Dominic O’Hara, Technical Manager at Unitrunk, explains the company’s decision to fire test its cable management systems ahead of any mandatory requirements.
Next month will mark two years since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London claimed 72 victims and affected the lives of so many others. It’s an event that is still the subject of much discussion; not least in the construction sector where it has raised concerns about the fire safety of materials used in new build and refurbishment projects.
The Hackitt Report, published last May following the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, highlighted the ‘ambiguity of regulations and guidance’ and called for a ‘risk-based approach’ to selecting materials. The new regulatory framework that will be delivered following the review will initially focus on multi-occupancy residential buildings and the report acknowledges that ‘legislative change will take time’. Meanwhile, however, the electrical sector needs reassurance that the systems being installed now are safe and robust.
No mandatory requirements
Cable management is one of the many product categories for which there is currently no mandatory fire testing requirement, within either the building or wiring regulations, nor the standards governing cable management systems. This leaves electricians with a lack of information regarding which systems offer verified fire safety.
That’s why Unitrunk took the decision to undertake fire testing via an independent third party in order to verify the fire resistance of our systems ahead of any legislation, as part of a duty of care to customers and the occupiers of the buildings where our cable management systems are installed.
Resilience at high temperatures
Unitrunk is the first cable management specialist in the UK to pass fire safety testing for its systems and, like any safety tests, the results are specific to Unitrunk products, so cannot be assumed to apply to other brands of cable tray or cable ladder. As a UK manufacturer, we can offer the quality assurance of consistent quality across every item we produce.
All tests were carried out by an independent third party testing house under controlled and monitored conditions. The tests were undertaken on both the RIS (Rapid Installation Systems) UniKlip cable tray, which is designed to offer faster installation with tool-free coupling using snap-in-and-secure ‘Klips’, our conventional cable tray system and our Speedway Cable Ladder System.
The UniKlip system was tested in 450mm heavy-duty pre-galvanised cable tray and 300mm medium duty pre-galvanised cable tray, while the conventional Unitrunk cable tray system was tested in 450mm hot dip galvanised steel.
For the cable ladder tests, we used 900mm widths of medium duty SW4 cable ladder in both stainless steel and hot dip galvanised variants.
The test Unitrunk undertook is designed to check the resilience of the whole installation, which means measuring the level of protection that the cable management provides to the cables in the event of a fire.
It requires the cable management systems to withstand a temperature curve reaching as high as 1000degC – similar to the temperature that would be expected when fire has taken hold within a building. The cables in the system had to maintain circuit integrity in order to meet the test criteria and the cable management was then rated based on the number of minutes each system was able to withstand these conditions.
Unitrunk’s cable tray and ladder achieved fire ratings up to the maximum rating of E90, meaning they provide support and maintain circuit integrity for 90 minutes.
As an increasing focus is placed on the fire safety of the building elements required to construct or refurbish a property, these results offer complete peace of mind that the installation is as robust as possible when using Unitrunk cable management systems. The results build on the existing E90 rating already achieved by the Unitrunk EasyConnect basket range.
They also demonstrate the importance of sourcing correctly-specified product, as the confirmed fire ratings offered by Unitrunk’s systems can’t be matched by an equivalent product until such time as said product has undergone individual fire safety testing.
The Grenfell Tower disaster has resulted in significant lessons that need to be learned. Amongst the key elements of that learning process is the importance of independently-verified fire testing and the need to manage safety performance by avoiding downgrading materials to lower quality alternatives.
Hopefully, this will create a culture change that will improve the calibre of our built environment and offer us safer places to live and work.
For more information about the range of cable management solutions available from Unitrunk visit: www.unitrunk.co.uk