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Need for better market surveillance for electrical installations – notably cables – under the CPR

Electricity has become a vital part of everyday life over the past 100 years. However, in addition to the benefits it brings, electricity can also be dangerous if not managed properly. Every year, about 30 people in the Netherlands and about 5000 people in the EU die because of a residential fire. Statistics show that at least 26 % of residential fires in the Netherlands are caused by an electrical problem in (household) equipment or installations (Annual overview of fatal residential fires 2020, 2021). International research shows comparable figures.
Electrical safety issues are mainly the result from an unsuitable design of the electrical installation, an inappropriate use of the installation or a lack of proper maintenance (Residential electrical safety – How to ensure progress, 2017). However, there is another problem : poor and sub-standard electrics and fraudulent products are finding their way into the market, increasing the risk of electrical safety issues.

EuroFSA policy about the need for better market surveillance for electrical installations – notably cables – under the CPR
The aim of the European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) is to reduce the risk from fire in the home. In 2020 the EuroFSA published the Safety Action Plan, with six focus areas and ten action points meant to improve European fire safety (European Fire Safety Action Plan, 2020). The plan clearly states that products’ and systems’ compliance with national and EU standards and regulations is essential for making Europe safer.
Regarding cables, all cables used in the European Union and permanently installed in any type of building are subject to the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). It is important that cables are compliant with the CPR, to make sure that cables reflecting the appropriate CPR classification are used in buildings to assure the required level of fire safety.

Impression tests cables
To study the difference in fire behaviour, the Fire Service Academy performed impression tests (Impression tests cables, 2021) with high performance cables and basic performance cables in a realistic environment (high or basic is the performance regarding the ignition and burning behaviour of the cables). The test results show the difference in burning behaviour. With the basic performance a fire propagates fast over the cables and when installed horizontal multiple burning droplets fall onto the floor and keep on burning. With the high performance a fire propagates slowly over the cables, outside the directly affected section of the ignition source the cables the fire is not propagated. A fire in just a set of cables (high or basic performance) will not directly be a threat for the possibility of escape and survivability. But a fire in the basic performance cables in a furnished room (office environment) can cause a rapid fire propagation resulting in an impaired escape and fatal conditions within 5 – 7 minutes and a flashover within 7 to 8 minutes.

Meaning for practice
The test results emphasize the importance of the fire safety performance of cables. It must be prevented that cables or cables in electrical installation become the ignition source of a fire. It is therefore important that cables in electrical installation are designed, installed, used, and maintained properly. But even if cables are designed, installed, and maintained properly fire propagation over the cables due to another ignition source must be prevented as well. The tests make it clear that, using (basic) classes of cables not in line with required levels of fire safety increases the risk of electrical safety issues which can result in a fire or a fire propagation with unacceptable risks for the level of fire safety.

Future actions: CPR and market surveillance
In the EuroFSA Action Plan it is addressed that the basis of a fire-safe environment needs to be in order. Therefore, appropriate regulations must ensure that a building, whether newly built or renovated, is fireproof. As this is not always the case, compliance with requirements is essential, because people should get what is promised. Especially for Europe’s vulnerable citizens, for whom (like the elderly) escaping is most often not a safer option, preventing a fire from breaking out is essential.
Specific for electrical fire safety the findings show the importance to ensure that the appropriate cables according to Construction Products Regulation (CPR) requirements are used in the respective settings. The findings also show the need for increased market surveillance activities. Therefore, the EuroFSA calls on relevant stakeholders (member states and industry) to ensure that the appropriate regulations and market surveillance (random monitoring) regarding cables are put in place.

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