Understanding Product Certifications
Product certifications are as important for cabling as for any other industry. No one wants to run the risk of winding up with sub-par products that do not work or, worse, cause damage to other devices (or people). With so many different certifications spread across just as many different industries, it can be hard to keep them straight. For cables, there are a few key certifications to keep an eye out for:
- Prop 65
Each of these certifications has different definitions covered below. Some or even all of them may not apply to an item depending on what kind of item is in question. For example, certifications for an ethernet cable will not be the same as ones for a patch panel. Other certifications will only apply in certain geographical areas, such as stipulations set in Europe versus ones in the North America. Keep in mind that just because a product does not list a specific certification does not make it “bad”.
UL-Listed is a certification set by Underwriters Laboratories. They are a federally approved safety testing organization, overseen by OSHA. Underwriters Laboratories has developed and maintains a large list of testing standards, several of which apply to low-voltage cable and wire:
- UL 4: Standard for Armored Cable
- UL 62: Flexible Cords and Cables
- UL 444: Communications Cables
- UL 514B: Conduit, Tubing, and Cable Fittings
- UL 817: Cord Sets and Power Supply Cords
- UL 1650: Standard for Portable Power Cable
- UL 1651: Standard for Optical Fiber Cable
- UL 1655: Standard for Community-Antenna Television Cables
- UL 1690: Standard for Data-Processing Cable
- UL 2556: Wire and Cable Test Methods
ETL-Listed is a testing standard set by the organization Intertek. Like Underwriters Laboratories (UL-Listed), ETL-Listed has been federally approved for safety testing under OSHA. The difference is that ETL only tests to UL standards, whereas Underwriters Laboratories are also the ones setting those standards in the first place.
RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) is a directive implemented within the European Union. It restricts the use of ten hazardous substances in the manufacture of electric and electronic equipment.
- Hexavalent chromium
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)
- Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
- Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP)
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
- Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)
For cables, cable jackets are monitored for lead. These restrictions serve to protect people as well as the environment as outdated equipment makes its way to landfills. The stipulations set by RoHS go hand-in-hand with many of the regulations set by the WEEE.
WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is a European Community directive closely tied to RoHS. Whereas RoHS deals with the use of hazardous materials when manufacturing electric and electronic equipment, WEEE oversees the collection and recycling of those devices. One of the key points of WEEE is placing the responsibility of properly disposing of waste equipment on the manufacturers and distributors.
The equipment covered under WEEE are broken into ten categories:
- Large household appliances
- Small household appliances
- IT and telecommunications equipment
- Consumer equipment
- Lighting equipment
- Electrical and electronic tools
- Toys, leisure, and sports equipment
- Medical Devices
- Monitoring and control instruments
- Automatic dispensers
Most low-voltage cables will fall under the IT and telecommunications equipment category.
REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals) is a European Union regulation addressing the use of harmful chemicals. This includes chemicals harmful to human health as well as chemicals capable of causing environmental damage. REACH is overseen by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
Prop 65 is a California law that oversees the handling of toxic chemicals within the state. The list includes natural chemicals, such as those found in certain foods, as well as man-made chemicals such as pesticide and vehicle exhaust. The law requires businesses to provide proof that products are safe within the state of California, or declare otherwise.