Read here about the different types of electrical safety documentation that manufacturers must consider before selling products to end-users.
Electrical safety markings and labels
Product markings and safety labels represent a type of product compliance information that is provided on or in connection with electrical equipment. They are used to identify all the safety characteristics of an electrical product. A product should bear markings and labels that allow for the identification of the product and ensure that the product is suitable for the intended use.
External marking labels
Sometimes, the contents of the marking labels are affixed on the product’s surface in accordance with the requirements of specific applicable standards. This type of markings is called external markings. The symbols used for marking should conform to dedicated standards and follow specific regulatory guidelines regarding colour, shape and dimensions. The meaning of each symbol must be explained in the product’s user manual or installation instructions.
Generally, the external electrical safety marking labels include the following types of information:
- Details about the manufacturer (e.g. business name, address and trademark)
- Means of identification of the electrical equipment (e.g. serial number, classification, degree of protection and energy efficiency level)
- Details about the power supply (AC, DC, or both)
- Product characteristics and ratings (e.g. voltage, rated load, frequency, power consumption, environmental conditions)
- Evidence of compliance with international regulations for electrical products (e.g. certification markings like CE and FCC)
- Markings that are necessary to ensure the product’s safe and proper installation, use and maintenance
- Other markings provided that they don’t create confusion and misunderstanding regarding the compliance status of the product.
Any external marking labels on a product must be durable, legible and visible. The effect of regular use and the product’s life span shouldn’t affect the durability of the marking. Manufacturers can use ink-stamping, silk-screening or paint to affix external marking labels on their products. Stickers are allowed only when the stickers can withstand environmental factors, such as extreme high/low temperatures and humidity. To ensure durability, manufacturers can conduct a durability marking test.
External markings cannot be affixed to any movable parts. If there isn’t enough room on the main body of the equipment, the markings may be placed in the user manual.
The internal marking labels are in an enclosure and are usually accessed by service personnel. They should be durable, legible and appropriately placed within the product. Usually, the durability marking test is not performed for such internal labels.
Internal marking labels should include information such as:
- Type and rating of the fuses inside the equipment
- Indication of high voltage
- Where applicable, the type of batteries and the mode of replacement showing correct insertion
- Indication of the protective earth terminal(s) and the functional earth terminals
- The correct method for connecting supply conductors
- Warnings close to areas that could generate electrical product hazards or hazardous situations.
Marking of controls and instruments
The electrical safety documentation of a product also includes markings of controls and instruments. Manufacturers should mark (using appropriate symbols) any control devices, visual indicators, and displays regarding their safety and other functions. For instance, the main switch of power should be clearly identified by appropriate marking. The button’s ON position should have “O” and the OFF position – “I” or other acceptable markings per the relevant standards. Additionally, the two states of the switch should also be indicated using a light or other unambiguous means.
Explanations of the markings should be provided in the technical documentation of the product.
When using indicators, such as colours and lights, manufacturers must consider the recommendations in the relevant safety standards. For instance, the use of the following colours of indicator lights is preferable due to their meaning:
- Red for indicating warning of danger or urgent actions
- Yellow for advising caution
- Green for displaying ready for action.
For instance, considering these three universal colour meanings, the emergency shutoff and stop buttons should be coloured in red, visible and accessible in case of danger.
The use of any indicators must be described in detail in the accompanying electrical safety documentation.
The accompanying documentation usually gives users information regarding the electrical equipment’s transport, installation, operation, and maintenance. For that reason, manufacturers must provide it as a component part of the supplied equipment.
This type of electrical safety documentation must be supplied in the form of instructions, schematics, charts, diagrams and tables. It must be in the language acceptable to the end-user.
The instructions for use (IFU) must include all the information users may need to operate the equipment properly. The operating instructions should detail all proper procedures for the installation and operation of the equipment. The following details must be specified:
- A clear indication about the product’s intended use
- Complete instructions for safety associated with the hazard and hazardous situations that may occur during the product’s regular use
- Information indicating any detachable components
- A list of accessories recommended being used with the electrical equipment
- The expiration date of the consumable parts
- Connections to the supply
- Instructions for transportation and storage before and after the delivery to the user
- Ventilation requirements
- Information about all input and output connections
- Requirements for special services (e.g. related to air and cooling liquid)
- Information about the function of controls and displays
- Instructions for interconnection with accessories and other products
- Step-by-step guide on how to operate the equipment
- Illustrations showing proper connections of all parts
- Explanations of all marking labels
- Specifications of limits for intermittent operation
- If applicable, specific battery types
- If applicable, instructions for the use and maintenance of rechargeable batteries
- Information on proper cleaning of the product
- Waste disposal information
- Instructions in case of product malfunctioning
- A statement advising that the product’s impairement is possible if the user does not follow the manufacturer’s recommendations
- Recommendations for users regarding preventive inspection and maintenance
- If applicable, instructions concerning the regular testing of the product and its accessories
- Guidance information allowing the user to check the correct functioning of alarms
- Guidance information enabling the user to check the operational safety of the product
- Methods for programming the electrical product that the user can follow easily.
- Contact information in case the end-user requires assistance
- Instructions for user protection against hazards.
Automate the creation and management of electrical safety documentation using efficient cloud-based product compliance software.
Additionally, manufacturers must also provide the following information regarding the technical specifications of the product:
- Electrical ratings (e.g. voltage and current)
- Interfaces (e.g. interconnections such as Wi-Fi)
- Functional parameters
- Physical properties (e.g. weight and colour)
- Operating environment (e.g. humidity and temperature range)
- Storage environment (e.g. humidity and temperature range)
- Safety standards with which the electrical equipment complies
- The name of the test laboratory that assessed the compliance of the product with the stated standards
- The number and date of the test report.
The installation instructions should contain the following information:
- Normal operating conditions of the product (e.g. normal position)
- Methods of installation, location and mounting requirements
- Where applicable, warnings indicating that the product can generate heat and fire hazards if not installed in non-hazardous locations
- Electrical supply requirements
- Methods of connecting to the electrical supply
- Programming instructions
- Sequence of operation
- Operating instructions for the individual installing the product
- Block diagram, schematics and circuit diagram
- Information regarding the physical environment (e.g. vibration and noise)
- List of critical components
- Instructions for connecting and disconnecting detachable parts and accessories
- Precautionary instructions
- Warning statements and explanations of warning symbols marked on/within the product.
Safety instructions and warnings
The safety instructions of electrical equipment should provide information covering the steps associated with the equipment’s storage, unpacking, installation, and operation. They should be educational and not something that would instil fear in the end-user.
If there are any revisions of the safety instructions, the manufacturer must keep a record of all revisions to ensure that each user received the updated version. Users should receive this type of electrical safety documentation in writing, conveying the following information:
- Storage instructions
- Wiring instructions and, where necessary, references to the local regulations and national electrical codes
- A statement concerning the correct protective earth terminal connection
- Means of connection and disconnection from the power supply mains.
- Precautions about the proper position of the product when connected to the power supply mains.
- Where applicable, a method for safe removal of the knock-outs (KOs) and a recommendation for preserving the required IP after the KOs removal
- If applicable, a detailed description of the batteries
- Information about any foreseeable hazards and appropriate warnings used
Any warning notices must be prefaced with an uppercase signal word “CAUTION”, “WARNING” or “DANGER”. Manufacturers should use the sign “DANGER” for product functions representing the most severe risks. The letter height of all warning markings must be a minimum of 1.5 mm. And, the signal work should be in letters at least 2.75 mm.