Dr Jeremy Hodge Interview with NICEIC Connections magazine

NICEIC Connections magazine interview Dr Jeremy Hodge, chief executive of BASEC

• What should you look for when buying electric cable?
Contractors should look for properly marked cable quoting the relevant standard number, the manufacturer’s name, and a recognised approval mark such as BASEC.  Check for traceability information and legal compliance (CE marking) on packaging.

From a safety perspective, what are the main dangers of using non- compliant cable?
There are several safety issues including overheating (low copper content), excessive disconnection time (low copper content), failure of fire systems (if it does not pass tests), electric shock (insulation problems) and early degradation (poor materials).

• How much of a problem is non-compliant cable?
The Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) has estimated that about 20% of the cable on the market is defective, counterfeit or non-approved.  Low copper content is the major problem seen at present in a substantial fraction of non-approved cable on the market.

• How effective do you think The Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) will be in eliminating the production and use of counterfeit cables?
The ACI is already having significant impact and we are seeing changes in practice by some specifiers, installers and traders of cable, but this it will take time and commitment to eliminate all the poor practice from the sector. Education of specifiers and installers is the key to addressing this problem.

• Is the battle against the counterfeiters being won? Please describe, if possible, how this is happening in a practical sense.
Certainly.  Efforts to expose unscrupulous traders and manufacturers operating in the market have been effective and more intelligence has been obtained about poor practices and methods of exposing and combating them. As evidence of this, many millions of metres of faulty cable have been scrapped, but ongoing vigilance is required by users.

Have there been any prosecutions for the manufacture, supply and distribution of counterfeit or non-compliant cable?
Regulators such as HSE have taken an active interest, BASEC is aware of a least two importers/distributors of defective cable being served notice under Health and Safety legislation.

Does the rising cost of copper cables mean that more contractors are prepared to take risks with lower quality, or even counterfeit cables? What can be done to deter this?
The electrical sector is very price driven, but this must not be at the expense of safety and quality.  Cutting down on copper is one way that unscrupulous suppliers can cheat their customers.  To help stamp this out BASEC is conducting more unannounced spot checks on manufacturers and in the market.

• How can contractors ensure that the cable that they are using is compliant and safe?
Cable should be ordered quoting the relevant British standard number and approval status, and checked on delivery to make sure it complies, before installation.  We recommend that BASEC approved cable is specified.

If a company installs unsafe cable, not only do they risk costs that could put them out of business but they will have also contravened health and safety regulations, which may void any insurance and they could face serious criminal allegations, even a custodial sentence.

• Is the importance of using the correct fire performance cable widely understood? What are the key considerations when selecting this type of cable?
Preservation of life and property are some of the most important uses for cable.  Fire protection systems can be complex, but contractors should become familiar with design codes such as BS 5839, BS 5266 and BS 8519 to help determine the necessary grade of cable to use.  The key consideration is the length of time the electrical system must effectively operate after a fire starts while maintaining necessary levels of safety and protection, normally 30, 60 or 120 minutes. Also to make sure the cable used carries a suitable approval.

• How can contractors consider the environment when specifying and installing electrical cables?
Optimising cable sizes and installation methods to keep cables running cooler will minimise energy losses in transmission and promote long life for the cable.  Make sure old cable is recycled – the price of copper helps this.

Further information about BASEC is available at,, or contact BASEC directly on 01908 267300.

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