UK Cable Regulations - Is your business compliant?
Here in the UK, our focus on safety in the workplace is second to none. From fire safety through to building regulations, there are numerous regulations in place to protect each and every one of us. UK Cable Regulations are no exception to this. And, with more and more companies trading primarily online, our dependance on fast networks is only set to increase. Therefore, it is vital that we understand what the individual requirements are and how to abide by them. Here at Adept Networks, we manufacture and supply products that comply with these standards. And in our guide today, we will be walking you through some of the key points to remember when implementing a new or improving your current network system.
What are the potential hazards associated with network cables?
When used on a corporate scale, network cables present their own unique hazards in a work environment. Primarily, you will find information out there about cables and their flammable properties. The increased use of electricity paired with material choice and placement increases the risk of work-place fires. Alongside this and particularly important for businesses is the potential for reduced speeds and performance due to non-compliance with regulations. Let’s take a quick look at both of these areas in more detail.
In order for a network to operate, there needs to be electricity. Whether constant or used as needed, this stream of electricity poses fire hazards to any work environment. According to the Approved Cables Initiative (ACI), there were 29,312 accidental electrical fires in England in 2018. 5,241 of these were attributed to wiring, cables or plugs. This means that 18% of accidental electrical fires have the potential to be avoided with proper care and attention to the cables used.
Another reason why it is important to follow UK cable regulations is for the productivity of your working environment. If incorrect cables are used, there is a high chance you will not achieve the networking speeds you require. For many businesses, this can mean a significant drop in productivity and increase down time. The right cables used in the right set-ups means you’ll be able to send emails, communicate internally and reach customers from all across the world at the speed you need.
So, what UK regulations exist in regards to network cabling.
UK Fire Safety Regulations for Cables
When it comes to preventing fires caused by incorrect or inappropriate cables, there are a number of general rules that should be considered first. These include:
- Always install cables as far away from potential sources of fire as possible. Where this cannot be avoided, consider using fire-stop solutions such as sealants, metal sheaths and conduits.
- Always ensure the cables you use have been manufactured using low-flammability rated materials. There are a number of options available on the market, with the main ones being:
- Plenum rated cables. These have a fire retardant coating on the sheath (normally Teflon). This prevents the cable from catching light, reduces the chance of it spreading and minimises the amount of toxic smoke and gases released.
- Riser (CMR) rated cables. These prevent fire from spreading floor-to-floor in vertical installations. They are a lower rating than plenum cables but also offer a suitable level of fire protection.
- LSZH rated cables. Also known as Low Smoke Zero Halogen cables. These are primarily recommended for use in confined spaces, such as computer networking rooms. The goal here is to reduce the amount of toxic or acrid smoke and fumes released should a cable catch on fire. They are manufactured from materials that don’t contain any halogens (chlorine, bromine, iodine, etc). In addition, they are self-extinguishing and stop the progression of fire. At Adept Networking, we have a wide range of LSZH cables available - each of which is designed to minimise hazards around your workplace.
Construction Products Regulation (CPR)
In July 2017, the CPR became a legal requirement. Although specifically focused on the construction and telecommunications industry, it affects all manufacturers of cables. In short, this regulation requires that cables come with a declared fire performance rating. The specifications for this rating falls into four categories:
- Reaction to fire
- Smoke production
- Flaming Droplets
The rating system runs from Aca through to Fca. According to the British Standard, businesses should:
- Only use cables that are rated class E or higher (LSHF, LSOH, OHLS or LSNH)
- Avoid class F cables which do not have to be tested by an independant authorised laboratory (notified body)
- Only use cables with a known rating
British Requirements for Network Speeds
When it comes to achieving high speeds, there are no set regulations in place. However, as a vital feature in your cable set-up, it is helpful to understand some general rules. These will help you achieve optimal performance at all times.
- When wiring, use either T568A and T568B standards. This will avoid any difficulty with data transfer. If the meeting of a T568A-wired component and a T568B-wired component is unavoidable, use a crossover cable.
- Where possible, use Cat5e or Cat6 cabling. This will match the needs of most offices in terms of speed and future proof your network to cope with Gigabit speeds.
- During set-up, ensure:
- Cables are no longer than 90 meters long
- Cables don’t contact any joins or joints
- Cables are not run next to electrical mains. This reduces the risk of potential interference
- Cables should never be suspended or laid on ceiling tiles to abide with office health and safety requirements.
- Solid wire cables should never be twisted or bent into tight areas.
- Metal staples should never be used to secure cables.
Navigating the legal regulations and suggested installation requirements of network cables can be tricky. Adept Networks has a team of experts on hand to help with advice and recommendations. We manufacture and stock everything from Cat5e, 5, 6A Ethernet Cables, Computer Cables and Desk & Cable Management products to fit your needs. Get in contact today and let us help you create a safe and effective network system.