Making Cable Cleats Count

Making Cable Cleats Count

Leading cable cleat manufacturer, Ellis Patents has been extremely vocal in its attempts to draw greater attention to the importance of properly installed cable cleats in electrical installations. While progress has been made, the company’s managing director Richard Shaw talks to Electrical Engineering about the one sure fire way of quickly cementing the cleats place in the forefront of contractors and specifier’s minds.
 
“The problem we’ve faced trying to get our message across has been two-fold. Firstly, there are deeply ingrained installation short cuts that have happened so frequently and for so long that a lot of installers aren’t even aware they’re taking them. And secondly, because different cable cleat manufacturers don’t all work from the same hymn sheet the market is very much a mish-mash of products of differing quality.
 
Take the installation issue first. The task of eradicating these short cuts is something we’ve really focused a lot of attention on. Our approach being to educate the market as to the dangers posed by a practice that occurs because cable cleats are frequently underestimated, which means that they are simply lumped in with the electrical sundries and seen as fair game for cost-cutting when it comes to companies seeking to keep within tight budgets.
 
The inherent danger of this practice is such that it poses a risk to life on the basis that an underspecified cable cleat offers as much short circuit protection as a plastic cable tie – i.e. none. In fact, the only thing underspecified cleats would do in a short circuit situation is add to the shrapnel.
 
This message, and the hard hitting imagery it provokes, has proved extremely effective, and when you add in the publication of European (EN50368) and International (IEC61914) standards, it’s fair to say great strides have been taken in changing people’s attitudes towards cleats.
 
The journey though is far from over. The standards are only advisory, which means those claiming adherence to them can do so through self-certification. And this is where the problems from the manufacturers end begin.
 
Today it isn’t uncommon for manufacturers to claim a given short circuit withstand at a given cable cleat spacing and legitimately provide third party certification to support this. However, the overlooked fact is that the quoted short circuit withstand is only valid for a cable diameter equal or greater than the diameter of the cable used in the test. If the project in question is using smaller cables than those referred to in the test (and the fault level and spacing is the same) then the force between the cables is proportionally greater and the certificate is inappropriate.
 
So, the question is how to resolve a potentially fatal issue that is being inflamed by bad practice and misunderstanding from manufacturers, specifiers, contractors and installers?
 
Of course, the situation could be resolved through a process of education and agreement involving all these parties and industry regulators, but this would be a long-term process that fails to take into account the dire need for a quick-fix before the unnecessary threat to life caused by the problem turns into the wholly unnecessary loss of life.
 
Therefore, there is only one sensible and safe solution. Cable cleats need to start being treated as circuit protection devices – meaning they are given the same degree of importance as a fuse or a circuit breaker. After all, in the event of a fault, the forces between cables reach their peak in the first quarter cycle and this is the point that cleats earn their crust. In contrast, circuit breakers typically interrupt the fault after 3 or even 5 cycles by which time, if the cleats are underspecified, the cables will be long gone.
 
The widespread adoption of this attitude would ensure the correct use of and installation of cleats and when you consider what this means in terms of delivering safer electrical installation it’s fair to say that such an approach is absolutely the right course of action.
 
Ellis Patents is the only leading manufacturer in the electrical industry that focuses solely on cable cleats. Its products are used extensively across a whole spectrum of electrical installation environments and all are comprehensively tested and certified prior to sale.

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