Not Always What It Seems

The difference between IEC Reports and CB Scheme Reports/Certificates

With this new drive towards leading edge electrical laboratory and medical solutions, manufacturers must maintain high quality Technical files on each product family. Some of the most important documents within a Technical File are the Test Reports and Certificates. In the following article we will highlight insider tips on how to spot high risk test reports.  

Whether you are an expert or a complete layman in electrical equipment certification, there are a few things that the industry consistently overlooks. These seemingly simple things can cause major problems if found by authorities. The following article will help pinpoint some of these issues in order to verify the product is truly certified for global compliance and not just self-certification.  

Before we dive into the technical aspects of this discussion, lets look at a global organization that is helping to bring consistency to electrical product certification around the world.  The International  Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) creates compliance standards that harmonize many local standards into one version that every major global market will and can accept as certification for safety.  As an example, the United States has a UL61010-1 standard, Canada has a CSA61010-1 standard, along with Europe’s EN61010-1 standard and  so on.  All of these versions have been combined into an IEC61010-1 standard. You may ask, what’s the difference? One of the differences is that the IEC version requires testing at each voltage and frequency range for every major global market amongst other international requirements. These are called country deviations and we will get into more detail about that later in this article.

While the International Electrotechnical Commission creates the standards, the International Electrotechnical Commission for Electrical Equipment (IECEE) is the organization that upholds the accreditation system.  This system makes sure that engineers are trained on global compliance, labs have certified Standard Operating Procedures, test equipment is calibrated regularly and that the  report deliverables are cross audited between agencies for consistency.  The differences between the IEC Test Reports and the IECEE CB Scheme Test Report is what we will start to clarify in this article, because although similar, they have some very different paths when it comes to electrical equipment compliance.

As a physical manufacturer, legal manufacturer or even an Importer; electrical certification and compliance is a major task to complete. Picking just any test lab is not an option in todays global market.  With competition being fierce and profit margins potentially dropping to compete; the scope of distribution becomes more important.

Having an electrical product tested at a laboratory in which is not recognized by the IECEE to be a Certified Body (CB )will drastically reduce the acceptance of the deliverables produced. This is because the data generated was not put through a multi faceted audit program to confirm regular consistency on a global scale. As a theoretical example; having a product tested at a non Certified Body laboratory in one country may produce very different results in comparison to when that same product is tested at a non Certified Body laboratory in a different country. This is why the data and deliverables from said laboratories do not hold as much weight when it comes to international compliance requirements. Put differently, laboratories that are not considered Certified Body (CB) Laboratories are only providing test reports valid for self-certification (aka CE marking) which is generally only accepted in Europe a few other participating countries. This also means that the quality of the test data falls on the manufacturer.

How do you tell the difference between an IEC test report done at a non Certified Body laboratory vs a Certified Body laboratory? Lets look into this in a bit more detail shall we;

For Certified Body test reports, there should be an IEC icon in the top header and the name of the IECEE registered test house (https://www.iecee.org/dyn/www/f?p=106:42:0). The trick here is that non Certified Body test facilities do not know these rules and will sometimes leave the IEC header in the document. This means that verifying the test laboratory name on the IECEE website is crucial.

Further down on the first page the test procedure should state either “CB Scheme” or “CE Report”. Again, the issue is with test labs that are not well informed will not make this change like they are supposed to. Thus, verifying only one of these items is not enough; the entire report should have all of these markers. These requirements are clearly outlined in the “fine print” below. It states, “If this Test Report Form is used by a non IECEE member, the IECEE/IEC logo and the reference to the CB scheme procedure shall be removed”. Furthermore, one of the most important things that must be checked and received is the CB Certificate. Again, as described in the below language; “This report is not valid as a CB Test Report unless signed by an approved CB testing Laboratory and Appended to a CB test Certificate issued by an NCB in accordance with IECEE 02”.

Last but not least is the “country deviations” portion which should be attached to the end of the report. These deviations highlight the slight differences between the EN, CSA, UL, and similar local standards as discussed in the paragraphs above. Without these deviations the report isn’t a true Certified Body report and will not be accepted by many global markets.

By understanding the key differences between a self-certification IEC report and a Certified Body Test Report manufacturers can catch potential problems before they happen. Ensuring that all of their electrical products have proper Certified Body Test Reports and Certificates will lower the liability of having compliance issues when shipping to various global markets. In the worst of situations, some IEC self certification reports will need to be completely redone for certain markets that are very strict. This could cost upwards of $20,000 USD.  Investing a little more money and time upfront will always pay back in the long run.

Author: Brett

Brett Gagnon is currently one of the global subject matter expert for electrical equipment and electrical medical devices at Merck KGaA Darmstadt Germany, otherwise known as Millipore Sigma within North America. He has an Electrical Engineering degree from Wentworth Institute of Technology and a Masters of Business from Southern New Hampshire University. Mr Gagnon has a background in the ATIC (Assurance Testing Inspection Certification) industry based on previous years working for Intertek Testing Services NA Inc out of the Boston Ma area. During his time at Intertek he became a CB certified engineer evaluating products to medical, laboratory, IT, and Industrial standards. He also has a knowledge base in laser, Ingress Protection testing and wireless radio registration. Additionally Mr. Gagnon was a Field label and Special Inspection agent reviewing large custom equipment for national safety approvals in North America.

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