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Thread: Are your power tools UL listed? Do you care??

  1. #1
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    Are your power tools UL listed? Do you care??

    There is an interesting thread over at Wood magazines DC forum about electrical inspections, and how an inspector failed one because the owner had mounted a Jet air cleaner from the ceiling and plugged it in. It's not UL listed. I know this subject came up at SMC a year or so ago regarding Mini Max machines not being UL listed. I just wondered how many of our woodworking machines are and are not UL listed. Now keep in mind, I don't think it's a reason to stop using these machines for a minute. Just interested. So far I have researched the American made Leeson motor that powers my Clear Vue cyclone, and Leeson's site states that it is not UL listed. I want to look at my Emerson motor on my contractor saw to see what it says, out of curiosity.
    Then there is the other thought, does it matter if the motor is UL listed or not, and what about the controls/switches for the motors. How would you go about finding out on those components that a manufacturer uses? Hmmm...food for thought on a cold Spring evening. Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
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  2. #2
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    Well, Jim, you scratched the wrong subject if you are looking for a brief answer (brief answer, who cares if it's UL listed). I think the problem I have with a UL listing is that it only signified that the product is tested by UL to a standard. UL has nothing to do with setting the standard, only certifying that the product is tested to meet it. We used to joke that if you wanted to get a UL label for something you sent them the device and a BIG check, then crossed your fingers. If the product passed, then you continued to send UL checks for the privilege of putting their copyrighted emblem on your product.

    An electrical product, like our Leeson motors, could be tested to several standards (read several BIG checks) and still be installed in a system for which it is not suitable. Is there that much difference in class I division I and DivisionII? The same is true for a number of other items. Hand pumps for flammable liquids is one that comes to mind.

    UL listed fire assemblies is another area that is wide open. You can have a door that meets a standard, but unless it is in a listed frame it is worthless to the fire inspector.

    So far as Mini-Max, they are probably safer than any US tool that has the UL label since they are European, and the EU safety standards are much tougher than the ones we have, another reason the machines cost so much. Personally I like the EU safety standards and think the whole UL thing is often overblown, especially bu inspectors who are not familiar with the European (or Canadian) standards.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cecil Arnold View Post
    ...
    Personally I like the EU safety standards and think the whole UL thing is often overblown, especially bu inspectors who are not familiar with the European (or Canadian) standards.
    I agree that the European Union seems to do a better job of standardization and I would trust tools blessed by the EU over those with a CSA or UL approval. Unfortunately, we in Canada often just "rubber stamp" standards developed in the USA. If we are going to just adopt someone else's standards (which we should not do) , we would be better served to adopt standards from Europe than from the United States.

    By the way, part of my job in software development was to serve for many years on both national and international standards committees. This work is tedious and not much fun.
    Cheers, Frank

  4. #4
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    Cecil, I think that's part of the rub, though. It seems that the thread I remember as being on SMC (could be wrong) was about a commercial shop and couldn't get approval so they could open their doors because they had some MM equipment and it wasn't UL listed. Now I understand that UL is kind of a consumer watch group and if something has that label on it, it has supposedly passed some minimum standards for safety. But if electrical inspectors can use a piece of equipment to deny an electrical inspection, which should only be about what the wired in components of the building (ie: wiring, outlets, breaker, and breaker boxes) then what tools do we have that are UL listed? I'm starting to think that they are few and far between. If someone has some non listed tools in their garage/shops and have an electrical inspection for say adding some additional electrical services for 220 plugs, why should the whole thing be denied because of the tools? I'm saying it shouldn't (and I think you agree, from you above statements).
    This thread is more a question about what we have in our shops, and a heads up that this could happen to others. Sure, it could also be an isolated inspector who is overstepping his authority. But look around at your city/county inspectors. I've heard stories from a former employer that several around here live a much higher life style than their local government salaries would warrant. Sounds like they always have their hands out, if you know what I mean. Again, I'd hope that this is an isolated thing, but if they weild that much power with no way to get it straightenend out..... Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
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    When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're usually up to something!!
    At a minimum, I'm Pentatoxic...but most likely, I'm a Pentaholic. There seems to be no known cure. Pentatonix, winners of The Sing Off, season 3


  5. #5
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    Jim,

    As I recall the SMC post was a guy in California who had an Oneida Dust Gorilla and the fire inspector was giving him grief by requesting that he provide UL certification. Having spent 5 years as an inspector in Houston and another 10 years supervising inspectors I can see both sides of the problem.

    UL is not a consumer watch group. Underwriters Laboratories was set up as a private entity by insurance underwriters in order to save the insurance industry $$. The standards they test to are written by outfits like National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Compressed Gas Association (CGA) and an alphabet of others--ASTM, ASME, etc. As Frank said, the committees that write the standards are boring, but everyone on the committee is there to avoid goring their own ox. It is a constant fight, with trade offs, to save the company money and avoid regulation as much as possible.

    Then, many inspectors are not adequately trained beyond basic inspections based on one of the standard companion (to the building code) fire codes. In smaller towns (and some big ones) they have the attitude that if the fire marshall likes it it's okay and if he doesn't it's against the law. Very often they will attempt to apply a code section inappropriately such as requiring flammable warehouse requirements in a hardware store. In the case of the Dust Gorilla, what the inspector was looking for was a requirement that started out dealing with grain elevators, which have a tendency to blow up due to fine dust. I suspect (haven't read the requirement lately) that the standard was prepared for industrial installations (read grain elevator) where you would have 15 hp and up cyclones and would require bonding of everything metallic in the structure. Somehow this standard right or wrong was being applied to a small carpenter/artist shop. The problem here is that Oneida or anyone else selling a major industrial rig would pay for testing on a big $$ project, they won't pay to test a collector that cost less than $1000.

    Most inspectors, after a few years, develop what I call "walking around sense," and will exercise some discretion. In the case of the Oneida, they might require bonding, and would demand good housekeeping and other dust control, then sign the guy off. The problem with that is if they overlook something and have a loss of life situation, then someone will find a lawyer and sue.

    Happily, in Texas and a number of other states, we can do pretty much as we please in our garage shops and anywhere outside the city. Most of the equipment we use may have a UL listed motor, but that is the extent of their listing, and the motors are listed for "normal" operation (not explosive atmosphere).

    Since I was an honest inspector, I used to openly joke about having to economize, since "graft is down by 20% this month." Since Fire Departments are paternalistic organizations, the one inspector I suspected of taking $$ decided to retire before I had to take action. Suffice it to say there were offers.

  6. #6
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    Good insight into the inspection world, Arnold. And some good information too! Thanks. Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
    Exclusively Irish!
    Home of Irish Setter Rescue of North Texas
    When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're usually up to something!!
    At a minimum, I'm Pentatoxic...but most likely, I'm a Pentaholic. There seems to be no known cure. Pentatonix, winners of The Sing Off, season 3


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