December 01, 2013
A manufacturer friend recently was concerned that a lot of operators and dealers were unclear about the CE mark and, more troubling, presumed it carried the same level of vetted, documented safety you could expect with marks from UL, NSF, ETL and CSA. This is not necessarily so. According to Mary Dane, Agency Approval Engineer for Traulsen and our best resource on compliance issues, a CE mark should never be considered a replacement for the others in North America. Local building- and health-code authorities will be the drivers on the marks you need for your equipment, and CE won’t come up this side of the pond.
According to Health and Safety Executive, an independent, national health and safety watchdog group in the U.K., the CE mark indicates a product’s compliance with European Union legislation, directives that require products to meet specific, minimum health and safety objectives. It enables the free movement of products across borders throughout the EU and European Free Trade Area, known collectively as the European Economic Area (EEA). By putting a CE mark on a product, a manufacturer declares, on his sole responsibility, that the product meets all of the legal requirements for the CE marking.
The key phrase here is “on his sole responsibility.” With few exceptions—including gas appliances and pressure vessels, which can’t get the CE mark without third-party testing and documentation—manufacturers essentially are free to self-certify that their products meet the CE safety objectives.
You can request a Declaration of Conformity, which documents that the product satisfies the CE mark’s requirements, but it’s not a certificate of quality or safety.
Compounding the CE confusion is the report of another “CE” mark on products coming out of China. It’s identical to the EU CE mark, but supposedly is meant to stand for “Chinese Export.” False marks are nothing new, and, in fact, you can find plenty of incidences in which unscrupulous manufacturers slap fake UL, CSA, NSF and ETL marks on poorly manufactured and downright dangerous equipment.
So what’s the bottom line? Buy from reputable manufacturers. If you’re looking at imports, make sure the marks are authentic and valid in the U.S., ask for documentation of safety testing and certification or look up the model on the certifying company’s website. Legitimate manufacturers spend huge amounts of money to test and certify their products to ensure their safety. Don’t be fooled by fakes.