For compliance there are a number of organizations that publish standards:
IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission)
ISO (International Standards Organization)
CEN (European Committee for Standardization)
CENELEC (International Standards and Conformity Assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies)
AAMI (Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation)
ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
FCC (Federal Communications Commission)
UL (Underwriters Laboratories)
BSI (British Standards Institute)
CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
JSA (Japanese Standards Association)
SAC (Standards Administration of China)
VDE (German Standards)
The U.S. Department of Commerce also publishes a list of standards by country at the following website:
NIST – Standards & Technical Regulations
UL , CSA, VDE, IECEE CB, TUV SUD (America), and TUV Rheinland all maintain certification databases.
There are a number of different companies and organization that provide listing of certifications. For example, Underwriter’s Laboratory issues standards, does certification testing and maintains a database of both UL listed and UL Certified products. A U.L. Listed product is one that has not gone through certification testing whereas U.L Certified has been tested for compliance. U.L has some 62 logos that are used to identify what they have been listed or tested against.
From a contracts perspective, why are certifications important? First, in many situations the failure to meet the applicable an applicable law or standard will prevent the importation or use of a product that is not in compliance. In some situations a certification may be required to show compliance with other laws. For example U.S. OSHA laws require safe materials and products be used by workers. Certifications are use by Suppliers for marketing purposes showing compliance or meeting certain quality requirements such as ISO Quality standards. Buyers may view them as an indication of potential quality in the supplier’s operation. One of the most important aspect of certifications is the management of potential liability. In the event of personal injury or property damage anyone in the sales chain may be sued. In determining whether a company has been negligent, part of the defense would be what the party has done to manage against the potential risk. That helps identify if they were negligent or the degree of their negligence. If the party did nothing, that inaction may make them liable. If a company relied on a supplier representation or warranty of compliance they may have an action against the supplier, but could still be liable to the third party for not doing enough. If the company required independent certification by an accredited agency, that action may show they took reasonable steps to prevent it the injury or damage and were not negligent. What you get as a logo or commitment can make the difference. For example, buying something that has a “U.L. Listed” code shows you provide a lesser standard of care than if you purchased a product that was “U.L. Certified” meaning it underwent testing for the specific certification.
In situations where the government could levy fines for violating certain requirements such as compliance with RoHS environmental requirements, the fact that you had something certified for compliance may not help you avoid the fine. In those situations your recourse would be to claim those fines as damages you sustained for breach of the contract requirement by supplier.
If you write contracts that commonly include requirements that suppliers must meet certain requirements or certifications, get a copy of those documents and read them so you understand what is being required.