East West Manufacturing Blog

UL and ETL Certification Marks: What’s the Difference?

Written by Patty Rasmussen | April 17, 2017

In your product development quest, you’re undoubtedly getting familiar with the acronym soup that surrounds quality, safety testing and deciding which certification marks your product will require. 

First there’s OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This government department is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and oversees and administers all safety and health regulations in the workplace. They also administer safety and health regs pertaining to products.

OSHA qualifies independent laboratories referred to as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL). These NRTL are independent entities that test products to the specifications of applicable safety standards. If you’re developing a product, you only want testing at an NRTL. 

Under the heading of NRTL you’ll find the labs themselves. The most recognized testing lab is Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Even consumers have heard of UL, and many have come to expect the UL mark on products. Manufacturers tout it when it comes to marketing.



Another certification mark is ETL, which stands for Electrical Testing Labs, and is
administered by Intertek, a global Total Quality Assurance provider. ETL was originally known as the Lamp Testing Bureau, and was founded by Thomas Edison. The name was later changed to Electrical Testing Labs and finally shortened to ETL.

The two labs provide very similar product testing services. Most importantly each are certified NRTL. The UL and ETL marks prove that the product has met the minimum requirements of established and accepted product safety standards, and that the manufacturer agrees to periodic inspections verifying continued compliance with the standards.

So, which one do you need? Well, that depends on a couple of things. Here are some questions to consider: 

  • What are you making?
  • Who will be using it?
  • How is it used?
  • Is there any chance a user could be injured?
  • What does the marketplace expect?
  • What do your customers want?  

If you don't already have UL, ETL or other certifications before you engage a contract manufacturer, the contract manufacturer will ask these and many other questions to help you determine which certification mark your product needs. You'll also want to read this previous (and very comprehensive) blog post, 5 Things to Know Before Submitting a Product for a Certification Mark.

Read more: 

Motor Reliability Testing: Does Your Contract Manufacturer Stack Up?

Should You Use a Contract Manufacturer With a UL-Certified Lab?