What is Underwriters Laboratories (UL)?

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is an independent, U.S. based non-profit organization that tests and certifies components and products for safety. UL is the largest non-profit and best known testing laboratory in the world and works with a diverse array of stakeholders, including governments, regulatory bodies, manufacturers, and others parties across the supply chain.

The Underwriters Laboratory provides a full spectrum of quality and conformity assessments to the product manufacturers and other organizations. It provides testing, inspection, safety-related certification, training and auditing services to manufacturers, service companies, regulators, retailers, consumers and policy makers. The laboratory assesses the products by testing the systems, materials, components and performance. In addition, they evaluate the environmental impact and sustainability of products.

The testing is carried on a variety of equipment ranging from CCTV cameras, power supplies and fire doors, to communication and medical equipment. For example, they provide comprehensive diagnostics in medical devices, food service equipment, home electronics, EMC testing and certification, electric vehicles, information technology equipment, telecommunication equipment and others.

By conducting both the safety and quality testing on a wide range of consumer and industrial products, it enables manufacturers to test their products during various development stages. The tests are usually done to confirm whether the products meet the standards set by UL which works in conjunction with the product manufacturers, consumers, and other regulatory bodies. In addition, the testing ensures that the products adhere to other standards set by outside entities such as country, a city, those concerned with building codes, electrical codes and more.

Underwriters Laboratory classifications

The Underwriters Laboratory assigns one of the following three designations to the products that pass the tests.

  • UL Listed: The product which meets the laboratory standards and usable by itself.
  • UL Recognized: this is assigned to components used in combination with other different components to make the final product
  • UL Certified: When a product meets standards, including those set by other authorities such as electrical or building code requirements for a city.

Products that have passed the Underwriters Laboratory testing are usually having a sticker which varies from one country to the other. The mark will appear alongside other standard marks such as the RoHS, FCC, CE, etc.

What is Underwriters Laboratories

Figure 1: Typical UL listed power supply – Image Credit

How Underwriters Laboratory helps manufacturers and consumers

The Underwriters Laboratory helps in determining and marking genuine products that meet required safety and other regulatory requirements. A product that has passed the Underwriters Laboratory tests is guaranteed to work as per the manufacturer’s specifications and consumers should trust such products. This applies to almost any consumer product ranging from electronics and apparel to pharmaceuticals and hardware.

The Underwriter Laboratory does not approve the products; instead it tests them to see if they meet the required standards set by regulatory bodies, countries or other entities. The testing is usually a requirement by authorities before approving any product. The tests confirm that the product meets the standards, is safe and suitable for the target market.

The Underwriter Laboratory testing services are also important in facilitating global trade by understanding and advising manufacturers if their products meet specifications for the target markets.