The three legs of North America product Safety

Last edit: 08/07/2023

THE DOUBT: is the knowledge of the NEC, or NFPA 70, important when assessing the electrical conformity of my machinery for export to USA?

CONSIDERATION 1: When a machinery manufacturer approaches the North American market he is often confronted with the adoption chart indicated on the NFPA website. The chart shows which version of the NEC each State adopts. Therefore, the message he receives is that, not only the NEC is quite a difficult standard to read, but you need to read the version adopted by the country where your machine will be installed. Please be aware that some states and even cities, add specific requirements to the National Electrical Code, before publishing their specific version. It is for example the case of the Chicago Electrical Code.

However, the machinery manufacturer should be more interested in other standards. In particular for the USA, he should be knowledgeable of the NFPA 79 and the UL 508A. Those two standards are specific for the electrical equipment of machineries and, in principle, they are the only ones to be used for the Machinery electrical conformity, in USA.

CONSIDERATION 2: a more interesting concept that helps the machinery manufacturer understand what to do when exporting products to North America, is the concept of the THREE LEGS. The concept, illustrated in the drawing hereafter, is well summarised by the words of Jim Pauley, president of NFPA:

“A robust installation code that applies to installation of electrical products, designed, constructed and certified to the products safety standards, which are correlated with the installation code and a measurable, transparent and reliable system of electrical inspections are three crucial com­ponents to an effective safety system”

In essence, the North American Electrical Safety approach is based upon 3 pillars:

  1. A well worked through and solid Electrical Code: NEC in USA and CE Code in Canada.
  2. The existence of Product Standards, like UL 508A or C22 N°286, derived in compliance with the Electrical Code. Moreover, the compliance with those product standards should not be left to the “judgement” of the manufacturer but stated by laboratories formally recognised: the so called Nationally Recognized Technical Laboratories (NRTLs).
  3. Finally, there should be a network of Electrical Inspectors (also called Authority Having Jurisdiction or AHJs) who approve every Installation or Machinery, before it is powered and put into service.

CONCLUSION: When selling machinery to North America, the knowledge of the NEC or the CE Code is not so important. In general machinery have to be engineered and built according to 4 Technical Standards:

  • UL 508A and NFPA 79 in USA
  • C22.2 N° 286 and C22.2 N° 301 in Canada

The exception is if you have a large production line; in that case we recommend you ask your trusted consultant if the NEC or the CE Code is applicable.

Be also aware that the CE marking has no value and that we recommend the electrical installation of your machinery is in compliance with the above mentioned standard, depending upon the destination.

If you ship to USA, the Certification of the machinery is not required by the AHJ; that is instead “a must” in Canada.

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