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The Taming of the Screw

UL48 revisions could impact sign installation

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Quite often, the diminutive sign industry gets screwed when regulations intended to impact much larger entities trickle down to affect it. Consider the most recent OSHA crane-certification regulations, for example, although some benefit has been derived. And, although criticism of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) exists, at least the sign industry has direct say in the wording of the governing UL 48, via participation on Standards Technical Panels (STP).

The most recent UL 48 (the 15th edition) was published September 2, 2011, and the bulk of it became effective immediately. That document underwent a huge transformation, as its 32 subcategories were reformulated into eight sections. Recently, concern has arisen because of new wording in the 4th section (“construction”), specifically relating to item 4.1.5.3 (“Screws”). This controversial topic is the focus of my editorial, which will appear in the August 2012 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.

Several sign fabricators believe that the disallowance of “self-drilling thread cutting and thread-forming screws” leaves no good alternative for channel letters. Fortunately, because that revised wording won’t become effective until October 2, 2012, it’s not yet being enforced. And to its credit, UL’s Lee Hewitt has fielded several concerned inquiries and has established an ad-hoc committee that has already met four times via conference call to seek a remedy. And, Lee tells me that new language is likely to evolve.

Some may think the selection of STP members must be flawed simply because of this issue. However, any document the size of UL 48, especially when it’s been significantly revised, is bound to have some shortcomings. But, isn’t it a blessing to have a systems of checks and balances, and a timeframe for subsequent evaluation, to allow for revisions? If the sign industry has any major issues with UL 48, it only has itself to blame.
 

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