The General Accounting Office (GAO) has just completed a critical review of OSHA’s Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program.  The NRTL Program is an OSHA program that accredits laboratories to perform testing of certain equipment to ensure its safety when used in the workplace.  Most notably, all electrical equipment used in worksites across the country must be approved for use by an NRTL.  Which laboratories receive accreditation to perform these services – and the types of products the laboratories can approve – are determined by this program.

For several years, NRTLs and laboratories wishing to be accredited as NRTLs, have complained about significant delays in the recognition process.  In addition, whenever an existing NRTL wishes to expand its testing services to include additional products, it must also seek approval from OSHA to do so, which can lead to further delays.  Among other things, GAO was asked to examine the extent of these delays and the consequences of them on NRTLs.

Citing an imbalance between staffing levels and scope of responsibilities and unclear application requirements, GAO concluded that the lengthy process “has potentially negative economic consequences for laboratories and requires OSHA staff to divert their time from other oversight activities.”  The GAO further identified three key strategies for improving timeliness:  (1) aligning program design with program mission and resources, (2) providing clear guidance and timely communication to stakeholders, and (3) developing performance measures and using data to identify inefficiencies.

In response to the GAO report, OSHA committed to further assessing Program effectiveness against alternative approaches and in coordination with other outside agencies.  We will continue to keep you posted on any developments with the NRTL Program.