is designed to obtain that information.

III. Questions on Which Comment Is Requested

    OSHA is seeking information, data, and comment on SDoC generally, 
and the ITIC proposal specifically. OSHA is providing broad questions 
below to provide a framework for the public to respond to this RFI. 
However, you can provide comment or information on any aspect of the 
broad areas mentioned below and not just limit your answers to the 
specific questions posed. In responding to these questions, please 
explain the reasons supporting your views, and identify and provide 
relevant information on which you rely, including data, studies, 
articles, and other materials. Respondents are encouraged to address 
any aspect of the issue on which they believe they can contribute. 
Please briefly identify your background or qualification on the topic 
on which you are responding, where relevant.

SDoC Process

    Note: Questions 1 through 7 pertain to regulatory or product 
approval systems that currently allow SDoCs.

    1. What quality controls and procedures do equipment manufacturers/
suppliers now follow to effectively perform, document, and issue SDoCs 
for their products?
    2. What kinds of problems do product manufacturers and product 
users now encounter with their SDoCs and how are they resolved or 
    3. What kinds of products are now approved or not approved using 
SDoCs, and why?
    4. Is there any reduction in the ``time-to-market'' for products? 
If so, how much of a reduction is there, how much is due to 
improvements in product safety, and what is the savings in costs to the 
manufacturer if SDoC is used instead of a third-party approval?
    5. Do third-party product certifiers currently use SDoCs in 
approving products or play a role in issuing SDoCs, and if so how?
    6. What kinds of testing and testing capabilities are required for 
using SDoCs?
    7. Have there been any incidents involving ``unapproved'' IT 
equipment, or IT equipment approved through SDoC, creating hazards?

SDoC Proposal

    8. What has changed with respect to IT equipment in the 17 years 
since OSHA adopted the NRTL Program that could warrant a 
reconsideration of the third-party testing criterion?
    9. Should OSHA consider allowing SDoC in the approval process for 
IT equipment, and if so, to what extent? If allowed, what restrictions, 
safeguards, or other requirements would be necessary to provide 
employers, employees, and OSHA with equivalent assurances of safety to 
that currently provided by NRTL testing and certification? Should OSHA 
require manufacturers performing SDoCs to meet all the requirements of 
an NRTL except independence? How, specifically, should OSHA evaluate 
the effects on worker safety of SDoCs versus NRTL approvals?
    10. If OSHA were to adopt SDoC, should OSHA limit its use to 
computers, computer peripherals, and telecommunications equipment only, 
as suggested by ITIC, or to all IT equipment, as defined by the 
relevant U.S. test standard, or restrict its use to low voltage (for 
example, 50 volts or less) IT equipment or components? In the 
alternative, should OSHA allow its use for other types of equipment? If 
so, what criteria, requirements, or data should OSHA use to determine 
the types of products or components eligible for SDoCs? What types of 
equipment would not be suitable for SDoC?
    11. What advantages or benefit would workers, employers, or OSHA 
derive if OSHA were to allow SDoC? What disadvantages or detriments 
would result? What other groups or parties would consider it beneficial 
or damaging, and how?
    12. If allowed, should OSHA limit the use of SDoCs to particular 
kinds of manufacturers and, if so, what would be the selection 
    13. If OSHA were to adopt some form of SDoC, what kind of 
mechanisms would be necessary to ensure effective monitoring of 
manufacturers and products, and to handle complaints and product 
    14. Are there ways in which OSHA could incorporate the SDoC into 
its current process of NRTL approvals?

General Comments on SDoCs

    OSHA solicits comment on any other related issues or topics that 
may assist in the evaluation of SDoCs and whether they can be used in a 
way that maintains or improves the NRTL approval process along with the 
safety of equipment.

Authority and Signature

    This document was prepared under the direction of Jonathan L. 
Snare, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety 
and Health, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., 
Washington, DC 20210. It is issued pursuant to sections 4, 6, and 8 
of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 653, 
655, 657), Secretary of Labor's Order 5-2002 (67 FR 65008), and 29 
CFR part 1911.

    Signed at Washington, DC this 26th day of October, 2005.
Jonathan L. Snare,
Acting Assistant Secretary.
[FR Doc. 05-22630 Filed 11-14-05; 8:45 am]