Why UL Listing makes a difference in health care outlet assemblies

Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems Healthcare Outlet Assemblies

For hospitals, using a relocatable power tap (RPT) properly is critical. Several organizations govern the safe use of electrical equipment in healthcare applications. These include the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

What is the difference between CMS approved and UL Listed? Why is it important to understand how the distinction impacts using RPTs? The answer is straightforward, so let’s clear up any confusion.

The History Behind Power Strips & RPTs

Power strips and RPTs were commonly misused years ago in patient care environments because there were no established standards. The CMS, the federal agency which oversees certifying hospitals, banned them in 2014. The agency saw the issue of trip hazards in patient rooms from having power strips on the floor and switches that could easily be turned off by accident. It also wanted to avoid having outlets that support critical medical equipment being used instead for consumer electronics.

The hue and cry this created prompted the CMS to establish a Categorical waiver. The waiver specified acceptable uses and attributes. It allows RPTs to be used in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) articles 70 and 99, later 101. They must be mounted permanently to movable equipment carts.

The waiver includes UL standards UL1363A and UL60601 as requirements. However, this introduced a problem. UL1363A is a standard for power distribution components of rack and pedestal-mounted movable equipment assemblies. The UL60601 standard applies specifically to medical equipment.

Power strips are cord-and-plug-connected products with multiple outlets. They normally include a surge protective device (SPD) and are covered under UL1449. Components such those covered under 1363 can’t receive a UL Listing as an electrical appliance. UL standards for recognized components receive the backwards RU mark rather than the UL Listing mark.

Some companies chose to list their RPTs with other testing labs, such as ETL or TUV. In these cases, they claim their products either conform to or comply with UL1363A, UL60601-1 or UL60950. However, they are not UL Listed. That makes them acceptable to CMS, but it doesn’t mean that they are UL Listed for use in medical applications.

Compliance or conformity is not the same thing as actually listing.

The Development of the UL2930 Standard

Hubbell approached UL with the problem of the lack of a UL standard for relocatable power taps for use in patient care areas. They partnered to research the needs of the industry and how equipment meets the requirements of the CMS waiver. From that, UL developed a new standard specifically for RPTs in this application, aligned to the waiver. In other words, the tests that a product undergoes to achieve a UL Listing are designed to show performance specifically in this application.

Products that meet the UL2930 standard are called Health Care Outlet Assemblies (HCOA). They must still be attached to movable equipment assemblies, such as life support equipment carts, to qualify for the CMS waiver.

The key requirements of UL2930 are:

  • Ground jack or terminal bonded to the strip enclosure
  • No circuit breaker
  • No on/off switch
  • Metal oxide varistor (MOV) surge protection only between line and neutral
  • 15A strips must have 12 AWG cord
  • Tamper-resistant flip lids that require a tool to access
  • Leakage current must be 0.1 mA or less
  • Hospital-grade devices
  • Hospital-grade plug

Central to the standard is the surge protection only between the ungrounded line and grounded neutral circuit conductors and the patient equipment grounding terminal. This limits the voltage found on the ground leg of any circuit. This provides an extra level of safety.

Healthcare Outlet Assemblies also do not incorporate circuit breakers. Since these products are intended only to support critical care equipment, anything that disconnects power from the receptacle outlets poses a potential hazard. UL built that consideration into the standard. Products that simply comply with 1363 and 60601 still have circuit breakers.

CMS announced that they accept UL2930 under the waiver. At this point, the agency has not updated the sections of code that relate to power strips. However, the agency is discussing it with inspectors.

The Difference Between UL Listed and CMS Approved Devices

For the first time, there exists an actual standard for testing power strips for use in hospitals and medical facilities. Products that are UL Listed, meeting UL2930, have been tested for performance in this application. With the listing, you know these products are safe for proper use in patient areas.

This is very different from simply complying with UL1363 and UL60601—those products are still not UL Listed. CMS approved products must comply with at least UL60601, but that doesn’t mean they are listed.

Our Hubbell HCOA devices are the only UL Listed power strips approved by CMS for use in patient and critical care areas. They are available in surge protected versions and non-surge protected RPT versions. Options include four or six outlet models with 15A and 20A ratings.

We also offer SpikeShield® brand power strips for non-patient care areas. They offer UL1449 and UL1363 compliant surge protection. The application makes a difference.

Demand more for your patient areas

We’ve seen that there is a real difference between Approved, Listed and Compliant. To be fully confident in the safety of the electrical equipment in your facility, that you are protecting your staff and patients, expect more from your power strips and relocatable power taps. Listed is better—it’s tested to a more stringent standard, one specific to the application. We recommend healthcare facility managers check out our UL Listed HCOA products.

Find out more about UL Listed, CMS approved health care outlet assemblies from Hubbell Wiring Device-Kellems. Contact your local Hubbell sales representative or visit

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