PECM: How to identify substandard or non-compliant cable

If you’re looking for a list of things that as a specifier or electrical engineer you can quickly cross off against then you’re going to be disappointed. The truth is, you’re lucky if you can spot substandard cable just by looking at it – and it probably means it’s a pretty major defect. But don’t let that stop you reading as there are measures you can take to mitigate the risk.

For a cable to be substandard cable or non-compliant cable it can have a wide range of problems, all of which can have potentially damaging effects on both the short-term and long-term operational viability of your project. The cable conductor may have a reduced copper content; the minimum or mean thickness of the insulation may not meet the required measurement; the braid coverage may be reduced – and that’s before you start to think about whether it meets the requirements of the RoHS Directive, the Low Voltage Directive, CE marking, CPR compliance… There’s any number of issues to consider.

So what can you do? If you can’t be sure you can see it just by looking, we recommend considering the following:

Where are you buying the cable from?

It sounds obvious, but are you buying from a legitimate source? A trusted cable supplier who can provide the evidence of batch traceability and compliance certification. Whilst next-day delivery and stock availability are vital parts of the service, so is having a knowledgeable and trusted point of contact and a set of QA protocols they follow that you can rely on.

Has it been independently tested?

Choosing a supplier you trust means also putting your trust in their supply chain. Manufacturers conduct their own pre-despatch testing but with high quality cables manufactured throughout Europe, the Middle East, India and China that may feel like a leap of faith even if they are reliably compliant. What provides the added assurance is independent testing. Does your chosen supplier offer that? Look out for ISO 170205 accreditation – it’s the highest standard for laboratories and certifies the impartiality and accuracy of the results they produce.

Does it hold a third-party accreditation?

There are a number of well-respected third-party accreditations for cables, including BASEC, LPCB, and the BSI Kitemark. It’s worth remembering that no one body accredits all types of cable and their testing protocols will differ, but a cable holding a third-party mark can provide valuable additional assurances. As a business, our portfolio includes cables holding BASEC and LPCB approval but we also hold the BSI Cable Testing Verification Kitemark, an intensive and rigorous programme of testing that quality marks specific reels and drums rather than across product ranges.

So really, procuring and installing quality, compliant cable (and avoiding the risk of substandard cable) is straightforward enough – it’s all about making sure someone else is doing the checking!