Established over 30 years ago Wrexham Mineral Cables manufacture fire proof cables from their purpose-built factory in North Wales, exporting all over the world. During their history they have witnessed many changes within the market and to the Standards around Fire-Resistant cables.
The Company produces fire survival cables used for critical areas such as fire alarms, emergency power and lighting, communication, smoke extraction as well as sprinkler and smoke detection systems. Intrinsically it is a long-standing advocate of more stringent tests when it comes to fire protection. Now a year on from the Hackitt Report the Company is asking are we doing enough within the Fire Safety Standards to protect lives and properties?
Wrexham Mineral Cables are of the opinion that there should be a higher classification of cables and category that would be classified above fire-resistant cables. This clearer definition will help all involved in specification, installation and maintenance to better understand the differences in fire-resistant and fire protection cable properties and the differences between mineral and polymeric cables.
The Hackitt Enquiry, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, was an independent review of Building Regulations and the impact on Fire Safety. Wrexham Mineral Cables are simply asking is if it is going far enough? Are we doing our utmost to ensure we protect people from critical fire situations possibly resulting in the potential loss of life?
The Hackitt Enquiry “Building a Safer Future Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety” is a 156-page document. Many of the recommendations are focused on what the Review calls HRRBs (High Rise Residential Buildings) of 10 or more storeys, and whilst some of the recommendations will apply more generally, it has sought to take a risk-based approach and focus on HRRBs. These may include residential, purpose-built student accommodation, hotels and mixed-use buildings. The review covers 10 Chapters with recommendations.
Summary Interpretation by Chapter
Chapter 1: Parameters and principles of a new regulatory framework
It considers the overall approach toward regulation for High Rise Residential Buildings, Multi-occupancy residential buildings and Institutional Buildings such as hospitals, care homes, hotels, prisons, halls of residence and boarding schools and others.
Chapter 2: Design, construction and refurbishment
The Review recommends creation of clearly identifiable duty holder roles, providing clearer ‘gateways’ during the building lifecycle where regulatory oversight is exercised.
Chapter 3: Occupation and maintenance
It concludes that the current regulatory system during this phase of the building lifecycle is confusing with a lack of expectation of tenant involvement in fire safety. The JCA would need to maintain a register with powers to inspect and act.
Chapter 4: Residents’ voice
The Review highlights evidence of good practice by many landlords in the sector concluding that there must be a minimum level of engagement across the sector. The new duty holder role will be the primary way that tenants will have means of redress and reassurance, accompanied by duties for tenant-facing documentation and information management around fire safety and supported by an independent body.
Chapter 5: Competence
This Chapter recognises the fragmentation and lack of coherence between disciplines with no specialist competencies for tall buildings. It stresses the need for better communication and engagement between those tasked with fire and building safety and professional bodies that focus on building design, delivery and maintenance.
Chapter 6: Guidance and monitoring to support building safety
A review of Approved Document B of the Building Regulations is already under way. The report suggests also reviewing the Fire Safety Order.
Chapter 7: Products
The Interim report suggested a severe limitation on the use of desktop studies products that are critical to the safety of HRRBs and should be subject to independent third-party certification. It recommends developing a new form of digital product labelling and traceability
Chapter 8: Golden thread of building information
A mandate digital standard of record-keeping for the design, construction and during the occupation of new HRRBs to include any subsequent refurbishments.
Chapter 9: Procurement and supply
For HRRBs, principal contractors and clients should devise contracts that specifically state the safety requirements must not be compromised for cost reduction. The Government should consider applying this to other multi-occupancy residential buildings and to institutional residential buildings. The review also suggests that building safety should be built into the tender process and documents
Chapter 10: International examples
There is just one recommendation that the Government should re-join the Inter-jurisdictional Regulatory Collaboration Committee (IRCC).
As a leading manufacturer of fire safety cable Wrexham Mineral Cable believe we should push for higher product standards. Under ‘Chapter 7: Products’ the Review proposed a severe limitation on the use of desktop studies which is being taken up by a new British Standard. Equally, manufacturers must retest products that are critical to the safety of HRRBs at least every three years and should consider testing more frequently. They should focus on the testing of products as they operate in systems rather than individual elements, namely real-life scenarios.
The JCA should drive reactive testing. The report recommends the development of digital product labelling and traceability. It also recommends that Government consider whether this could be achieved by extending the remit of the Office for Product Safety and Standards. Wrexham Mineral Cables fully support better testing of products that are critical to the safety of HRRBs and that they should be subject to independent third-party certification.
Steve Williams, Commercial Manager at Wrexham Mineral Cables said about the Report, “It is a thoughtful review, which generally focuses on outcomes, a systematic approach, and engendering a culture of delivering and maintaining safe buildings, rather than prescriptive regulations. It seeks leadership in that respect, from various parts of the sector, including clients.” He continued “The recommendations proposed by the Government in December 2018 have taken the Hackett enquiry in to consideration. However, the concentration needs to be carefully considered and include fire resistant cables.
The calls for fire resistant cables within high rise buildings has been discussed for several years. Interesting in some countries they have already made it mandatory for the use of mineral cables to be deployed in Buildings over a certain height.
We must ensure there is clarity on what is regarded as high risk and that the tests replicate all scenarios in the event of a fire.
Fires survival cable v fire resistant – why is it so important?
There are several references within the UK for fire performance on cables including BS 50200, BS 8434, BS 8519 & BS 6387. All of these standards have a variant of time and temperature that the cables are tested under fire conditions. These can range from 30-minute rated cable tested at 830C (PH30 cable as per BS 50200) to 3-hour rated cable tested at 940C (BS 6387 category C).
All of these tests are different in some way, this would depend on it’s construction or even the diameter of the cable. The consideration of a single unified test for a fire-resistant cable regardless of its size or construction would be a positive step forward to ensure in the event of a fire every scenario is considered.
True fire survival cable
Steve Williams commented, “Having discussed in depth with several manufacturers of fire-resistant cables, we are of the opinion there should be a higher classification introduced. A fire survival cable would need to pass true fire scenario tests regardless of its size or construction. We believe consideration of the tests should include a moving rig which replicates moving floors or the collapse of partition walls. A direct impact on the cable should be mandatory to replicate falling debris and the cable should also be exposed to high water pressure to replicate a high-powered sprinkler or fire hose.
The unique construction of MIC Cables means the conductors are protected by compacted magnesium oxide with a melting point of over 20000C. They have a copper sheath with a melting point of over 10800C. Unlike any other type of fire-resistant cable, no polymers, tapes or armouring are used, so this type of cable will operate directly in the heart of a fire and continue to safely carry a load in temperatures in excess of 10500C for over three hours.
The MIC cables produced by Wrexham Mineral Cables are manufactured in the UK to withstand and survive the effect of fire, temperature, pressured water direct impacts simultaneously. How many other types of cable can claim this level of fire testing performance?
For further information, go to www.wrexhammineralcables.com