MRO Magazine

Certified to safety standards: What does that CSA mark mean?


November 14, 2000
By PEM Magazine

Its mark appears on more than a billion products around the world. So, what exactly does that familiar CSA mark mean?

For many people, the mark relates only to safety. But, there’s more to it than that.

For more than 80 years, CSA International (formerly the Canadian Standards Association) has been developing standards and testing and certifying products to meet standards. And while safety is a key concern, CSA standards also cover other things like important aspects of product performance.

It’s a popular misconception that the CSA mark is a guarantee of safety. Next time you see the mark on a product, this is what you should know: A product bearing the CSA mark tells users it has been tested under a formal process and that it meets the safety and/or performance requirements of applicable standards.


A number of those standards fall under the umbrella of CSA’s Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) program, which deals with a number of significant areas, from management systems and work practices, to machinery and equipment, from personal protection to lifting and hoisting.

One of CSA’s newest services is this fall’s launch of the Accident Investigation Resources CD-ROM. Dealing with the relevant Accident Information standard, it will provide a unique resource for safety supervisors and health and safety committees: an in-house guide and training tool to help delve into the cause of workplace accidents.

"It’s not enough to look into the immediate cause of an accident and stop there," says Brian Weir, program manager, standards division at CSA International. "The more you can trace the events and uncover all the factors leading to an accident, the better you can take corrective action and develop strategies for prevention."

CSA also has a variety of other management systems and work practice standards, such as: industrial lift truck operator training, coding of work injury or disease information, office ergonomics, signs and symbols for the workplace and indoor air quality in office buildings.

The use of light curtains is one of the more interesting areas in the machine and equipment sector. "The use of light curtains, in which machinery is deactivated by the technology of a beam of light being broken, has become more popular as a type of safeguard for machinery," says Ron Meyers, project manager, standards division at CSA International.

"Standards such as punch press and brake press, safeguarding of machinery and industrial robots and robot systems would specify the use of light curtains, as well as other guards such as fixed-barrier guards, restraint devices and safety mat systems."

CSA is also prominent in the machinery and equipment sector with certification and testing programs for chain saws (chains) and ladders, whether metal, wooden or fiberglass.

CSA standards in this area include the topics of mine safety, forestry equipment and agricultural machinery, portable ladders, chain saws, roll-over protection, a code for punch press and brake operation and a code for hot forging producers.

Personal protection alone is broken down into three areas: head to toe, fall protection and respiratory. It’s a major area for certification and testing for CSA.

Let’s take a look at what is covered in these personal protection sectors:

  • Head to toe. This includes a variety of products, from industrial protective headwear (hard hats), to industrial eye and face protectors, to hearing protectors and disposable coveralls. At the other end of of the body, look for the CSA mark on many kinds of protective footwear.
  • Fall protection. A number of fall arresting devices are included — self-retracting devices, harnesses, shock absorbers and connecting components — as well as personal fall arresting systems, subsystems and components.
  • Respiratory. While CSA doesn’t yet have certification and testing programs in this area, there are standards for respirators, compressed breathing air and systems, and portable gas monitors.

CSA’s certification and testing focus in the lifting and hoisting sector is on the electrical aspects of electric cranes and hoists, where the program assesses those products for compliance with the applicable CSA standard. CSA also has standards for maintenance and inspection of overhead cranes and of elevated work platforms, a safety code for mobile cranes and for suspended elevating platforms (for window washing, painting, repairs, etc.), and standards for vehicle-mounted aerial devices, and tower cranes.

And progress means untapped areas of concentration. New programs for both standards and for certification and testing are being developed on prescription safety eyewear, reflective apparel, connecting components and horizontal lifelines for fall arrest systems.

New publications in the standards area include ergonomics, a new fall protection guide and a scaffolding users guide.

It is important to note that CSA’s standards are voluntary. Compliance becomes mandatory only if and when the standard is referenced in legislation. Most of CSA’s standards in the OH&S program however, are indeed referenced in legislation, whether at the provincial or national level.

So, whether it’s a case of looking for the right boot or shoe, or for essential eye protection, look for the CSA mark — as so many industrial consumers have learned to do.

Jack Saunders is a media relations officer for CSA International. For more information, you can call him at 416-747-4309 or send an e-mail to

The alphabet soup of the safety world

Like many professional fields, occupational health and safety (OHS) — or, as it sometimes called, "industrial hygiene" — is filled with its own special terminology and buzzwords.

Below, you’ll find a quick overview to help you wade through the often-confusing mix of OHS jargon. We compiled our list from two key sources:

– The "Safety in Science Education" Web site, hosted by the Laboratory Safety Institute, a non-profit U.S. centre for health, safety and environmental affairs that maintains a list of OHS terms at;
– and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, an invaluable source of OHS information and services, who have posted their own list of definitions at

So, here goes:

– ACRSP Association of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals: A Mississauga, Ontario-based association that promotes occupational, public and environmental safety.
– AIHA American Industrial Hygiene Association: A large professional association for industrial hygienists in the U.S. and Canada, with local sections also in parts of Europe. The AIHA is the largest professional industrial hygiene/ occupational safety association in the world.
– ANSI American National Standards Institute: An organization that publishes consensus standards on a wide variety of subjects, including safety equipment, procedures, etc. In Canada, ANSI is represented by the Standards Council of Canada.
– ASHRAE The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers: ASHRAE publishes a multi-volume handbook which includes ventilation guidance, and standards on indoor air quality and other ventilation related issues.
– CCOHS Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety:
A Hamilton, Ontario-based organization that provides a comprehensive collection of MSDS on CD-ROM, as well as other H&S related services.
– CFR Code of Federal Regulations: The compilation of all regulations issued by agencies of the U.S. Federal Government,
– CRBOH Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists: A national, not-for-profit organization, which sets standards of professional competence for occupational hygienists and occupational hygiene technologists in Canada CRBOH grants the titles Registered Occupational Hygienist (ROH) and Registered Occupational Hygiene Technologist (ROHT).
– EAP Employee Assistance Program: A workplace program that deals with employee substance abuse or other non-employment related problems affecting work performance and safety.
– EHS Environment, Health and Safety; or Environmental Health and Safety: A general term governing these areas of safety.
– ERG Emergency Response Guide: A document providing guidance on emergency response in a transportation incident involving a particular chemical.
– HAZMAT Hazardous Material: Any substance deemed an occupational, industrial or environmental hazard by a regulating body.
– HAZOP Hazard and Operability (Study): A structured means of evaluating a complex process to find problems associated with operability or safety of the process.
– IAPA The Industrial Accident Prevention Association: The IAPA calls itself "Canada’s largest workplace health and safety organization . . . committed to the prevention of workplace injury and illness." The IAPA provides more than 100 products, services, and more than 35 training courses for workers in Ontario.
– IAQ Indoor Air Quality: A general term combining a multitude of issues related to complaints by the occupants of buildings about illnesses or discomfort resulting from being in the building.
-ISO International Organization on Standardization: The world standardizing organization for plant safety, based in Switzerland
– JHSC Joint Health and Safety Committee: A workplace committee that consists of labour and management representatives who meet regularly to discuss health and safety matters.
– MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet: A document or software program provided by chemical manufacturers, required by OSHA to be available to workers
– NIOSH National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health: A division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it does research and suggests guidelines for exposure control, but is not a regulatory agency.
– NSC National Safety Council: A U.S.-based safety organization dealing with industrial safety, school and college safety, transportation safety.
– OSHA Occupational Safety & Health Administration: A part of the U.S. Department of Labor, it regulates many job safety issues,
– PPE Personal Protective Equipent: Includes goggles, gloves, shoes, coveralls, respirators, hard hats, etc.
– RSI Repetitive Strain Injury: Any manual injury that occurs through repeated activity.

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1 Comment » for Certified to safety standards: What does that CSA mark mean?
  1. Robert Fox says:

    Does the CSA have anything to do with portable lifting equipment like hydraulic jacks, bottle jacks, transmission jacks etc. or do they just adopt the ASME PASE Safety Standards for the United States?

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