Draka’s latest initiative focuses much-needed attention on the absence of cable marking, without which there is no means of establishing the cable’s authenticity. In the absence of such marking there is every probability that the quality and performance of the cable is highly suspect and is from a disreputable supplier.
Under the banner: “If it’s not marked, it’s not worth it”, the campaign is aimed primarily at installers, but it is a problem that should also concern wholesalers and distributors, specifiers and building control officers. Depending upon the particular application, there is a legal obligation to include certain information; the more demanding the specification, the more information is required to be shown on the cable.
Every year, millions of metres of electrical cable are installed throughout the UK and it is essential to know that the cable being used is to the correct specification. With no markings on the cable it is impossible to know its origin and, more important, whether you can trust that it is safe to install. This is not just an issue at the initial installation stage, it also a serious concern when circuits are later modified. Fitting poor quality cable can have lethal implications and leave the installer liable to prosecution.
But what markings should a cable carry? To help installers, Draka has published a freely-available pocket guide and has an explanatory video presentation on its website. Both are available at www.drakauk.com. The company is also inviting anyone who finds unmarked or misleadingly marked cable being installed to send a sample to Draka in support of the campaign’s aims to achieve best practice throughout the industry and eradicate this dangerous and reprehensible practice.
Among the markings that should be clearly visible on every cable are the manufacturer’s name and the British Standard number to which the cable claims to conform. Providing the cable has been tested by one, the name of the independent third-party approval organisation should also be included. However, it is important for installers to appreciate that merely stamping a BS number on a cable is not evidence that it actually complies. Without third-party approval there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the claims made for the cable are true. Even if a third-party approval organisation’s name is marked on the cable, if the installer has any doubts whatsoever – particularly if the cable is imported – the marking’s validity should be checked with the approval organisation.
This initiative is the latest move in Draka’s campaign to stamp out rogue cables from unscrupulous manufacturers that have given in to the temptation to cut corners. Some use less copper in the manufacturing process, while others substitute steel wire, copper-coated aluminium or badly recycled copper in place of pure copper. Cable is still turning up that is incorrectly constructed resulting in a serious detrimental impact on the safety and reliability of fire detection and alarm systems, and emergency lighting installations.
The reality of the current situation is that, if a company is prepared to manufacture cable using sub-standard materials, it will not think twice about applying markings on the cable that are fraudulent, inaccurate or misleading. So, claiming that the cable was marked with an appropriate BS or EN number or the name of an independent third-party approval organisation falls far short of being a credible defence. All you have to do to confirm third-party certification is check the appropriate certification body’s website. For example, it takes just a couple of minutes to access the LPCB [Loss Prevention Certification Board] Red Book Live website to ascertain precise details on every LPCB certified cable, with the same applying to BASEC at www.basec.org.uk.
It is estimated that, currently, around £30m worth of counterfeit electrical products reach UK shores every year, so anyone that either does not verify the quality of the cable they are buying, or opts to “turn a blind eye” might like to ponder a few recent statistics. According to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in England, faulty electric cable was one of the top three causes of fire in buildings in 2007. This figure had increased year-on-year in the preceding five years, and was up by a staggering 51% since 2003.