Promoting Electrical Safety

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Sanjeev Ranjan,International Copper Association India
Sanjeev Ranjan,International Copper Association India

In this interaction with Huned Contractor, Sanjeev Ranjan, Managing Director, International Copper Association India, elaborates about how the choice of good quality material for cables is an important requisite for preventing fire hazards

The International Copper Association India (ICA India) is a member of Copper Alliance and the Indian arm of the International Copper Association, the leading not-for-profit organisation for the promotion of copper worldwide. ICA India is driven by the same objective as that of its parent organisation, which is to ‘defend and grow markets for copper based on its superior technical performance and its contribution to a higher quality of life worldwide’. ICA India contributes mainly through its catalytic role, accelerating changes and transforming the long-term markets for copper in a sustainable way through major initiatives such as electrical safety and energy efficiency.

ICA India’s activities focus on helping end users to better understand and appreciate the positive attributes of copper. With this aim, ICA India recently organised a seminar themed ‘Electrical Safety and Energy Conservation in Buildings’ in Mumbai, in conjunction with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Chief Electrical Inspectorate, and Consulting Electrical Engineers Association of Maharashtra (CEEAMA). The seminar focused on developing a culture of safe and sustainable use of electricity in the interest of the public, thus creating awareness across all stakeholders. Excerpts from an interview focusing on how the choice of materials too can help increase electrical safety:

To enhance safety features in buildings – industrial, commercial and residential – what kind of new materials should be used in the production of electrical wires and cables?

The conductor is the heart of wires and so the quality of conductor material plays a vital role in improving the performance of wire and indirectly the electrical system. Therefore, we should use the best quality of copper as a conductor material for wires and cables. Every manufacturer should use Electrolytic Tough Pitch (ETP) grade copper wherein the purity of copper in percentage terms should be minimum 99.9% as per national standards. All electrical consultants and contractors, while specifying materials, should ensure quality credentials from independent laboratory, else poor quality of copper used in the wire may result in safety hazards as well as energy loss. Electrical safety is paramount in industries, as well as residential and commercial spaces.

To ensure that copper is duly tested and verified for safety, in India we have IS 694 for PVC insulated wire for working voltages up to and including 1,100 V and IS 8130 for specification of conductor for insulated electrical wires and flexible cords. Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) issues ISI mark to all wire and cable manufacturers on compliance of minimum qualification criteria of the above mentioned IS standards. In addition, some new technologies preferred from an electrical safety perspective are:

  • Fire survival cables with copper conductor.
  • Fire-retardant (FR) cables.
  • Fire-retardant low smoke (FRLS).
  • Halogen-free flame-retardant (HFFR).
  • Low smoke zero halogen cables.
  • Cross-link poly olefin insulated wires and cables.
  • Poly propylene insulated cables.

How does India compare with the developed countries in the use of fire-resistant cables in all buildings?

Due to the voluntary nature of standards in India, people are not serious about use of advance technology cables like FR, FRLS, HFFR, LSZH, etc. in buildings as it leads to increase in the cost of electrical installation. Quality and safety is compromised over cost unlike in other developed countries where safety is the highest priority. Due to constant awareness by ICA India, cable manufactures, fire departments and concerned government departments are taking the issue seriously.  Some high-rise developers and builders have started asking for FR/FRLS as well as fire survival cables and this trend is slowly increasing. Certain mandates from national standards and codes may push the use of FR cables and advance versions of FR cables to the next level in line with other developed countries.

What role should the government play in ensuring that cable manufacturers use the best materials for their products?

To ensure that copper is duly tested and verified for safety, in India we have the required compliances as mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, there are certain other aspects that confirm adherence to compliance of minimum qualification criteria of IS standards. These include:

  • Strict monitoring and compliance of qualification criteria by BIS before issuing the ISI mark to wire manufacturers.
  • BIS should ensure regular sample check of all ISI-issued wire manufacturers.
  • Electrical consultants and A-grade Contractors and project heads should approve wire quality that adheres to maintaining resistance as per the given standards.
  • Testing of wire samples in large, medium and small projects should be mandatory.
  • The government should ask for valid test reports for the products from authorised laboratories like the CPRI and ERDA.
  • Government departments, especially those engaged in public works, should conduct surprise audit to review the performance of wires and cables.

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