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EM News Bureau ,  Tuesday, August 20, 2013, 16:50 Hrs  [IST]

John Drengenberg—John Drengenberg, Consumer Safety Director, Underwriters Laboratories (UL)

UL Standards, by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), encompass UL's extensive safety research, scientific expertise and uncompromising focus on quality. UL has developed more than 1,000 Standards, over the century of its service. Electrical Monitor caught up with John Drengenberg to know more about UL standards in industrial control panels. Here are excerpts of the email interaction.

Please tell us in general terms about UL-508 as a global standard for industrial electrical panels.
UL standards are known throughout the world as well written, scientific-based documents that are continuously kept up to date to reflect new technologies and new accident statistics. The UL standards are the primary safety standards for the United States. Many other countries that desire high quality standards have unofficially used UL standards such as UL 508 when the need arises. IEC standards are used in many countries also. UL works with the IEC in many areas to help harmonize IEC and UL standards.

Please note that the standard for industrial control panels is UL 508A. UL 508 is the standard for industrial control equipment. UL 508 is a standard for components whereas UL 508A is a standard for assemblies of components. UL 508A is recognized worldwide as a safety standard for industrial control panels intended for general industrial use.

What are the major differences between UL 508A and IEC 61439, which we understand is the current IEC standard for electrical panels?
UL 508A is a standard for custom-built, one of a kind assemblies of equipment. IEC 61439 covers specific designs of assemblies of equipment. UL 508A anticipates compliance through no testing. This is achieved by using components previously certified through compliance with component standards. IEC 61439 includes both type and routine testing of assemblies of equipment to verify compliance. The basic safety requirements in both standards are very similar with slight deviations for each country.

Which countries have adopted (or adapted) UL 508A as a standard for industrial electrical panels?
UL 508A has not been adopted (or adapted) by any specific country. It is recognized by OSHA in the USA as part of UL’s accreditation as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory. UL 508A is also the standard used to provide the requirements for Canadian Certification as Canada does not have a dedicated Canadian Standard for Industrial Control Panels.

Generally speaking, can any country adopt UL-508A (or any other standard of UL for that matter) directly, or does it have to “harmonize” it using their local approved standards. For e.g. can India directly use UL-508A or does it have to “Indianize” it and develop something on the lines of an IS equivalent?
ULs corporate mission is keeping people and property safe worldwide and therefore any country can adopt UL 508A. Harmonizing is not necessary, although it may be necessary to include some deviations from the UL requirements to account for in-country practices such as compliance with local installation codes. For example, UL 508A covers control panels intended for installation in accordance with the National Electrical Code (NEC), ANSI/NFPA 70. In those countries where other installation codes are enforced, compliance with such codes may be necessary.

Apart from UL-508A, please discuss other standards relating to the industrial electrical panels.
UL 508A is a generic standard for control panels. UL has several other standards for control panels for specific applications. Some examples are the Standard for Industrial Control Panels Relating to Hazardous (Classified) Locations, UL 698A, the Standard for Control Units and Accessories for Fire Alarm Systems, UL 864, the Standard for Emergency Lighting and Power Equipment, UL 924, and the Standard for Motor Control Centers, UL 845.

In India, and in the context of the industrial electrical panel industry, we find that there is little aggression in terms of adapting latest standards or even ensuring compliance with existing standards. Do you have a view to offer?

The role of UL is to set safety standards and certify products to those standards. The approach to product safety can vary from country to country. The UL standards for all industries including the industrial electrical panel industry are known worldwide to be up-to-date and scientifically-based documents. UL presently has facilities in India and would be happy to work with any organizations that wish to use the services we provide.
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