New Safety Standards for Portable Generators
APRIL 2018 – Over the past year, new carbon monoxide (CO) safety standards for portable generators have made headlines. The US Consumer Product and Safety Commision (CPSC), the Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association (PGMA), and Underwriters Laboraties (UL) have been working to improve standards, warning labels, and guidelines for generator use. This article will provide a basic overview of the positive changes that have taken place over the past several years to reduce CO poisoning and deaths caused by the misuse of portable generators. Here a few important dates, events, and documents in the evolution of generator safety.
Safety standards develop 2003-2009
December 6, 2006 – The CPSC approves an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to address the safety and standards of portable generators. This ANPR proposes several strategies for improving generator safety such as substantially reduced CO emissions and automatic shutoff devices. In addition to warning labels, other suggestions are addressed such as weatherization, theft deterrence, and noise reduction to encourage generators to be used outdoors and away from homes.
May 14, 2007 – The CPSC required generators to contain warning labels with infographics. These are the labels that we see today that state a generator CAN KILL YOU IN MINUTES…NEVER use indoors, and only use OUTSIDE away from windows.
2003 – 2017 – The CPSC annually reports on the number of deaths from non-fire related carbon monoxide exposure including generators.
2009 – PGMA is formed by the leading manufacturers of portable generators in North America to develop safety standards and promote education in generator safety.
March 4, 2009 – UL Standard 2201 is established as the first safety standard for portable generators. At this time, UL addresses the need for warning labels and weatherproofing, to ensure that generators could be safely used outdoors in wet conditions without posing an electrocution risk.
Advancements to significantly reduce risk of CO poisoning 2015 – Present
2015 – PGMA begins a ‘Take it Outside’ campaign to promote proper use of generators, outside and away from homes.
June 1, 2015 – The ANSI Board of Standards approved the ANSI/PGMA G300 as a voluntary National Standard for all portable generators. This standard included information on construction, testing within different weather conditions, operating instructions, safety features, and warning labels.
March 17, 2016 – PGMA hosts a Technology Summit at which CPSC staff, manufacturers, and independent CO experts present engineering solutions to reduce the CO hazard from portable generators. 
At this summit, different technologies were brought forth as possible solutions for improving generator safety. Among those were a CO shutoff that could shut down the generator when CO levels reached a certain level, as well as lowering emissions of carbon monoxide for portable generators. Less popular ideas were presented such as proximity sensors that would alarm if the generator was placed indoors. 
November 21, 2016 – The CPSC issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) for safety standards for portable generators. This follow-up to the ANPR originally issued in 2006, called for lower emissions for portable generators. Other suggestions such as CO sensors and alarms are discussed, but attention is mostly given to lowering CO emissions. In March of 2017, the CPSC allowed for individual professionals to comment on the NPR and to offer additional data and information.
September 27, 2017 – Ann Marie Buerkle, who was named acting chairman of the CPSC in February 2017 and permanent chair in July, is quoted stating she favors a voluntary standard for Generator companies as opposed to mandatory standards, since a voluntary standard could be enacted more quickly. She also mentions both a reduction in carbon monoxide emissions and an automatic shut off system as possible safety features.
October 26, 2017 – The PGMA announces its proposal to revise the ANSI/PGMA G300 Standard first established in 2015 by incorporating an auto-shutoff feature that will shutdown the generator when carbon monoxide reaches a certain level around the generator.
January 3, 2018 – The ANSI/UL 2201 is adopted. This standard calls for both a reduction in CO emissions, and the use of an automatic shutoff if CO exceeds a certain level around the generator. UL describes the auto-shutoff as a secondary safeguard for protection against the buildup of carbon monoxide.
March 15, 2018 – Ryobi brand generators sold on-line and at Home Depot (Model RY907022FI) receive ANSI/UL 2201 certification.
IN CONCLUSION– With the first ANPR issued by the CPSC in 2006, we begin to see the developments that would take place over the next twelve years. The use of warning labels became standard, testing and weatherization improved, and most recently the implementation of automatic shut-offs and lower CO emissions. As of March 2018, the updates to the G300 standard have not been made public, and only time will tell how the generator manufacturers will embrace these changes.
It is clear that opinion has wavered between lowering CO emissions and creating automatic shut-offs for generators. It is important to note that all the standards addressed by UL or by the PGMA are voluntary. In fact, many standards adopted by industries begin as voluntary standards that later become mandatory due to government regulation. The next chapter of this story will show which standards the generator manufacturers will adopt, what engineering strategies are employed, and eventually which measures truly become successful in preventing accidental injury.
 CPSC Approves ANPR to Make Portable Generators SaferRulemaking Aims to Address Rising Death Toll, December 6, 2006. https://www.cpsc.gov/content/cpsc-approves-anpr-to-make-portable-generators-saferrulemaking-aims-to-address-rising-death
 CPSC, Portable Generators; Final Rule; Labeling Requirements, January 12, 2007. https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/95159/pglabeling.pdf
 Presentations from the PGMA Technical Summit, March 17, 2016. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kclnhbwzpmga4ub/AABWLY5Xut_rVyMs65vUBt1_a?dl=0
 CPSC Staff Presentation at PGMA Technical Summit: https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/PGMAsummitCPSCstaffpresentation_2.pdf
 CPSC Notice of Advance Rulemaking, Safety Standard for Portable Generators, November 21, 2016. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-11-21/pdf/2016-26962.pdf
 CPSC Notice of Opportunity for Presentation of Comments, February 1, 2017. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/02/01/2017-02061/portable-generators-notice-of-opportunity-for-oral-presentation-of-comments
 Ledyard King, USA Today, September 27, 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/27/citing-florida-deaths-nelson-grills-regulator-slow-response-generator-safety/709461001/
 Susan Orenga, PGMA, October 26, 2017. http://www.pgmaonline.com/pdf/PGMAUpdateReleaseFinal102617.pdf
 Low Carbon Monoxide ANSI/UL 2201 Portable Generators. https://www.ul.com/inside-ul/portable-generator-standard/