EU requirements for new fire classification
The EU’s CPR requirements for cables comes into force on 1 July. The transitional period will end one year later. For Nexans, it marks the end of many years of work to develop clearer marking and standardised fire classes.
Discussions began in the 1990s about creating a European standard for marking cables along the lines of the EU Construction Products Directive. However, the “directive”, which can be implemented differently at national level, was in 2013 replaced by a “regulation”, which is a law or rule that all EU countries must apply. It was called the CPR – Construction Products Regulation.
In practical terms, it states that all cables must be CE marked to show that the product meets basic requirements. Everything used in civil engineering works, residential buildings, tunnels and other properties must have CPR compliant CE marking. The principle is the same as for CE marking under the Low Voltage Directive or for consumer products like toys and domestic appliances.
Cable manufacturers are covered by CPR rules from 1 July 2016, and they then have a year to implement them. Nexans has been working towards this change for many years.
– At Grimsås we have development engineers with access to dedicated equipment and a fire lab, close to development, production and customers. This is a big advantage when developing CPR classed cables, especially as the new cables must be just as convenient and easy to strip as our Easy cables are today. We can meet this challenge thanks to the closeness between development and production, says Olle Jarvid, Senior Engineer at Nexans Sweden and member of the Swedish standardisation body SEK and the European industry organisation Europacable.
The new rules have partly changed the focus of the work on cable fire safety – we used to concentrate on flame spread, whereas the focus now is on heat and smoke development.
– The CPR requirements represent a general tightening up of the rules, requiring more advanced testing and new ways of measuring and recording heat development.
If there a major difference with the old requirements, or is it just about a new marking?
– The requirements are not entirely comparable with today's requirements because we now have a new classification scale from A–F. F burns immediately and A provides the best protection. E in the new scale is similar to the old Swedish minimum requirement F2.
What demands does CPR place on manufacturers?
– For us at Grimsås, we have had to reconfigure our fire lab so we can take the measurements necessary for CPR. We have also developed new plastic mixtures to meet the new requirements. Our aim is to create cables that are just as good or better to install from the user's point of view, but are safer in the event of a fire.
Will Nexans have to change the way it works?
– One important change is that the manufacturers’ in-house tests are no longer a sufficient basis for CE marking. Final testing must now be done by or under the supervision of accredited labs.
How do I know if the cables are CPR marked?
– By checking that they have a label with CE marking and that the new fire classes appear on drum labels or packaging.
What should wholesalers do if they still have Nexans cables in stock without CE marking when the transitional period ends on 1 July 2017?
– Wholesalers are allowed to sell any remaining stock.
Does this also apply to installers?
– Yes, they can use up their old cables.
Will some cables be discontinued?
– We aim to remove most of the PVC cables from our offering, replacing them with halogen-free equivalents to become completely PVC-free as quickly as possible. This work has been ongoing since 2009.
What have you learned at Nexans during the process?
– Because we take measurements in different ways, we have found out more about how cables react in a fire, especially with regard to heat development.
Do the rules apply to cable manufactured outside Europe?
– Yes. The organisation bringing them into the EU is responsible for ensuring the cables are marked in accordance with the CPR rules.
Nexans produces cables all over the world. Who is responsible for ensuring that Nexans cables produced outside the EU are correctly marked?
– If we bring them EU then we are responsible. But if a wholesaler buys them from another supplier outside the EU, the wholesaler is responsible.
What is the situation in Sweden?
– The existing requirement is a flame spread rating of F2. However, F2 says nothing about halogen-free material and is simply a measure of flame spread. The new fire class for cables in blocks of flats or public buildings is class D with supplementary requirements s2 d2, offering greater protection than the existing class F2. The new requirements relate primarily to flame spread and also smoke density and falling burning droplets. This means that only halogen-free cables are capable of meeting the requirements.
Does Sweden use cables differently from the rest of Europe?
– Elsewhere in Europa, especially central Europe, there are many cables in lower fire classes, often with a PVC sheath.
Who will be the big winners when the CPR standard is introduced?
– The general public will be the main winners. The CPR rules improve safety, and our knowledge will increase now that measurements are standardised across Europe.
Are there any losers?
– Rogue manufacturers that did not have the correct marking.
When will Nexans launch its first CE marked cables?
– The plan is to release them around the new year 2016/17.