|Formerly||Underwriters Laboratories, UL LLC|
|Founder||William Henry Merrill|
|Jennifer Scanlon (President and CEO)|
|Revenue||approx. US$2.5 billion (2020)|
Number of employees
|Parent||Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (non-profit)|
The UL enterprise is a global safety science company headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, composed of three organizations, UL Research Institutes, UL Standards & Engagement and UL Solutions.
Established in 1894, the UL enterprise was founded as the Underwriters' Electrical Bureau (a bureau of the National Board of Fire Underwriters), and was known throughout the 20th century as Underwriters Laboratories. On January 1, 2012, Underwriters Laboratories became the parent company of a for-profit company in the U.S. named UL LLC, a limited liability corporation, which took over the product testing and certification business. On June 26, 2022, the companies rebranded into three distinct organizations that make up the UL enterprise.
The company is one of several companies approved to perform safety testing by the U.S. federal agency Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA maintains a list of approved testing laboratories, which are known as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories. According to Lifehacker, UL Solutions is the best known product safety and certification organization globally.
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. was founded in 1894 by William Henry Merrill. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in electrical engineering in 1889, Merrill went to work as an electrical inspector for the Boston Board of Fire Underwriters. At the turn of the twentieth century, fire loss was on the rise in the United States, and the increasing use of electricity in homes and businesses posed a serious threat to property and human life.
In order to determine and mitigate risk, Merrill proposed to open a laboratory where he would use scientific principles to test products for fire and electrical safety. The Boston Board of Fire Underwriters turned this idea down, however, perhaps due to Merrill's youth and relative inexperience at the time.
In May 1893, Merrill moved to Chicago to work for the Chicago Fire Underwriters' Association. His task was to inspect the city's fire alarm systems. He was also sent to the 1893 World's Fair to inspect the Fair's electrical installations and the Palace of Electricity. In order to determine and mitigate risk in his role as an electrical inspector, Merrill found it necessary to conduct tests on building materials and electrical components. Upon seeing a growing potential in this field, Merrill stayed in Chicago to found Underwriters Laboratories. He received initial funding from the Chicago Fire Underwriters' Association and the Western Insurance Union, a local insurance organization. With $350 of equipment, he opened a small laboratory on the third floor of a local fire insurance patrol station, signing UL's first test report on March 24, 1894.
Merrill soon went to work on developing safety standards, conducting tests, and uncovering hazards. In the early years, UL tested three main types of products: devices meant to stop fire (such as fire extinguishers), devices meant to resist fire (such as fire doors), and devices that frequently caused fire (like wires used for electrical installations). This work soon expanded, and throughout the twentieth century, UL certified many pivotal consumer technologies, such as vacuum cleaners, televisions, microwaves, personal computers, and more.
UL published its first standard, "Tin Clad Fire Doors", in 1903. In 1906, UL established a Label Service for certain product categories that require more frequent inspections. Products that passed UL's testing and regular inspections were given a UL label, which eventually evolved into the UL Mark. From 1905 to 1979, UL Headquarters was located at 207-231 East Ohio Street in Chicago. In 1979, the organization moved its headquarters to a 153-acre campus in Northbrook, Illinois, 25 miles north of its former downtown Chicago location.
UL Solutions has evolved from its roots in electrical and fire safety to address broader safety issues, such as hazardous substances, water quality, food safety, performance testing, safety and compliance education, and environmental sustainability.
On January 1, 2012, Underwriters Laboratories became the parent company of a for-profit company in the U.S named UL LLC, a limited liability corporation. The for-profit company took over the product testing and certification business.
In 2022, the company revised their go-to-market strategy to include three separate organizations - UL Solutions, UL Standards & Engagement, and UL Research Institutes.
The Recognized Component Mark is a type of safety certification mark issued by UL Solutions. It is placed on components which are intended to be part of a UL certified end product, but which cannot bear the full UL Mark themselves. The general public does not ordinarily come across it, as it is borne on components which make up finished products.
UL offers the following computer benchmarking products:
CA and Tulsa, OK); Seoul, South Korea; and Shanghai, China.
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