This article is designed to provide a very quick overview of why product compliance testing and certification is performed and to outline some of the compliance requirements. Hopefully, you soon understand the responsibilities of product certification and why you’re having your product tested? How you go about selecting a laboratory and what to ask them about their accreditation.
Why are products tested?
Different global markets have different product testing requirements. These can vary quite dramatically between different regions. So it is important to understand your intended markets compliance and product testing requirements. Product testing is performed in most countries to ensure that the products meet the local mandatory safety standards. That the product is not banned or contains banned substances or materials. Additional they are free from any defects and also meet any claims made about them.
Who is responsible for product testing?
Generally speaking, responsibility is the first point of sale or distribution within the region or country. This can be either the manufacturer, importer, local agent/representative or the distributor of the product. This is particularly important to remember, as if you are an importer it is highly recommended to have test reports issued for the product by an independent accredited testing laboratory.
What are the mandatory product testing requirements?
Typically the mandatory product testing requirements for Australia include specific product related scopes. In addition to this is the RCM mark, which for applicable products (wireless communication products, most electrical & electronic products) encapsulates EMC, Radio communication, EMR/EME, telecommunication and safety testing.
Typically the mandatory product testing requirements for Europe involve CE marking along with any other safety legislation or directives. In order to apply the CE mark, the product must meet the applicable CE marking directives. These directives include the Low Voltage Directive – 2014/35/EU and also the EMC Directive – 2014/30/EU along with R&TTE Directive – 1999/5/EC (to be replaced by the RED Directive)
Product testing options
- In some cases, companies may have in-house expertise, experience and facilities. Thus they can conduct their own testing and adequately demonstrate compliance.
- Engage the services of a certification agency to assess the product and provide written assessments that can be used as evidence of compliance with the relevant mandated standards.
- Engage the services of an independent testing laboratory (also known as a test house) that can test the product and can issue detailed test reports. It is preferable and highly recommended to use an accredited testing laboratory.
- If your importing a product from overseas then the testing may have already been completed by a third-party product certification laboratory/body. In some instances, this can be used as evidence of compliance with the mandated product testing requirements. Once again it is preferable to have reports issued by an accredited testing body or testing laboratory. However, caution should be taken as sometimes there is regional variation. A good example of this would be the different AC mains plugs used around the world. Certificates of compliance are generally not accepted and the full test report is usually required.
Why use an accredited testing laboratory
Accredited testing laboratories must undergo an assessment from the accreditation body to add accredited testing scope editions. This means at some stage a technical assessor has verified that the laboratory is competent. Competency for accredited testing involves that the laboratory has the expertise and facilities to conduct the testing correctly. The National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) is the main Australian accreditation body and is a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). ILAC is the International organisation for accreditation bodies operating in accordance with “Conformity assessment – General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies” i.e. ISO/IEC 17011. ILAC is also involved in the accreditation of conformity assessment bodies including calibration laboratories and testing laboratories (using ISO/IEC 17025: General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories), medical testing laboratories (using ISO 15189: “Particular requirements for quality and competence specifies the quality management system requirements particular to medical laboratories”) and inspection bodies (using ISO/IEC 17020: “Requirements for the competence of bodies performing inspection and for the impartiality and consistency of their inspection activities”).
Using an accredited testing laboratory can carry more credibility than opposed to a non-accredited laboratory. As the competency, equipment and facilitates have been assessed and found to be satisfactory. In the case of a dispute of compliance, it is generally regarded that an accredited test report will be looked upon more favourably. More information about NATA Accredited Testing Adding Value to your Product can be seen in our previous blog.
Not all laboratories are accredited and in some cases, they may be accredited to one standard or even a base standard such as ISO 17025 but not accredited for the product testing that is applicable to your product. It is advised that when deciding upon your testing laboratory that you verify their scope and accreditation status.
A good example of this would be our EMC Bayswater’s NATA scope of accreditation and accreditation certificate. On the NATA scope of accreditation, it indicates the laboratory details along with the NATA accreditation reference number. It also shows all the accredited EMC testing and standards that EMC Bayswater is capable of performing. As part of the ISO 17025 and NATA requirements, we are obligated to inform you of any limitations of scope at the quote stage or due to unforeseen circumstances if any of the testings is to be outsourced. Any limitations of the scope of parts of standards including exemptions are listed on the labs NATA accreditation scope. Other accreditation bodies scopes may not list exemptions so this should be confirmed by the testing laboratory. The certificate also indicates the last time the scope was amended. However, it is advised to verify the current scope as listed on the laboratory scope of the accreditation bodies website i.e. NATA to ensure that accreditation has not been withdrawn.
Further information including “A guide to testing: product safety” can be found on the Australian product safety website. This website also provides a list of Australian product recalls and advice if you are required to do a product recall.
We are NATA accredited EMC testing facility located in Melbourne, Australia. We provide accredited EMC testing services for CE, FCC and RCM compliance. Contact EMC Bayswater and find out how we can help you with your EMC testing.