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Does my store need a rated safe?

October 10, 2022

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A better question might be, why does a safe rating matter? Well, you might say there’s safety in numbers and, in this case, letters. People like ratings. They’re extra assurance — they help us know what to expect.

When a product or service is highly rated by a respected organization, we feel more confident about our purchase. By the same logic, insurance underwriters are assured that a product will operate as implied.

For the purposes of standards organizations, safes are classified as burglary protection products. Safes are designed to protect assets (your cash) from theft. Securing your cash inventory in a safe is only one element of a comprehensive cash security plan but it can give you and your insurance company, peace of mind.

Not all ratings are the same

There are two types of burglary ratings for safes. One is based on how the safe is constructed and the other on the safe’s performance during attack testing.

Safe Construction Ratings

The insurance industry established ratings based on safe construction standards. These ratings indicate the level of protection from a burglary attempt. In this category, a B rating indicates the safe has a locking device and has steel walls less than ½” thick and a steel door less than 1” thick .

The C rating indicates a higher level of security. A safe with a C rating also has a locking device but features steel walls at least ½” thick and a door at least 1” thick. The logic here is that the thicker material resists break-in attempts using tools for a longer period of time.

Safe Test Performance Ratings

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the same organization that certifies the safety of all kinds of household products, also certifies the effectiveness of residential and commercial safes. UL is an independent, not-for-profit organization that designs and maintains operating standards and provides certification for products that meet those standards. A UL rating assures buyers (and insurance underwriters, of course) that a product will perform as implied.

UL anti-theft classification is based on a number of criteria but the simple way to look at it is, “How long does it take to break into the safe?” UL experts conduct rigorous tests using a variety of tools to determine how long a safe can withstand an attack. These tests occur in ideal lab conditions so experts suggest a burglar would take longer during real burglary conditions. In other words, the UL rating is actually the minimum protection a safe is certified to provide.

The burglary classification ratings have a naming convention that uses letters that indicate the types of tools used during testing and numbers to that indicate the minimum number of minutes a safe can withstand a continuous attack. As the ratings progress, each level includes all tools used to test the previous level and adds new tools to the list.  The more types of tools tested and the longer the safe withstands an attack, the higher the rating.

TL-15  and TL-30

TL in the rating indicates tool resistant and refers to hand tools, picking tools, mechanical or portable electric tools, grinding points, carbide drills and pressure applying devices. The numbers for each rating indicate the safe can resist break-in with any of the tools for a minimum of either 15 or 30 minutes.

TRTL- 30 and TRTL-60

The TR in the rating indicates torch resistant. Added to the TL, it means that the safe was tested using all the tools in the TL list but has also been tested with oxy-fuel and gas-cutting or welding torches. The numbers 30 and 60 mean that the safe resists break-in with any of these tools for a minimum of either 30 or 60 minutes.


This is the highest rating in this category. TXTL stands for torch, tool, and explosives resistant and indicates the safe can withstand break-in using all the tools in the TRTL list with the addition of explosives for a minimum of 60 minutes.


Cash recyclers and many automatic deposit safes fit into a more specific category of UL rating that includes ATMs.  These devices don’t just store cash, they’re designed to automate cash dispenses and deposits while keeping a record of each transaction while being able to operate in all kinds of physical environments. Therefore the UL 291 standard has more specific requirements for construction materials, theft-resistance, fire-resistance as well as environmental operating requirements.

A recycler, like an ATM, must provide protection against unauthorized removal of cash but it also needs to protect the device’s electronic transaction record for accounting purposes. Therefore, it requires a degree of protection against the removal or alteration of transaction records.

Within this classification are two distinct designations. The first is the Business Hours (BH) rating and the other is a 24-Hour Level-1 rating. Both designations certify that the safe enclosure can withstand attacks aimed at stealing the currency and/or altering the transaction records.

As the names imply, devices rated for business hours are designed to store cash only during business hours and under direct supervision of a manager or employee. Cash should be removed from these safes at the end of the business day. Safes with this rating can withstand an attack using hand tools or picking tools for at least 5 minutes, long enough for an employee to report the robbery attempt.

A safe earning a 24-Hour Level 1 rating can be used to store cash overnight or during other periods without direct supervision. These safes must be made of steel that can withstand physical pressure of 50,000 psi and hold up to physical attack using hand tools, picks, portable electric tools and grinders for up to 15 continuous minutes. They are intended to resist entry long enough to deter a thief or for other security devices such as alarms or cameras to detect and report the break-in attempt.

How do I know what I need?

If cash is part of your business, a safe is an important part of your cash security plan. The level of security you need should take other factors into account such as:

  • What is the volume of cash stored on premises?
  • Does your insurance policy require a rated safe to maintain your coverage?
  • Does your business have a CCTV (closed-circuit television)?
  • Is your cash room a protected environment?
  • Is your business located in a high-crime area?
  • Have you experienced previous robberies?

These are just a few of the factors to consider when selecting a safe. If your business has a high cash volume you might benefit from cash automation. These devices not only function as high security safes but they also provide electronic records for an extra layer of accountability.

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