New EU Cable Fire Safety Regulations (CPR)

From 1st July 2016 all communications cables for use in construction anywhere in the European Economic Area (EEA) are subject to the Construction Products Regulation (CPR).

CPR will require all cables marketed in the EEA to carry a CE mark. To get a CE mark all such communications cables will require to be tested and certified against the newly harmonised pan-European standards for manufacturing process and fire performance. There is a transition period (called the period of co-existence) of just one year.

The inclusion of the recently published EN50575, “Power, control and communication cables – Cables for general applications in construction works subject to reaction to fire requirements” in the OJEU provides the standard that all cabling must meet to achieve a CE mark for a certain fire performance category.

This standard is backed by a series on supporting standards, namely:

  • EN 50399, Common test methods for cables under fire conditions – Heat release and smoke, production measurement on cables during flame spread test – Test apparatus, procedures, results
  • EN 13501-6, Fire classification of construction products and building elements – Part 6: Classification using test data from reaction to fire tests
  • EN50576 , Electric cables – Extended application of test results

What is The Constructions Products Regulation (CPR)?

The Construction Products Directive (CPD) of 1989 was introduced to create a common framework for the regulations for construction products and was one of the early directives from the EU designed to create a single market for goods and services.

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) on 4 April 2011 and replaced the Construction Products Directive (CPD). The first parts of the Regulation came into force 20 days after its publication in the OJEU and the remaining parts became a legal requirement on 1 July 2013.

Under CPR, all construction products and building materials must be CE marking against the essential requirements. A requirement of this regulation that concerns the structured cabling industry is “Safety in case of fire”.

For more background on CPR, please visit the link below.

Why are they important for network/communication cable installations?

A Regulation is the most direct form of EU law – as soon as they are passed, they have binding legal force throughout every Member State on a par with national laws. This is different to a Directive which requires authorisation within each Member State to make it legally binding at a national level.

This has major repercussions – if an EU Member State now wants to regulate in this area it will have to do so using European standards.

As of 10th June 2016, data communications, power and telecommunications cabling has now been included in this regulation.

How do they affect me?

These changes, coupled with others introduced by the CPR, mean that the construction industry is facing its most significant change in over a decade in the way in which construction products will be sold in Europe.

EU Member States, including the UK, have to use the standards and cannot use national standards if a European standard is in existence.

When does it come into force?

On the 10th of June 2016, the Official Journal of the European Union included the requirements to CE marking for cables for Safety in the Event of Fire. There is a 1 year transition period from 1st July 2016.

On the 1st July 2017, all cables supplied to the construction industry have a mandatory requirement to apply CE marking to their products according to the appropriate European or national regulation level.

Why did Europe need the CPR Regulation?

The aim of the CPR is to remove technical barriers to trade between European Member States for all construction products intended for “permanent incorporation in buildings and civil engineering works”. By technical barriers is meant the multitude of national standards existing within individual European countries each of which references different test methods.  Under the CPR new European test methods and the means of measuring these, have been developed and accepted by all countries in the EEA.

What does a CE mark mean in relation to CPR?

The CE Mark provides proof of this “fitness for purpose” and the manufacturer affixing the CE mark shows that the construction product will enable the finished construction works such as a home or school to comply with the Construction Products Regulation requirements (called Basic Works Requirements) of:

  • Mechanical resistance and stability
  • Safety in case of fire
  • Hygiene, health and environment
  • Safety & accessibility in use
  • Protection against noise
  • Energy economy and heat retention
  • Sustainable use of natural resources

Member states of the EEA are legally obliged to take all necessary measures to ensure that the construction products placed on the market and put into service will allow the finished structure to comply with these seven Basic Works Requirements “when the product is properly installed, maintained and used for its intended purpose”. CE marking provides this proof.

In summary, CE marking is a passport that enables a construction product, irrespective of its origin, to be legally placed on the market of EEA member states. It means that a construction product meets certain minimum standards for health, safety and economy of energy. It is NOT a quality mark. The difference between a quality mark and the CE mark is that the certification system upon which quality marks operate is determined by the legal owner of that quality mark. With a CE mark, it represents a common approach to conformity that is recognised in all countries making up the EEA.