The Low Voltage Directive (originally 73/23/EEC, and later 2006/95/EC) is the oldest of the New Approach Directives* (NAD) adopted by the European Union to support the Single Market. It provides common broad objectives for electrical safety regulations, and covers all electrical equipment and components designed for use with a voltage rating of between 50 and 1000 V for alternating current and between 75 and 1500 V for direct current.
Published last year, the revised LVD (2014/35/EU) is due to be fully enforced at national level in April 2016. After a UK public consultation later this year, it will be released as a revision of the Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations.
The common broad objectives for safety regulations ensure that electrical equipment conforming to pan-EU requirements will be acceptable to use in all EU countries. These common elements do not include any specific technical standards that must be met, instead relying on CENELEC technical standards to guide designers to produce safe products.
Before placing a product on the market the importer must be confident that:
Before making a product available on the market, the distributor must verify the following formal requirements:
The Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) has issued the following update regarding work to bring cables* within Construction Products Regulation (EU 305/2011):
*this refers to cables of all types used in construction works with requirements for Reaction to Fire - meaning flame/spread/propagation, evolution of smoke and acidic/corrosive gases, and restriction on flaming droplets.
NOTE: Cables with requirements for Resistance to Fire (circuit integrity) are not yet covered. A separate product standard is under development. It is not expected for a few years.
The application of chalk constitutes good manufacturing practice for the relevant cables. It is not something that can be directly written into standards, but there are indirect requirements that have relevance. Some non-exhaustive examples are: BS EN 50525-1 - The sheath shall not adhere to the core(s), and shall be capable of being removed without damage to the core(s). BS 7211 - When the sheath is removed, there shall be no damage to the core insulation when visually checked. BS 7629-1 - When the sheath is removed, there shall be no damage to the core insulation when visually checked. Where such cables are part of a 3rd party approval scheme, such as those via BASEC, this would be part of their testing and assessment.
The Approved Cables Initiative advocates that contractors should check their cables for manufacturers and 3rd party approval markings. Whilst there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to place their name on the cable most do, and all should have their name on the packaging. In order to conform to cable standards specific marking is required. Unmarked cable, with no manufacturer’s name or details should give rise for concern. With such products there is no traceability so it is impossible to take action where there is an issue. All unmarked cable tested by the ACI to date has failed against the relevant standard – a 100 percent failure rate. Fraudulent markings present a particular challenge, as it is often difficult to tell that a cable is not manufactured to the appropriate standard for its use merely by looking at it. So much so that many organisations throughout the supply chain are not even aware of the seriousness of the problem. The ACI recommends that all in the electrical supply chain routinely check cable markings and cable reels to look for a manufacturer’s identification that they recognise. Never accept cable without markings, especially if no details of the manufacture are included. On site there are further checks that can be completed at the point of delivery. Here it is important to check what has been purchased and inspect the product. Is it what has been specified or has an inferior product been substituted? It is important to make sure records of purchases and deliveries are maintained so that what has been installed can be checked against what has been purchased and against the original specification. Maintaining a quality management system to ISO 9001 can help in this instance.
It is not just cable loading that is the issue, but also materials and construction problems that could result in electric shock or fire. If we consider the Government's figures on fires caused by faulty cables and wires, it is plain that the public are in danger. Over 27 percent of all electrical fires are attributed to faulty wire and cables. In the past five years there have been 1,200 non-fatal injuries and 15 fatalities
Current legislation (some of European origin) allows cable to be sold with few checks. It is assumed that all cables are made to British, European or International standards and that these Standards ensure cables are safe to use. It would be difficult for the Government to know that public safety has been threatened by these non-approved and counterfeit cables unless they receive information from the industry.
The support already given by a number of industry trade bodies demonstrates that the ACI is recognised as an authoritative organisation which is working to support current legislation. It is hoped that through education more companies within the industry will follow this strong lead.
The ACI works with and takes guidance from these important Government departments, to help them understand the seriousness of the situation and to work with them to agree on the most appropriate enforcement action deemed necessary.
The ACI is highlighting any cases where we find unscrupulous practice and we encourage users to avoid such sources. We believe the introduction of new legislation would outlaw the import of non-approved and counterfeit cables and in doing so eradicate the problem - protecting the public from these dangers.
A cheap price can be an indication that something is not right with a cable. Without a sample the ACI couldn’t second guess what this may be but if you are concerned about whether this is a genuine offer then before you purchase you should consider the cable against the ACI’s cable marking check list (available on the ACI’s website www.aci.org.uk):
•Is the cable marked with manufacturer’s name and factory identifier for traceability?
•Does the cable carry the correct BS or European Standard number?
•Does the cable have third party approval?
•Does the cable marking have the correct number of cores and cross sectional area?
•Is the cable marked with the correct voltage rating?
•Is the cable correctly packaged the with manufacturer’s traceability information?
•Does the cable have the correct national and /or European cable code?
•Does the cable carry the year of manufacture?
•Does the cable conform to the delivery note and order placed?
If any of these points are not ticked off when you check, then the cable may not be what it is purporting to be. If in doubt the ACI would advise having cable tested for conductor resistance. British Approval Service for Cables (BASEC) can assist with cable testing where there are concerns about the validity of a cable product. Please provide at least a 2 metre sample of any suspect cable for official testing and verification.
Should you chose to ignore the ACI’s check list and purchase and then install the cable which subsequently turns out to be faulty or substandard then you will be liable. The liability extends to any remedial work that may be necessary including the removal of the faulty cable, the cost of a replacement cable and installation plus any `make-good’ following the work.
The dangers of cable malfunctioning are well reported and in the worst case scenario it’s worth remembering that some faulty cable could lead to fire and the associated risks are enormous.
Defective cable cannot always be spotted by the untrained eye and even then many such cables go unchecked unless they are subjected to routine tests as part of an installation process. To be sure of a cable choice consideration needs to be given to all the points listed already when you look to make a cable purchase.
To ensure that you are making the right cable choices the ACI recommends only buying and installing cable from reputable wholesalers and cable that has been independently tested and has been third party approved.
The ACI believes that vigilance and proactive involvement to help with sample testing is key to tackling the substandard cable issue. Those tasked with purchasing can adopt some wiser practices to protect themselves and their customers but primarily it is vital that purchasers resist the opportunity to buy cheap cable product. Cable will often be cheap for a reason – and not always the right reason.