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25 July 2017

For decades responsible cable manufacturers have adhered to a range of technical standards that demonstrate the performance of their products.  We have watched impotently, however, as substandard products come on to the market, unable to do anything about it because the sale of inadequately tested product was not illegal.  

This all changes on the 1st July when the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) comes into effect for cable: from that point it will be illegal to manufacture, distribute or sell non CPR compliant cable for permanent installation in buildings. Until this point, responsible manufacturers have tested their cable to industry standards (such as British Standards); responsible specifiers have made the choice to use them and responsible distributors have stocked nothing less – but there has been no legal support for this consensual system.  Now there is.

Under the CPR it is a legal requirement that all cables intended for permanent installation in buildings and construction works be classified by their reaction to fire - such as flame spread or smoke production.  Cables with the ability to resist fire are not yet covered under CPR. 

To be CPR compliant, a cable must to be accompanied by a Declaration of Performance (DoP) to show that it has been tested and certified by a notified body acting as an independent testing house to comply with the relevant standards and have a CPR compliant CE mark.

This is good news for anyone who cares whether cables installed in buildings will perform safely.  For the first time cable must be tested by a third party and the entire supply chain shares in the responsibility of ensuring that only compliant cable is manufactured, distributed and sold in the UK for permanent use in buildings.

In the UK, compliance monitoring and enforcement duties for this Regulation will fall to Trading Standards in England, Scotland and Wales and district councils in Northern Ireland.

With the back-up of these law-enforcement agents, the cable industry can really focus on eliminating substandard cable from the market. This collaboration should not be a problem as it is in the industry’s best interests to ensure high product standards are met and maintained in the UK and to eliminate cheap, sub-standard and potentially dangerous imports from the supply chain.  The CPR simply represents the legal framework for this collective recognition of the need for high quality standards.  

It is in all of our interests to support these standards. In particular, I suggest that there will be a role for organisations such as the Electrical Contractors Association and the Electrical Distributors Association to work with their members to help identify non-compliant products and to have them removed from the market. Similarly, industry bodies such ACI, BASEC, ELECSA, NICEIC have a role to play in helping police this Regulation by ensuring products have the correct CPR labelling and that they perform as stated. 

Should any of these bodies have concerns about a cable’s authenticity, it should be a straightforward process to contact the Approved Cable Initiative (ACI). Trading Standards should then be able to follow up with the manufacturer or distributor concerned. If they cannot supply the relevant paperwork to prove that the products are CPR compliant, then they must stop supplying the cables - simple.

I genuinely believe that CPR represents a game-changing moment for cable manufacture by placing product standards clearly within a legal framework.  But this development comes about because of a widely-held belief in the need for such legislation and I think it will be effective because of a consensus that it is right.

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