Technical Article

CSA vs. UL Certifications

June 23, 2021 by Muhammad Asim Niazi

Now that we’ve learned the basics of common certifications like CSA and UL, let’s figure out their similarities and differences.

The Underwriter Laboratory (UL) is U.S.-based, while the CSA Group (formerly Canadian Standards Association) is Canada-based. They have the responsibility of certifying processes and products entering into their respective country markets. Some manufacturers opt for UL certification, while others opt for CSA certification.  

CSA and UL certifications are the most respected and trusted certification bodies worldwide. These two adhere to the best standards of professionalism and expertise. The certification of these bodies is accepted as credible worldwide in all industries. Industrial professionals rely heavily on them for guidelines and knowledge. 

First, let’s look at the ways they are similar to each other.


Similarities Between CSA and UL Certifications

Internationally Recognized 

When a body or an organization is internationally recognized, it proves they are experts and knowledgeable about their business. It also creates a sense of competition among many players worldwide, especially in the developed countries. Their constant training, research, and investment enable them to maintain these standards and are trusted for difficult and dynamic environments.


UL label

Figure 1. An example of a UL certification label on a GE product. Image used courtesy of Label-Aid


Both CSA and UL are internationally recognized and are not limited to their regions or countries. Their knowledge and skill are trusted worldwide, and they act as a guide for unsolved problems. 


Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Certified

Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) is a private organization accredited by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. Its role is to certify electrical products that want to enter into the U.S. market as safe. 

The NRTL is responsible for establishing relevant testing procedures, equipment, facility, technical experts, calibration procedures, and quality control programs to perform product certification in line with OSHA regulations. OSHA also obligates the NRTL to inspect the production process of these products to ensure test conformance. OSHA code for accrediting NRTL is Federal Code 29 CFR 1910.7.


Figure 2. CSA-certified “heavy-duty” conduits. Image used courtesy of Liquatite


CSA and UL are both involved in the testing and certification of electrical products for their safety. They both have relevant requirements fulfilled, such as facilities and test equipment to qualify for the certification process, meaning the manufacturer can choose from these two organizations for their certification process. Their marking is widely accepted across many markets in the U.S., which makes the products trustworthy.


Standards Development Organizations (SDO) Status

Standards Development Organizations (SDO) are organizations that develop standards for manufacturers. The manufacturers are required to follow the standards developed by SDO. The SDO is often accredited by a relevant standard body of a particular region or country. The SDO has the necessary expertise, skill, and knowledge to develop standards meeting industrial demands and solving problems.

CSA and UL are SDOs of their respective countries. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has assigned SDO status to UL, and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) has given SDO status to CSA.


International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Certification

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international, well-respected standardization body involved in developing standards for different practical industrial fields, including electrical and electronics. The ISO also sets standards for many other processes, such as quality management systems (QMS). ISO does not develop standards and only inspects to verify and ensure standards conformity. The ISO develops its standard for the third parties to review and implement ISO Standards. 

QMS principles

Figure 3. QMS principles. Image used courtesy of ASQ


International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) is the organization for international bodies involved in ISO standardization following respective ISO Standards.

Both CSA and UL must inspect the organization to implement ISO standards. Examples of ISO standards include QMS, ISO 14001 environment management system, and ISO 45001 occupational health and safety management system.


Differences Between CSA and UL Certifications

There is not as much difference between them. Both organizations have the required skill, knowledge, and expertise to carry out certification for several processes, devices, and equipment. Minor differences include country origins and differences in SDO accreditations.


Different Standards Development Organizations (SDO)

The major difference is their country of origin (i.e., America [UL] vs. Canada [CSA]). Since CSA and UL originate from other countries, they have different SDO to approve their work. UL is an American organization certified by ANSI. CSA is a Canadian body approved by the SCC.

As it ends up, UL and CSA have more similarities than differences. They’re both internationally recognized—even though they’re from different countries—as well as NRTL certified, have SDO status, and ISO certified. With these combined similarities, facilities can pick and choose which accreditation it would prefer. Which one do you use in your facility?