Spotlight on Euroclass fire safety classifications for network cabling

This article was first featured in the August 2018 issue of Inside Networks.

At a time when fire safety standards are under the spotlight and subject to intense scrutiny, it is without doubt that the effectiveness and implementation of the new Euroclass fire safety classifications for copper and optical fibre network cabling are of increasing importance.

Almost 30 years ago, the CPD introduced benchmarks for fire safety. This was a crucial first step in providing assurances around public safety. But fast forward to 2018, and there is now a recognition that whilst industry standards have steadily improved, it is still possible for contractors to ignore the new, more vigorous CPR that replaced the Construction Products Directive, and which now includes fire performance regulations.

These regulations are designed to ensure manufacturers and distributors are controlled in producing and selling cabling that is compliant to Euroclass standards. How, therefore, can we ensure CPR is being correctly understood and adhered to by manufacturers and distributors?

Herein lies the issue. Manufacturers are legally required to correctly classify cables in line with Euroclass classifications, but there is no legal requirement for either manufacturers or distributors to insist on their application. Although the new Euroclass classifications have been mandatory since a revision to the standards in 2017, it is important to note that it is only mandatory for contractors to use cabling that meets that classification if the specification provided states they must do so.

This is a major pitfall of the current regulation. In an industry where contractors are tendering in a competitive market where margins are notoriously low, this poses a moral dilemma for the designer and contractor when undertaking a proposal where no specifics regarding classifications are given. Ultimately, it enables contractors to request the the manufacturers or distributors provide them with cheaper, non-compliant cabling due to this legal loophole.

The answer? In short, it should not only be law for the manufacturer to correctly classify cables as it is now, but for all project specifications to comply with Euroclass classifications. Who becomes responsible for ensuring the specifications adhere to there regulations is open to debate.