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Electrical FAQs: Is OSHA a NRTL? Is a NRTL the Same as UL?

As an OSHA-approved NRTL, NSF often receives these questions, which we explore further in this article.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL, pronounced “nurtle”) program to ensure that certain kinds of equipment — including electrical appliances and devices — is tested and certified for safe workplace use. OSHA established its NRTL regulations in 1988 and recognized the first organization as a NRTL in the following year.

According to OSHA, a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory is a private-sector organization “recognized as meeting the legal requirements in 29 CFR 1910.7 to perform testing and certification of products using consensus-based test standards.” These requirements are:

  • The capability to test and evaluate equipment for conformance with appropriate test standards within their scope
  • Adequate controls for the identification of certified products, conducting follow-up inspections of actual production
  • Complete independence from users (i.e., employers subject to the tested equipment requirements) and from any manufacturers or vendors of the certified products
  • Effective procedures for producing findings and for handling complaints and disputes

To earn OSHA recognition as a NRTL, an organization must have the required capabilities as both a product safety testing laboratory and a product certification body.


A: No, OSHA is not a NRTL. OSHA is a federal government agency that recognizes independent private-sector organizations as NRTLs.

NRTL recognition means an organization is qualified to perform safety testing and certification of the specific products covered within its scope of recognition. Products that have been properly certified by a NRTL such as NSF are then acceptable to OSHA for workplace use. “Properly certified” means:

  1. The product is labeled or marked with the registered certification mark of the NRTL.
  2. The NRTL issues the certification for a product covered within the scope of a test standard for which OSHA has recognized it.
  3. And the NRTL issues the certification from one of its sites or locations that OSHA has recognized.

Q: Is a NRTL the Same as UL?

A: No, these are not the same thing. UL is one of several NRTLs recognized by OSHA.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is an independent third-party safety certification company, similar to NSF and other NRTLs, which tests and certifies products, facilities, processes and systems based on industry-wide standards.

The only difference between the various NRTL marks lies in the services of the testing laboratories behind them. In this way NSF provides a competitive advantage and clients benefit from the full engagement of the test lab — a distinction among NRTLs.

Manufacturers can choose any NRTL listed on OSHA’s website to perform their testing and certification. When choosing the right NRTL for you, here are some factors to consider:

  • Does the NRTL have a standard that applies to your product(s) in their testing scope?
  • Does the NRTL offer other services to help you comply with total regulatory requirements for your product (like food/sanitation or water)?
  • Does the NRTL have other qualities you’re looking for, such as quick turnaround, access to a specific certification mark or full-time customer support staff?

NSF is a leading NRTL, providing electrical testing and certification services for hundreds of companies in the food, water and automotive industries (and beyond).

Learn More About Our Electrical Certification Services

NSF is a leading NRTL, providing electrical testing and certification services for hundreds of companies in the food, water and automotive industries (and beyond).
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