By Catherine Hollis, Quality Assurance Manager at Intertek
Inspectors and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) are responsible for ensuring equipment and installations in our communities and workplaces are properly certified and meet applicable codes. AHJs are the acute eyes in the field to identify products that appear to be non-conforming or potentially dangerous to the community. They are a vital resource to Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) in keeping our communities as safe as possible.
When encountering products of concern, AHJs should report them to the NRTL, whose certification mark the product bears. It is important to understand what should be reported and the processes NRTLs follow when notified of a concern or observation regarding a product bearing its certification mark, including how claims are documented, dialogue with the manufacturer, AHJ involvement, and next steps.
All NRTLs are vested in the integrity of their certification marks and take claims of non-conformity or potentially dangerous products seriously. NTRLs are required and will initiate investigations for all claims to determine their validity per their internal Quality System. Because each claim is unique and may involve several complex subjects simultaneously, completion times may vary.
In the event an AHJ questions the conformity of a certified product, a NRTL’s website is the most efficient way to provide the necessary claims details to their investigation team. Most NRTLs have a webpage specifically designed to address inspector-related inquiries or concerns regarding a certified product. Intertek’s webpage, for example, offers rich information specific to inspectors and AHJs, such as accreditation information, links to certification directories, information on field labeling, AHJ blogs, information about certification marks, and a link to report claims.
When reporting a claim, including photos of the overall product, its nameplate, and as many details about the product is highly recommended. This will help the investigation team validate the claim and address concerns.
NRTLs are required to promptly review and provide feedback to the reporting AHJ when an investigation is warranted and initiating their investigation process. At Intertek, you will receive a notification email with a unique investigation ID. An Intertek investigation team typically includes a chief engineer, technical staff, quality manager, and the relevant certification manager. Working with the product manufacturer, the team will review the claim thoroughly, investigating the claim documentation, reports, original test data, and certification file.
If the claim is substantiated and it is found that the product has been altered without the knowledge of the NRTL, the investigation team will follow a set base of rules to determine and create an action plan to correct the problem and issue a Public Notice to the community regarding the non-complying or dangerous products in the field. Corrections may include additional testing or a complete re-evaluation of the product. In all cases, the AHJ should expect to receive a summary of actions necessary for the particular case they have observed, whether it be recommended complete rejection or a required NRTL field evaluation.
Once an investigation is complete, the NRTL will take all warranted actions, including but not limited to product suspension, termination, and/or publishing a Safety/Public Notice. When a Public Notice is issued, NRTLs post them on their public websites and provide notifications to relevant regulatory agencies, such as the Consumer Products Safety Administration, OSHA, Health Canada, and Standard Council of Canada.
Inspectors are a paramount resource in the line of defense to protect our communities from workplace and community hazards. It is important to promptly report any questions related to products that are non-compliant, potentially dangerous, or exhibit code violations to the relevant NRTL who are required to investigate claims. In the end, keeping our communities as safe as possible is everyone’s goal. Strengthening partnerships between NRTLs and AHJs helps achieve these goals to make the world ever better and safer.