In today’s market, construction contracts can be very challenging in terms of both the scope of works and risk management. Large amounts of cable are required for a range of applications, with various requirements for control, power supply and distribution. No two cables perform the same role and achieving a consistent mix of materials for the same cable products can be difficult.

Contracts will typically be vetted by your legal department in conjunction with all parties involved in the project. It is, however, not uncommon for the risk profile to sit with you, the contractor. Ensuring the products you specify and procure are to the highest levels of quality and safety, as well as being compliant with recognised industry standards, is the first line of defence in terms of risk mitigation. Whilst any contracts must afford protection, prevention through the proper channels is far better than cure.

Whilst you may have hired an electrical expert to install the cable, ensuring it is properly applied remains your responsibility. Any faults, irrelevant of whether you’re carrying out the installation yourself, can be back-logged to your business, resulting in brand damage and the potential loss of key customers. It is therefore important that contractors don’t just focus on the cable meeting the relevant regulations and standards, but assessing its suitability for the project or application. The materials may not be able to withstand the conditions the cable is installed into, which could ultimately result in it needing to be repaired or replaced shortly after installation.

The cost of buying cable is often a key consideration that makes specifying cheap cable tempting, but as with any item of importance, buy cheap, buy twice. In purchasing cheap cable that is not compliant or suitable for application, it can create serious risks to health and safety.

A defect in a non-approved product is most likely to become evident during cable installation, commissioning or operation. Product failures can come in a range of guises, however sheath damage is probably the most common. Other causes of failure could be related to mechanical damage, which is associated with environmental conditions, movement of product, or faults within manufacturing or specification. There are several obstacles involved in accessing and recovering a failed cable that has already been installed, which is a far more onerous process than planning the original installation. Cable faults commonly arise from the use of poor-quality materials, right at the start of manufacturing process. These problems may not be detected until it is too late when it fails or causes problems whilst in operation.

A clear way to manage risk is to insist on the use of approved products. When cable is independently tested by a third-party certification body like BASEC, all aspects of the cable make-up and materials are assessed as part of a three-year certification programme. The cables are sampled from production and tested several times a year to ensure they maintain consistent levels of quality, but also to verify that they meet all of the required or relevant standards. Rigorous testing also aims to determine cable suitability for operation with performance and consistency of quality being assessed through electrical, material, mechanical, chemical and fire testing. Assessing all of these criteria is essential to verifying cable quality because some cable products could pass certain tests but fail others.

The success of a construction project is often measured on completion, whether it has been delivered on time and to budget. Cable quality should be specified highly and sourced right at the start of the project to ensure that there are no delays or unexpected expenditures. This will help to avoid the allure of a low price when budgets are dwindling at the end of the project. Independent testing helps to detect defects before a cable product enters the supply chain and ends up in the hands of the installation team, ensuring that it will be safe and fit-for-purpose. More importantly, third-party approved cable product certification provides assurance that cables will be safe in the event of an emergency. When approached from this perspective, cable quality should be front of mind for specifiers and purchasers. BASEC exists to promote quality cable throughout the world as the preferred testing and certification partner to the worldwide cable industry.