Safeguarding public safety with Emirates Safety Laboratory

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Navigating fire testing and certification in Saudi Arabia and beyond with Emirates Safety Laboratory. By Tamara Arafat, Certification Business Manager at Emirates Safety Laboratory Testing and Certification

At the forefront of ensuring public safety, the fire Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) Industry within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and globally is devoted to meticulously evaluating the fire safety of diverse products, materials, and systems.

Governed by established standards and regulations, this industry conducts controlled experiments in specialised laboratories to assess critical factors, including fire resistance, propagation, flammability, and smoke generation.

The pinnacle of success in this rigorous process is awarding certification to products, or listing products, that meet stringent safety criteria, thereby facilitating their entry into the market.

Operating globally and spanning various product categories, this industry remains dynamic and adaptable, continually incorporating technological advancements and responding to regulatory shifts to effectively mitigate fire hazards and safeguard public well-being through product certification listings.Top of Form

The insights provided herein aim to illuminate the intricacies of these terms and processes, facilitating a comprehensive understanding within the context of the fire testing and certification industry.

This article seeks to elucidate the distinctions between terms such as “UL Tested,” “UL Listed,” “FM Approved,” etc.

Before we delve into these distinctions, it is imperative to understand that before a fire protection material, product, assembly, or structural element is introduced to the market, it must undergo meticulous fire-testing and certification processes aligned with its intended purpose.

To achieve product approval in Saudi Arabia, manufacturers must have certification if they are intended for sale within the country and the Kingdom’s construction projects.

To achieve product approval, local and international manufacturers must achieve Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation (SASO) approval via the SABER platform.

When inspecting a project for fire compliance of installed products and fire safety systems, KSA Civil Defense relies on products and fire safety systems to be SASO-approved by one of the approved 3rd party testing laboratories and certification bodies that are listed in the SABER system platform.

These 3rd party certification bodies include Applus, Efectis, ESL Certification, FM, Intertek, TBW, UL Solutions, etc.

Key aspects of the fire testing and certification industry include

Standards and Regulations

The KSA industry operates based on established national (SASO) and international (ANSI, API, ASME, ASTM, BS, EN, FM, IBC, IEC, ISO, NFPA, UL, etc.) standards and regulations that specify the minimum safety requirements for various products in relation to fire.

These standards may cover a wide range of items, including building materials, electrical devices, furniture, and more.

Laboratory Testing & Test Report

Fire testing laboratories within KSA and internationally conduct controlled experiments to simulate real-world fire conditions.

Fire testing involves a physical testing process and a comprehensive assessment identifying conditions, fire behaviour, and any limitations for installing the material, product, assembly, or structural element.

These tests evaluate factors such as reaction to fire (RtF) and fire resistance (FR).

RtF considerations include flammability, flame spread, smoke generation, heat release rate, and other fire-related characteristics.

FR key criteria typically encompass integrity (for fire protection-rated applications), insulation (for fire resistance-rated applications), radiation, smoke leak, and load-bearing capacity.

These tests follow the established Saudi and international standards and regulations.

The results help determine the product’s ability to resist or mitigate fire hazards.

The output of both RtF and FR is detailed test reports and adherence to specific test standards identified by SASO and the Saudi Building Code (SBC).

Certification and Compliance

Products that pass the prescribed fire tests are awarded certifications, indicating their compliance with specific fire safety standards.

Certification is often a prerequisite for products entering the market and for use on construction projects across KSA and ensures they meet the necessary safety criteria.

It should be noted that a test report and product certification should not be confused with a test certificate or test report certificate.

SASO and the SBC do not mandate test certificates and test report certificates as they do not typically provide details of the product or system components and installation information for applicators and installers; the details of the sample are habitually self-declared and not verified by a 3rd party; they do not provide provenance and traceability of the material to ensure that the product is the same as a properly tested and certified product; and these can be unaccredited or by a non-recognised lab with no means of validating the product to ensure compliance.

Product Categories

The fire testing and certification industry covers various products and materials, including building and construction materials, textiles, electrical and electronic devices, furniture, automotive components, and more.

Each category within the Kingdom may have its specific standards and testing procedures.

It is best to refer to the SBC and SASO requirements.

Global Scope

Given the international nature of trade and commerce, industry often operates globally.

Saudi organisations may seek certifications that are recognised across different countries and regions to facilitate the smooth movement of products in the global market.

This is why Saudi Arabia and SASO have adopted many international standards or have had their locally developed standards internationally recognised.

Building Regulations

Building regulations ensure strict fire safety standards in construction.

They require fire testing and certification, validating compliance with safety standards.

Regulatory bodies enforce these rules through mandated inspections.

Documentation is vital for evidence.

Building codes offer guidance and enhance fire safety.

The main goal is occupant safety and minimising fire risks.

The regulations cover materials, escape routes, alarms, and more.

In their building regulations, North and South America and many other nations globally identify various American and international standards like ANSI, API, ASME, ASTM, BS, EN, FM, IBC, IEC, ISO, NFPA, UL, etc., for products to be tested, classified, and certified.

Saudi Building Code (SBC)

Through Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia drives construction projects across sectors like NEOM, The Red Sea, Amaala, AlUla, Qiddiya, Riyadh Metro, Roshn, Jeddah Central, King Salman International Airport, Arabian Highland, King Salman International Park, Green Riyadh, Seven, Rua Al Madinah, Riyadh Sports Boulevard, Diriyah gate, and more.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabian facilities need safe, comfortable, and efficient building codes.

In KSA, varying climates and seismic activity heighten the importance of these codes.

The SBC ensures quality, protects the economy, and safeguards citizens, ensuring high standards, safety, and sustainability.

It shapes the nation’s future, adhering to global best practices.

These codes provide guidelines for specifiers, project consultants, contractors, manufacturers, engineers, technicians, and citizens, ensuring safe work practices and resolving disputes in the construction sector.

The SBC originates in the International Building Code (IBC) and typically identifies (SBC 801, Chapter 80) various American and international standards like ANSI, ASTM, IBC, IEC, ISO, NFPA, FM, UL, etc., for testing, classifying, and certifying products and systems.

In some situations, where products and materials are being imported from markets that require these to be tested to alternative international fire testing, classification, and certification standards like API, ASME, BS, EN, AS, etc., can be approved and accepted via acceptance equivalence framework guidelines and assessment, subject to project acceptance and authority approvals.

Certification – Listings and Approvals versus Listed or Approved

The facets of fire testing and certification are intricately interconnected, with one pivotal aspect being the Global Scope, which can occasionally introduce complexities in comprehending the interrelations within this sector.

To the layperson, it can be quite confusing attempting to comprehend and understand the differences between a “test standard”, “tested to or per or following a standard”, and “certificated/listed” or “approved” when internationally recognised brands can cross over all products and services (standards writers/producers, testing labs and certification bodies).

This confusion has resulted in some instances of installed, tested, and certified products and systems being rejected by project supervision consultants and site engineers, resulting in extremely costly delays and variation orders to projects.

An example is uncertainty around what is published and mandated, e.g., a UL or FM Standard, what is tested to a UL or FM standard, what is certified to a UL or FM standard, what is listed with UL Solutions (UL Listed), or what is approved by FM (FM Approved).

This becomes grey and muddy for the many designers, specifiers, and site engineers across KSA.

A common occurrence, due to this confusion (typically from being ill-informed), is that project specifications intended to identify a particular test standard to satisfy compliance and safety in accordance with the likes of the Saudi Building Code get lost in translation and can unknowingly identify UL Listed or FM Approved when the SBC intends that the product or material be tested and certified per the test method identified in the mandated requirement.

This can result in the project being limited in its procurement of products, increasing purchasing costs and causing costly project delays due to project rejections and contractual disputes arising from the misunderstanding of the building regulations requirement.

However, it should also be noted that in some instances, the insurance company underwriting the future building and facility, after project completion and handover, sometimes insists on a project having certain installed products and materials to be UL-listed or FM-approved.

It is always advisable to check with the project owner to verify if this is the case and requirement of the project before proceeding; however, a majority of projects across the Kingdom have a requirement only to have the products and systems tested and certified following the SBC and SASO requirements.

Delving deeper into test standards, they are a set of established criteria and procedures that delineate how a particular test should be conducted to assess the fire safety and performance of products, materials, or systems.

Organisations craft these standards, national or international standardisation bodies, and hold widespread recognition and acceptance within the industry.

Notable examples of such Organisations include the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation (SASO), the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM), and various national standardisation bodies.

FM and UL Solutions are global standards companies that develop safety standards for various consumer goods, especially those with electrical parts.

Both organisations have dedicated research divisions constantly researching safe practices for various products and materials.

Types of accreditation

Tested per FM or UL Standard

Any laboratory with accreditation for ISO 17025 can conduct tests according to UL standards, as long as the required furnace and equipment for those specific standards are available.

FM Approved

When FM is the Testing and Certifying Body after the products are tested to the FM requirement and found to function well and comply with standards, they are then approved (certified) to be FM Approved by FM.

UL Listed

When UL Solutions is the Testing and Certifying Body after the products are tested to UL standards and found to function well and comply with standards, they are then certified to be UL Listed by UL Solutions.

Certified/Listed per a product tested to an FM or UL Standard

Accordingly, any accredited 3rd party lab can test the product to any of the UL standards and any accredited Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), more commonly referred to as a certifying body, can certify the product to any FM or UL standards.

All Certifying Bodies have a publicly available listing directory for listing the tested and certified products.

These listing directories contain fundamental information about listed products, systems, or assemblies such as Certificate number and revisions, Certificate holder, Product Manufacturer, Product categories, Product type, Standard tested to, and versions, Date of issue, Date of expiry and Current status of the certificate.

In Saudi Arabia, these companies include Applus, Efectis, ESL Certification, FM, Intertek, TBW, UL Solutions, etc.

However, if a project specification, designer, or project engineer requires “UL Listed”, only UL Solutions – as a certifying body- can certify and list the product as “UL Listed”.


A product that undergoes testing and certification to FM or UL standards by any certifying body receives a certification certificate based on FM or UL testing standards and is listed on a Certification Body’s (CB) portal is entirely equivalent to a product that has been tested, certified and either approved by FM or listed by UL Solutions to the exact same standard and procedure.

The fire Testing, Inspection, and Certification (TIC) industry in Saudi Arabia and globally plays a vital role in evaluating and ensuring the fire safety of various products and materials.

This industry operates based on established standards and regulations, conducting controlled experiments to assess factors of fire performance.

Certification is awarded to products meeting stringent safety criteria, facilitating market entry.

To gain product approval in Saudi Arabia, manufacturers must obtain certification, particularly for use in the country and its construction projects.

The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation (SASO) approval through the SABER platform is essential.

The Kingdom’s Civil Defense relies on SASO-approved products and fire safety systems examined by approved 3rd party testing laboratories and certification bodies listed in the SABER system platform.

Understanding the distinctions between terms like “UL Tested,” “UL Listed,” and “FM Approved” is crucial.

Misinterpretations can lead to costly project delays and disputes.

It’s essential to align product testing and certification with the Saudi Building Code’s requirements and SASO standards.

To clarify, “Tested per FM or UL Standard” can be conducted by any ISO 17025 accredited lab, while “FM Approved” and “UL Listed” indicate certification by FM and UL Solutions, respectively.

“Certified/Listed per a product tested to an FM or UL Standard” can be performed by accredited 3rd party labs and certifying bodies like Applus, Efectis, ESL Certification, Intertek, TBW, etc.

The TIC industry’s meticulous work ensures fire safety, and understanding these intricacies is essential for successful compliance with safety standards and the smooth progression of construction projects in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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