There have been several examples of defective electrical cables being discovered in domestic installations both in Australia and New Zealand; the Infinity/Olsent TPS, the ECables SDI, and the TPS cable imported into NZ by Lyon Electrical.
There are several commonalities with all these cases:
- The importers seemed to bring the cable into country taking it on ‘face value’ that the cable was compliant with the relevant Standards and was safe to use without undertaking any evaluation of their own
- All the importers associated with these examples went into receivership shortly after the problems with the cable were uncovered and were therefore not available to cover any costs associated with remediation
- The remediation costs were manyfold higher than the original value of the cable itself
The obvious point here is that to avoid risks it’s important to procure electrical cables from reliable suppliers who have well-established and thorough quality assurance procedures in place.
The problem is that a defective cable can look very similar to a compliant cable, yet its performance over time can be markedly different. Taking the Infinity 2.5 2C+E Flat TPS cable as an example. It looked very good, it felt very good; yet, when it was exposed to the Australian Standard specified ageing test the insulation became incredibly brittle and simply broke away from the conductor leaving a potentially lethal conductor completely exposed to touch or shorting. It was estimated that this would occur in a period as short as 7 years in a typical roof space. Cable is frequently installed in ‘hidden’ locations like roof spaces, walls, and risers. This then potentially raises a hidden danger if the cable is ever disturbed.
It also means that if a cable is subsequently found to be non-compliant after installation the contractor installing the cable is likely to be liable for the cost of the remedial work to have the defective cable removed…this is exactly the case with the Infinity cable!
It was with this background that the ACA has established the Australian Cable Initiative (ACI) to operate an independent surveillance scheme where cable is taken, at random, from the marketplace, and independently tested for compliance and safety.
It is important for everyone involved in the electrical industry to have full confidence in the equipment being installed.
The ACI is a relatively small group so it would be really helpful if contractors involved with cable installation could help by keeping an eye out for any suspicious cables and reporting them via the ACI website so we can help to follow them up.
If possible, please provide the ACI with a few metres of the suspicious cable, then it can be tested for you.
Things to look out for include:
- Does the cable or packaging carry the RCM?
- Is the cable listed on the EESS database?
- Does the cable have good documentation or does it look ‘shonky’?
- Does the cable feel different? Is it stiffer or more flexible than usual?
- Does it feel thinner than usual?
- Does the conductor feel different?
- Is it lighter in weight (it may be made from copper-clad aluminium for example)?
These are just some of the things to keep an eye out for but in the end, nothing beats having a full test to properly characterise a cable for compliance and safety.
The ACI has been established to help the Electrical Industry, please help us help you.
Advocating for Safer Electrical Cables