With winter fast approaching, the Approved Cables Initiative (ACI) is advising contractors and distributors to check their cable choices carefully in light of the discovery last year of faulty arctic grade cable supplied into the UK market.

Arctic grade cable, which is usually yellow or blue in colour, is often used on construction sites to provide temporary outdoor power supplies and in some indoor applications such as cold stores.

Last year independent tests of samples of selected arctic grade cables showed cables exhibited poor conductor resistance and the sheathing and insulation of the cables were found to disintegrate when subjected to a cold bending test. This problem could result in a fire, short circuit or an electric shock.

Arctic grade cable is widely sold through a number of distributors and wholesalers across the UK. Sometimes this cable is made into pre-assembled leads with plugs or sockets. Identification of problem cable may be difficult as many brands of arctic grade cable are available, often with no brand name or mark of origin.

The ACI recommends only using third party approved cable and if any suspect cable is discovered contact should be made with the ACI to arrange sample testing.

According to BS 7540-3 (‘Cables, guide to use’), cable compliant with BS 7919 Table 44 is suitable for outdoor use in harsh environments, down to -25°C, and to demonstrate this performance it is required to be cold tested at -40°C. Regular flexible cable compliant with BS 6500 Table 27 is cold tested at -15°C and is only described as suitable for indoor use down to 5°C.

Peter Smeeth of the Approved Cables Initiative, said, “The very nature of the harsh environment in which these cables operate means that they need to be able to withstand forceful treatment and you need to know that your cable choice is safe and suitable for its application. We would advise distributors and contractors to check their cable markings and look for third party independent approval of all purchases. If they are in any doubt about a cable they should contact the Approved Cables Initiative for further advice and testing.”