What is UL Rating? A Guide to UL in Cannabis Equipment
The safety and reliability of equipment is imperative in cannabis extraction. A properly devised and monitored extraction system can produce high quality extract and ensure the safety of all operators, and that starts with hardware built with strict safety standards at the forefront. To that end, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is an accredited, global independent firm that establishes important guidelines that protect both operator and consumer safety.
In the cannabis industry, however, UL standards have historically not been enforced. As the whole sector grows and many operators eye a world in which a national and even international industry are possible, the importance of UL rating continues to increase. Here’s what cannabis extractors need to know about UL rating.
What is UL rating?
UL rating refers to whether a piece of equipment has been tested by UL’s Field Inspection Service or a nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL) qualified in UL standards. Safety considerations measured by the UL include everything from Certification for Plant Oil Extraction Equipment to Building Inspection Services. While different products may receive different ratings, UL certification follows a pass-fail format. If a product passes, it’s UL certified.
One of the primary tasks of the Underwriters Laboratories is the confirmation process, which is a way to track and monitor the level of certification. The organization maintains different ratings and levels of testing. For example, UL includes fire ratings, short circuits, and other factors that can influence the safety and effectiveness of a given piece of equipment. This service is especially valuable because the organization is an objective third party that offers an honest appraisal based on their inspection.
In addition to establishing safety standards and conducting inspections, UL also issues industry reports. In construction or HVAC, these reports are often referenced by equipment vendors to ensure their products are made in alignment with UL standards and by their customers to confirm the products they may purchase are UL rated.
UL listed vs. UL recognized vs. UL certified
While each of these UL ratings are governed by the same organizations, UL listing, UL recognition, and UL certification mean different things for cannabis manufacturers. Despite some similarities between each, it is crucial to understand the distinctions between them to determine what’s best for your business.
UL recognition is generally applied to components of larger machinery or systems used to make consumer-facing products. This UL rating includes everything from housing standards to installation procedures. A UL recognized component does not require a stamped seal of approval to be marketed as “UL recognized.” Products subject to UL recognition include computer equipment and sprinkler systems.
UL certified equipment refers to the full machinery or systems used to make consumer-facing products, not just the components that comprise them. In cannabis extraction, for example, UL-certified products consist of equipment like biomass mills, chillers, or centrifuges.
Finally, UL listings are intended for market, and consumer-ready products. UL listed consumer products require extensive testing to validate nationally recognized safety and sustainability standards under normal, everyday use. Products subject to a UL Listed rating include plant oil extraction equipment, and e-cigarette or vape batteries.
Why is UL rating important in cannabis extraction?
UL ratings are essential for cannabis extraction businesses for a variety of reasons. These ratings benefit both the consumer and product manufacturers to ensure the safety of personnel and the manufacturing facility, as well as to maintain a company’s reputation and accountability with its customers.
In cannabis extraction, fires and explosions could be caused by faulty equipment and processes. As a result, UL 1389 was initially published in 2019 to verify design and construction practices, as well as equipment testing. UL offers safety certifications for oil extraction equipment (some of which is used in cannabis extraction,) including extractors, preparatory equipment, and post-processing equipment. This overlap between industries has helped translate into guidelines on how to assess the safety of new cannabis facilities.
The following are among the main reasons for UL Ratings in cannabis extraction:
- Electrical safety: UL markers are commonly seen on electrical equipment and appliances, ranging from fuses to electrical panels to circuit breakers. Under UL 1289, experts work with cannabis companies to evaluate the safety of the extraction equipment to prevent fire, electric shock, injury to persons, and risk of explosion. Under the Standard for Electrical Systems of Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping Devices, this includes testing for the heating, battery, and charging systems for electronic vape devices as well.
- Fire prevention: Because extraction equipment often contains flammable materials, the UL works with architects, insurers, investors, and building code officials to make sure that systems function properly in the case of a fire, reducing the risk of spreading the fire or leading to an explosion. With UL rating, extraction companies can feel confident in their smoke and CO2 alarms, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers.
- Protecting personnel: The safety of your team is of the utmost importance. UL testing covers building inspections and safety certifications to ensure the compliance of extraction equipment and help keep employees, facility, and equipment safe. The UL testing program works with architects and insurance professionals to confirm your personnel work in a properly secured environment so that you can focus on your products without risk of failure, injury, or fatalities.
- Establish trust: Underwriters Laboratories is a third-party service, so customers can trust that their process is unbiased and UL ratings are honest appraisals of the product. When a cannabis extraction company has the support of a certification company like UL, it helps build a reputation that customers can rely on.
- Work toward GMP compliance: UL rating for electrical compliance issues is essentially a prerequisite for other compliance certifications as well, including Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards. While UL ratings are distinct and separate from GMP standards, they can be considered one element that could improve a cannabis extraction company’s ability to obtain GMP certification. For example, if a product is not certified as electrically safe under UL ratings (or a comparable equivalent), the company could likely not be considered GMP ready.
How UL certification is determined
Typically, UL testing is performed by Underwriters Laboratories, a global safety certification company, or another third-party NRTL organization specializing in UL standards. Testing involves inspection of all equipment in a processing or extraction facility. The inspectors go through a company’s materials, blueprints, and components in reference to their checklist to ensure compliance.
According to the UL’s website, the cost of ratings varies based on the product type and the scope of the necessary evaluation. Once UL reviews your product information, they will work with you to determine the time frame for testing and certification. The timeframe of such ratings is also dependent on the availability of samples and required information, amount of testing needed, and the scheduling of a visit to the manufacturing facility.
Following testing, UL will guide you through every step of the compliance process to help make sure that your products meet requirements in your target markets.
Remaining compliant is about more than just obtaining certifications. Accidents can still happen even with UL rated equipment, so manufacturers must maintain strict policies and procedures that emphasize safety first and foremost. In addition to UL ratings, manufacturers should make safety procedures a part of their culture and focus, especially when attesting for GMP certification.
At Holland Green Science, we offer more than just UL-compliant equipment. We are here to walk you through the process and help train your employees in a compliant way to maintain the procedures. When you are looking for a partner in cannabis extraction, not just a supplier, Holland Green Science is the team you need.