BASEC Gets Tough on Approvals

Test and certification body tightens UK and international manufacturers’ product approvals processes

The British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) has for over 40 years been a mark of reassurance to those specifying cable, rigorously testing electrical wiring and power cables, data and signal cables to meet necessary and appropriate British, European and international standards through detailed examination of manufacturers’ production processes and controls. There is still an estimated 20 percent of cable product in the UK supply chain that is non-approved and could be unsafe or counterfeit, and more so overseas. Market expectations of cable quality continue to rise, and BASEC has responded with increased requirements on approved manufacturers.

To help stamp out the general problem, BASEC has been working with trade organisations, user groups and industry initiatives across the world in identifying the source of problem cable, which could be unscrupulous manufacturers, importers or distributors who are not complying with their legal duties under UK, European or international regulations. BASEC has revised and tightened up its own certification processes to make it more challenging for manufacturers to achieve and maintain approval, and in particular to make it more difficult for manufacturers to produce non-conforming cable, accidentally or intentionally, without this being identified by them or by BASEC.

With continued issues such as this within the industry, it is critical that when a cable product has achieved an independent third party certification, such as the BASEC mark, demonstrating that it is safe and compliant for use, that this provides the necessary peace of mind and reassurance it should for the end user. However, there have been rare occasions when manufacturers, that have previously been awarded BASEC approval for a product, have then produced a batch of cables that is non-compliant. This has led to BASEC carrying out an industry wide investigation resulting in the suspension of the manufacturer’s certifications, recalling product and then witnessing the subsequent destruction of the product. BASEC acknowledges that since these are approved products that are being recalled this can result in further nervousness and confusion within the market place.

Dr. Jeremy Hodge, chief executive of BASEC explains: “BASEC’s approval procedures are designed to check that each manufacturer has reliable and robust manufacturing and quality systems, but it is impracticable to check every metre of cable produced. However, BASEC does have a rigorous programme of sampled audits and testing, with visits made to each factory every few months. At each visit, BASEC selects a number of samples of cable from recent production for testing - up to 200 samples each year from every factory. Any test failures found are followed up immediately. BASEC imposes strict certification rules on manufacturers and all cable produced must be tested by the manufacturer before release for sale. If there are any problems or changes that might affect cable quality the manufacturer is obliged to notify BASEC immediately.

“We have made additions to the BASEC approvals process to make it tougher for manufacturers to achieve and maintain certification. This has been put into action and over the past few months with further changes planned. We have enforced a number of additional stringent actions that manufacturers have to pass to be awarded or even be considered for BASEC approval.”

BASEC has introduced a new ‘risk-based’ applicant review and quotation process where high risk applicants are subjected to an in-depth critique of their business which looks at; factory tenure, cable manufacturing experience, quality plans, trade references, necessary up to date standards as well as many other factors, before BASEC will even consider certifying their operation. Also for all new applicants a minimum of two auditors are assigned for the initial audit. BASEC auditors are rigorous in their evaluation of new requirements including the risk-based audits as well as test witnessing, cable production witnessing, and unannounced audit protocols.

A pre-requisite now is for manufacturers to hold ISO 9001 from BASEC and to provide comprehensive design and materials information on all cables submitted for approval. All clients will be subjected to one or more annual unannounced visits, in addition to their regular audits, and additional days are being spent reviewing production processes and manufacturers’ cable testing facilities.

Dr Hodge continued: “Many unannounced full factory audits have already been conducted on BASEC clients this year and if we find anything suspicious, investigations will be launched and certifications will if necessary be revoked. These are certainly not the only changes we will be making. All aspects of certification, testing, and on-site inspections are being looked at in detail. It is going to be much harder for manufacturers to gain BASEC approval as well as to maintain it. Over the coming year, we will be announcing further changes to the certification process.”

“It should be highlighted though that if a manufacturer sets out to deliberately produce and supply sub-standard cable it could elude any checking system. But remember that investigations have revealed that the highest risk of cable being non-compliant is with unmarked cable or cable lacking a manufacturer’s origin mark. So, our message to wholesalers and contractors is always specify an independently approved cable and check cable markings on delivery and before installation. If suspicious cable is found, contact BASEC for advice, and be assured that each and every concern will be investigated.”

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