I've been going over threads about having NRTL or CSA certified electrical equipment. Everyone comments the seriousness of this. But I am confused that Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Target, on and on any major chain store is selling equipment and appliances with only the CE mark. I read that Canada requires all electrical equipment to be CSA certified but see that stores there are also selling CE equipment from China. Has something changed when they made these trade agreements? Or is the law just not enforced? Because if it was enforced all of these stores would be out of business and nothing from China could be sold in the USA or Canada. I was just at an equipment manufacturing trade show in LA. and there were many companies selling large manufacturing equipment with only the CE mark.
Or is the law just not enforced?
The laws are not what you may think they are.
With regard to electrical product safety laws in the USA, the constitution did not grant to congress the power to make such laws. Therefor, by the 10th amendment to the constitution, the individual states have that power. Individual states have generally created administrative agencies to create rules and regulations concerning safety. States have generally further delegated that power to smaller political divisions within the states.
The constitution did grant to congress “…power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states…,” the interstate commerce clause. That made it necessary for the federal government to grant “nationally recognized independent testing laboratory” (NRTL) status to agencies that can be designated to identify products sold in interstate commerce that can be deemed acceptable by state and local authorities having jurisdiction (AHD). NRTLs are designated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA was established by authority if the interstate commerce clause.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is one of several NRTLs for electrical products. UL is also an independent standards writing agency. Any electrical product NRTL can list and label products as meeting applicable UL standards. An agreement between CSA and UL allows each to act as an agent of the other.
NFPA 70 (National Electrical Code or NEC) is a product of the National Fire Protection Association, a nonprofit organization that publishes the NEC and offers it for adoption by any authority that wishes to adopt it. All AHDs in the US adopt the NEC as part of their electrical code. AHDs often add and subtract details in adopting the NEC. The NEC requires all wiring devices and materials to be acceptable to the AHD. That generally means that they must be listed by an NRTL. Building inspectors are generally concerned only with building wiring and equipment that is part of the facility. They do not inspect appliances.
For manufacturing equipment, NRTL listing for electrical items only applies the electrical parts of the equipment. The machine itself would not be labeled, only the individual electrical components or systems.
For consumer products, only items that plug directly into utility power would be expected to have NRTL labels. “Wall wart” and “brick” power supplies would be expected to have NRTL labels. Products powered by such power supplies and battery-powered products would not have NRTL labels.