Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today about US/Canada product compliance, Christien. Before we get started, would you mind telling us a bit about your role at Certification Experts?
Sure. My role at Certification Experts is specialised in projects for the US/Canada. I mainly serve clients exporting products to North America and manage any running requests as and when they come in. I also work with our partners to establish whether we can provide the product to the US/Canada.
What are the main product compliance considerations when it comes to the US/Canada specifically?
Well for example, when you are dealing with European CE marking, there is often the option to self-certify. The standards are overall and apply to different product groups, rather than individual products. For US and Canadian markets, you do not have these options, as an accredited party is required to be involved in order to ensure the product is compliant. There also needs to be a consideration of whether the components are already UL or CSA certified. Most products will need to have this certification before going to any other parties.
Can you elaborate a bit more on the regulatory side of things, and how product regulations work in the US/Canada?
Definitely. Firstly you have the umbrella regulations. Those are the federal regulations that apply. When looking at industrial products, the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHO) regulations should be taken into consideration. With electrical products, this would be the National Electrical Code, and in some cases, the National Fire Protection Association regulations should be taken into consideration. This would apply to the level of fire safety that applies to the products. A way of verifying that you comply with those federal regulations is using the UL or CSA standards. These standards provide the requirements of how to test the product so that it complies later on with the above standing regulations and safety requirements.
When should customers consult with a US/Canada product compliance expert? How would they be guided through the process?
What we usually do is first start with a pre-compliance review. It could be an engineering review or a documentation review. Nowadays, due to coronavirus, we also do virtual reviews. We make a first assessment of the product and the bill of material, aside from components that are already included. This assessment is about providing a rich assessment so any necessary adjustments can be made before the product undergoes assessments from third parties. For example, we might assess that the client has a critical component like a power supply or sensor. This would mean that the product requires UL certification regardless. If something needs to be amended on the construction or design due to finding issues in the first assessment, there may also be some modifications that need to be made. After this we will start the final evaluation, meaning the final inspection, which can be a field evaluation or field certification, or maybe later on a full-on test procedure. The test procedure is only necessary when a client wants to do the complete certification procedure. The complete certification procedure is more for series production and will also need a final factory inspection. Regular audits with clients often cause them to choose a field evaluation or field certification process because they only have a batch that will go to the US and or Canada.
With all of that said, do you have anything else to add or that you would like to say to potential manufacturers who are considering entering the US/Canada market?
What I would like to advise people is to bear in mind that US/Canada product certification is a really different process to most of the world. They should also be aware that collaboration and liaison will need to occur with the accredited parties as well. It’s a different way of working in comparison with, for example, European markets, authorities, or parties that carry-out procedures or test procedures. There are also different aspects that need to be taken into consideration such as voltage ratings and safety ratings that apply per product, and not to an umbrella of products like it does in the EU. Also, while Canada is a different market to the US, there are some similarities between the compliance as they are so close to each other and therefore there are many products being imported/exported between the two.
We are always very cooperative with our clients to ensure that we achieve the goal of getting their products onto the US/Canadian marketplace. Although the process is rather complicated, there are many variations and ways that products can be deemed compliant, which means there are different avenues to explore when we consult with our clients. Also, UL and CSA are not the only accredited parties who can carry out these procedures. There are other accredited parties as well who work in the same way and use the UL and CSA standards. We will always look at the full scope of information to make it work for our partners and to help them achieve their objective of getting the products onto the USA/Canadian marketplace.
Thank you so much, Christien. This is a great place for our customers to start.
Yes, and if there’s a product manufacturer or supplier out there who needs advice on the US market, we’re here to help.