The beginnings of the use of a new kind of energy, which was electricity at the beginning of the 20th century, resulted in the establishment of the former Czechoslovak Electrotechnical Association – ESČ. The ESČ constituent congress was held in 1919 in Prague and prof. ing. Vladimír List was elected as chairman. In the following years, the association’s activity expanded to include publishing technical literature, the preparation of technical standardizing regulations and verification of the conformity of product properties with the requirements of these regulations.
The establishment of the electrotechnical testing facility, the development of electrotechnical testing and marking products was a result of the needs of the Czechoslovak electrical industry, which wanted to guarantee the quality and safety of products used by the general public. The establishment of the testing facility dates back to June 1926, when a larger number of fusible plug cartridges were tested at the Czech Technical University in Brno in accordance with ESČ Regulations. In 1928, the association bought a house in Prague where a laboratory for testing conductors and installation material was built. In the same year, ongoing tests of installation pipes and fuses were agreed with manufacturers to help ensure their safety. Products that complied with type tests in accordance with ESČ regulations were granted the right to use the ESČ mark. Lists of tested products, including a description of conducted tests, were subsequently published in the Elektrotechnický obzor (Electrotechnical Horizon) magazine – the predecessor of today’s ELEKTRO magazine.
In the following years, the activities of the ESČ testing facility expanded further, and the range of tested and marked products continued to grow. In 1930, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, electricity meters, three-phase outdoor sockets and other products came under the permanent control of ESČ. The ESČ testing facility did not limit its focus to type and control tests, but also conducted numerous comparative and research tests, contributing significantly to the clarification of certain controversial issues concerning the creation of standards, and participated in the development of new test methods for various products.
In 1934, the Ministry of Public Works granted the ESČ testing facility official authorization, which resulted in the requirement that only material complying with ESČ regulations could be used in buildings built or supported by the state. The ESČ mark became a respected certificate of product safety and we are happy to say the mark has retained the same significance to this day.
The increase in the activity of the ESČ testing facility in the post-war period was largely due to the Ministry of Industry Decree of October 1945 on compulsory checking and testing of electrical products. It thus became necessary for the testing facility to expand its testing equipment and ensure new work organization. The buildings of the former Pomological Institute in Prague – Troja, where an aviation instrument plant had been based until then, were purchased in June 1947 as the testing facility’s new base. The laboratories have remained at this location to this day.
After the coup in 1948, the Czech Electrotechnical Association was dissolved. The ESČ testing facility was nationalized and in 1952 it was renamed to the Electrotechnical Testing Institute – EZÚ.
EZÚ was a founding member of the European Certification System CEE
The beginning of the 1960’s brought EZÚ an opportunity for systematic involvement in international cooperation. In 1961, the institute joined the system for the homologation of motor vehicle lighting accessories in accordance with the regulations of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Within this system, EZÚ issues homologations with the right to use the E8 mark on homologated products. In 2004, this system was supplemented by its European branch in which products are assessed in accordance with relevant EC technical regulations and the Ministry of Transport grants them the E8 homologation mark.
In 1961, the institute also joined the CEE European system for conducting tests of electric safety, which was subsequently transformed into the existing and very successful IECEE – CB system under which tests are carried out in accordance with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards.
In the second half of the 20th century virtually all industrially advanced countries used obligatory national systems to approve products before their introduction to the market in their country. International certificates served as a tool to prevent duplicate testing of products and to facilitate their entry to national markets.
This was also the case in Czechoslovakia, where in 1968 the state system of test procedures was established by Act no. 30/68 Coll. on State Testing. The Act was very progressive for its time as it covered the entire field in a comprehensive way and also introduced the evaluation of products, which represented, in a state controlled market, a tool for manufacturers to compare their products to foreign competitors and thus a certain motivation for improvement.
At the beginning of the 1970’s, the institute began to use a newly built building, where it is based to this day. During this period, the institute expanded its activities to the fields of metrology, research and technical development and played an important role in the field of technical standardization.
In the second half of the 1980’s, the institute expanded its international activities by joining the IECQ system to ensure the quality of electronic components. Following the revolution in 1989, the production base of components virtually ceased to exist in this country, but the methodological procedures of IECQ were just as applicable to the certification of quality systems in accordance with the ISO 9000 series of standards, which the institute fully utilized. As part of the CQS certification body, EZÚ provides its customers with certificates in the IQNet international certification network where CQS is involved.
At the beginning of the 1990’s, EZÚ was authorized by the Ministry of Finance to certify slot machines in accordance with Act no. 202/1990 Coll. on lotteries and other similar games.
In the same period, EZÚ began to develop the field of electromagnetic compatibility tests, which is an integral part of the evaluation of the conformity of electrical products today.
An important milestone for industry and the technical public was 1992, when the government, in line with the intention to join the EC, decided to orient Czechoslovak technical standardization towards the adoption of EN European standards in the system of ČSN Czechoslovak technical standards. It must be remembered that with regard to the then valid Act no. 30/68 Coll. standards were legally binding documents. The ESČ mark was used as a state approval mark, but in 1992 EZÚ acquired the mark into its ownership and registered it as a trademark.
The ESČ mark was registered as a mark of conformity with the standard
In 1996, EZÚ joined the European CENELEC Certification Agreement – CCA, within which CCA certificates are issued and tests conducted in accordance with EN standards under the Low Voltage Directive. It pushed the ESČ mark through within the CCA as the national mark of conformity of products with electrical safety standards. EZÚ subsequently joined the ENEC system for the safety of luminaires and other products and the HAR system for the safety and quality of cables and cords, which are more important certification services than the CCA system today.
EZÚ was authorized by ÚNMZ to evaluate conformity in accordance with Act no. 22/1997 Coll.
EZÚ was the founding member of the European Electrical Products Certification Association – EEPCA
EZÚ joined the ENEC system
In the period after the change in political regime, EZÚ had to resolve debts in its technical infrastructure accumulated in previous periods, which led to the refurbishment of the main building of the institute and to general modernization and the further development of its testing and measuring equipment. In the second half of the 1990’s, EZÚ successfully resisted restitution claims by various parties, including the existing Czech Electrotechnical Association – and established that all EZÚ assets are the property of the state. In 2000, the Supreme Court in Brno confirmed that ESČ is not the legal successor of the Czechoslovak Electrotechnical Association, finally rejecting all ESČ claims against EZÚ, both concerning real estate and the ESČ mark.
A fundamental turning point in the field of state testing procedures was the adoption of Act no. 22/1997 Coll. on Technical Requirements for Products, which canceled the system of approving products according to Act no. 30/68 Coll. and the legal binding force of technical standards, which became optional technical standards. The Act introduced procedures for the evaluation of conformity in accordance with EC legislation and introduced EC directives into Czech legislation in the form of government directives. Harmonized standards were defined for every government directive , the use of which ensures a presumption of conformity of product properties with the basic requirements of the government directive for the manufacturer.
In the following period, EZÚ was nominated by the Czech Office for Standards, Metrology and Testing to the EC Commission in Brussels as notified body no. 1014 for low-voltage equipment, i.e. for the safety of products, as well as the directives for electromagnetic compatibility, medical devices, machinery, construction products, noise and others. With this step, EZÚ culminated its involvement in European structures for the evaluation of conformity both in the area subject to binding regulations and the voluntary sphere.
EZÚ introduced measurement of harmful substances in accordance with the RoHS Directive
EZÚ is a state-owned company in accordance with Act no. 77/1997 Coll., founded by the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade. From 1991 until recently, the privatization of EZÚ and other testing facilities owned by the state was considered. Conducted analyses and opinions expressed by Czech entrepreneurs show that for an organization working in the field of evaluation of conformity, a state-owned company is a legal status that ensures both impartiality and funds for its own development, and therefore neither privatization nor transformation to another legal form would be beneficial. We believe that this conclusion will win general respect, which could guarantee favorable conditions for the further development of EZÚ in the future.