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Contractors and installers “must play active role in building safety”

22 November 2021

WREXHAM MINERAL Cables has called on contractors and installers to play their part in improving building safety by increasing their understanding of the performance capabilities of fire-resistant cables.

The UK manufacturer of ‘fire-resistant’ – or what the company prefers to call ‘fire survival’ – mineral insulated cables suggests it’s “vital” practising contractors and installers recognise the stresses real-life fire scenarios have on ‘fire-resistant’ cables such that they can then identify products that will truly withstand a critical situation.

In order to meet the requirements of a fire-resistant cable, products must comply with the British Standard – for example BS 50200, BS 8434, BS 8519 and BS 6387 – that’s appropriate to their type of fire-resistant cable. All of these British Standards contain a variant of time and temperature at which the cables are tested under fire conditions, ranging from a 30-minute rated cable tested at 830oC through to a three-hour rated cable tested at 940oC.

Wrexham Mineral Cables’ commercial manager Steve Williams has noted that building safety “could take a step forward” if contractors and installers play a more active role in delivering change. The business firmly believes that this will require an increased awareness of the tests individual products undergo in order to obtain their fire resistance certification.

For example, only ‘fire-resistant’ cables that are greater in diameter than 20 mm must undergo testing for direct impacts and water testing with any significant pressure on a single test sample. For ‘fire-resistant’ cables that are under 20 mm, different stages of the test are carried out on different samples of cable, while the exposure to water is minimal.

Drive for accountability

Williams informed Fire Safety Matters: “There has been a real drive across the construction industry to make everybody in the supply chain more accountable throughout the various stages of a building’s existence. ‘Fire survival’ cables are a vital component of building safety, yet because there’s a lack of understanding about the important role they play in keeping buildings safe, all-too-often inferior cables are installed. The sad reality is that these cables are not likely to be adequate in the event of a fire, in turn putting lives at risk.”

Further, Williams explained: “In an era of greater accountability, there should be no compromise. The industry can no longer aim for minimum compliance to ‘get the job done’. While we believe there should be a higher classification of cables introduced to identify those which can survive, rather than simply resist fire, greater understanding of performance capabilities, and particularly so among contractors and installers, would go a long way towards ensuring high performance products are used in every project.”

In conclusion, Williams stated: “We’re committed to raising standards and are working hard to educate people, whether they are just starting out in their career or have many years’ experience, about the benefits of specifying ‘true’ ‘fire survival’ cables. It’s for this very reason that we offer training to students and experienced contractors, showing how we make and test our cables and demonstrating how they compare to other products, so that they can be sure they’re using a solution which is fit for purpose.”