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Is your cable CPR compliant?

19 January 2018

Ensuring the safety of electrical cable installed in any building is the responsibility of the contractor – but as cable tends to look the same, it is all too easy to assume it performs in the same way. Watch out: is the advice from Prysmian. Martin Boorman, National Sales Manager at Prysmian takes a look at the issue of under-performance.

Electrical cable provides the lifeblood of any building. That’s if it performs as expected. 

Substandard cable can not only cause the lights to go off but can also provide a severe hazard on its own.  Some 27% of all electrical fires are attributable to faulty cable.1

A comprehensive cable system specification should set the precise performance requirements for each part of the system, including the use of fire resistant cable for powering emergency lighting and fire alarm systems. However, the safety of a system also relies on being vigilant and ensuring the cable products being purchased are up to the job.

The Approved Cable Initiative (ACI) estimates that as much as 20%2 of all electrical cable in the UK market is substandard in some way after regularly testing cable samples to monitor their conformance to product standards: the results are disquieting to say the least. Read more about dangerous cable here.

Top of the list for risky practice is the under-use of copper in the conductor. Reducing the copper content is a quick method of cost-cutting, but it’s risky. If the conductor is simply smaller than it should be or if copper is combined with other metals such as aluminium or steel, then there is a risk of the cable being overloaded or overheating.

The composition of the outer sheath and insulation can also cause performance issues.  Substandard materials may cause the sheath to become brittle and disintegrate over time exposing the copper conductors and potentially causing electrical shocks, short circuits or fires. It may also mean that it does not perform properly at specific temperatures. 

Other performance issues identified in cable in the UK supply chain include difficulties with stripping and termination as well as insulation made of flammable material giving off toxic fumes in a fire.

In the UK it has historically been easy for substandard cable to enter the supply chain as it has been perfectly legal to import and sell it, leaving the responsibility for ensuring the safety of any installation with the contractor.

With the introduction of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) for cable in 2017 this issue began to be addressed. Read more about non compliant cable. Under the terms of CPR, responsibility for product standards was spread across the supply chain. Read more about CPR and the supply chain. It is now the legal responsibility of the manufacturer, the importer and the wholesaler to ensure that the cable they supply is compliant.

However, CPR concentrates only on one specific performance characteristic of cable – how it performs in a fire. CPR does not consider other performance characteristics of the cable and also does not currently cover fire resistant cable, so contractors need to remain vigilant to ensure they are not introducing risky products into buildings. Where we stand.

We recommend all purchasers should check that all cable products they consider:  

  • Are marked with the manufacturer’s name and factory identifier, so they can be traced.
  • Have the correct British Standard (BS EN) Standard number.
  • Have third party approval by BASEC or other HAR approved body.
  • Have marking with the correct number of cores and cross sectional area.
  • Be marked with the correct voltage rating.
  • Be correctly packaged with the manufacturer’s traceability information.
  • Have the correct national cable code.
  • Have the year of its manufacture written on it.
  • Are checked against the delivery note and be the same as the order placed
  • Have a DoP to the CPR where required. Read more

As a manufacturer which places considerable emphasis on producing high-quality cable to meet all relevant national and international quality standards, it is frustrating to see substandard products on sale in the UK market. 

We are, not surprisingly, enthusiastic supporters of the Approved Cable Initiative and urge any engineer, contractor or wholesaler who has doubts over the quality of any cable product to contact ACI urgently to investigate.

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