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High wire act T

Getting caught up with counterfeit cabling or falling for faulty cables can be a costly – and potentially lethal – mistake. Michael Simms, president of the British Cables Association, explains how the Approved Cables Initiative is working to address the dangers of defective cables, and provides guidance for contractors and installers

imes are tough, we all know that – and, as if the job wasn’t hard enough, there remains a constant threat for contractors and installers that isn’t going away: faulty and counterfeit cabling. If you ask

many in the electrical supply industry, they will say this is a problem that is growing. Counterfeit, fake, non-approved, faulty – whatever

adjective we choose to describe this growing species of cables, the end results are the same: a potentially lethal danger for the general public and a threat to possible installers’ and contractors’ livelihoods. Within days of its launch, the Approved Cable Initiative

(ACI) was receiving calls to investigate suspect cables, and to date the initiative has highlighted many instances of faulty cables, including armoured cables, house wiring, arctic grade fl ex, fl exible cords and fi re-performance cables. Just recently an ACI investigation led to the cancellation by

BASEC (the British Approvals Service for Cables) of its product certifi cation licences for the Turkish cable manufacturer Atlas Kablo, for what it has deemed ‘a serious decline in quality across a range of cables’. Atlas Kablo’s HAR certifi cation from the Turkish body TSE was suspended for a period, and has now been terminated. In these instances, reports of faulty cabling from contractors

and distributors led to an investigation. Independent testing of samples by ACI and BASEC found insuffi cient copper (up to 50 per cent less than specifi ed in some cables), leading to high conductor resistance. A product recall has since seen more than 11 million metres of cable identifi ed as faulty, and all returned cables will now be scrapped. Although Atlas Kablo no longer holds BASEC or HAR

product certifi cation licences and isn’t authorised to use the BASEC registered trademarks, it remains unclear how much of this faulty cable is still in the marketplace or has been

About the author

Michael Simms Michael Simms is president of the British Cables Association, co-ordinators of the Approved Cables Initiative, and director of Energy and Telecoms Business of Prysmian Cables & Systems UK. He has some 40 years’ experience working in the electrical supply industry.

installed already. Many contractors now face the worry of whether they have installed faulty cable, and if they have, what are the risks and potential consequences. Add to this concern the general view that around 20 per

cent of cable product in the supply chain, at any one time, is unsafe, non-approved or counterfeit, and it’s clear to see there is a real and present danger in our midst.

Hazard warning Government fi gures on fi res caused by faulty cables and wires support these fears, stating that more than 27 per cent of all electrical fi res are attributed to faulty wire and cables, and in the past fi ve years there have been 1,200 non-fatal injuries and 15 fatalities. There can be no question that the public are potentially at

risk. But where does the responsibility to confront the issue lie? The ACI believes that contractors have a duty of care to ensure that they don’t become part of the problem too. Ensuring the specifi cation they are working to is right, and following it through to installation, is vitally important. If further evidence is needed to convince, then the

Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act in 2009 should be enough. The legislation makes it clear that individuals could ultimately be held responsible if anything goes wrong – such as an electrocution or a fi re which results in a death – with the possibility of a custodial sentence not ruled out. Today, if you sell, supply, or install unsafe cable, you are deemed to have contravened health and safety regulations, which could void insurance – and you could face serious criminal allegations. It’s better to spend more time checking and getting it right

than face the implications of human tragedy, or the cost to your business of managing the removal of a problem cable and the associated costs of correcting the situation.


ECA Today Autumn 2010

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