Watch Your Step: An Acronym Minefield

Watch Your Step: An Acronym Minefield

Manufacturing and consumption drive the global economy. Yet, with billions of products on the market, how can consumers have confidence in the safety of the products they purchase?

Laws here and abroad mandate product safety compliance testing for a wide range of consumer products. To comply, manufacturers and importers must certify products with a written or electronic compliance certificate. Certifications must accompany the product. Often a copy must be provided to retailers, product distributors, the government, and (occasionally) to the end consumer.

There are several different types of respected international certifications for product safety for items manufactured around the world. These marks are intended to provide safety and quality assurance to end consumers and, in some cases, to ease entry of goods into certain markets.

product-safety-engineering CE

The CE mark refers to the French “Conformité Européene.” CE marking on a product is a manufacturer’s declaration that the product is in compliance with essential requirements of relevant European health, safety, and environmental protection legislation. With the CE mark, government officials know the product may be legally placed on the marked in a specific country. The mark also means the product may move freely through EFTA and European Union markets. Non-conforming products are subject to removal by customs officials or other compliance officials within a country.



Canada’s CSA International provides product testing and certification services for electrical, mechanical, plumbing, gas, and a variety of other products. CSA’s mark is recognized internationally and appears on billions of products. The CSA international certification mark indicates that a product, process, or service has been tested to a Canadian or US standard and meets compliance standards. Like the CE mark and others, the CSA mark is intended to provide quality and safety assurance.



Intertek’s ETL Mark proves product compliance to North American safety standards. The ETL Mark is the fastest-growing safety certification in North America. US and Canadian officials accept the mark as proof of product compliance. For retail buyers, the mark assures product safety and compliance and brings peace of mind.



Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of experience in product safety testing and innovation. Dedicated to promoting safe living and working environments, UL helps safeguard people, products and places in important ways, facilitating trade and providing peace of mind. A UL Listing means that the company has tested representative samples of a specific product and determined that the product meets UL requirements for consumer safety. These stringent requirements are primarily based on UL’s nationally recognized Standards for Safety.


Want to expand your knowledge of product safety compliance, developments in technology, and the future of the field? Connect with a global community of fellow professionals by joining IEEE’s Product Safety and Engineering Society. When you do, you’ll reap the benefits of access to publications, opportunities for leadership, and chances to network.