Dangerous cable recall part of bigger building industry "dilemma"

28 August, 2014

In a major victory for the Master Electricians Australia (MEA), the ACCC has initiated a national safety recall of two major brands of electrical cabling after they failed electrical safety standards due to the poor quality of plastic insulation coating.

The ACCC's ruling will force the suppliers of the dangerous products to remove and replace all cable that has been laid close to heat sources such as hot water systems. It also covers cable in any other accessible parts of any building such as roof cavities or spaces under floors where building owners, tradespeople or the public could come in contact with the product.

MEA first flagged the dangers of the cables in August 2013 and since then has been campaigning to have the brands banned nation-wide.

On Wednesday, 18 electrical retailers and wholesalers recalled Infinity and Olsen cables. All sizes and configurations of white TPS and Orange Round Infinity mains power cables are affected.

Olsent power cables sourced from Infinity Cable Co Pty Ltd and solely supplied by Masters Home Improvement are also affected. A 19th smaller wholesaler has completed a recall of the product.

Infinity cables were supplied in all states and territories, except the Northern Territory. It is estimated that around 40,000 businesses may have been affected.

The relevant periods of cable supply are: 2010-2013 (in NSW), 2011-2013 (in ACT), 2012-2013 (in Vic, Qld, SA & WA) and in 2013 (in Tas).

Businesses 'need to take necessary steps'

"The potential problem is so large that I think people do need to take the necessary steps," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

"The key step is if you've had wiring done, to get in touch with the people that did it.

"We're also urging all electrical installers who did work during that period to check what type of cable they installed."

"A taskforce of consumer agencies, building regulators and electrical safety regulators are coordinating the safety recall.

"Testing has found that the cables will degrade prematurely and if the cables are disturbed, the insulation could break and expose live conductors, resulting in possible electric shock or fires.

"This recall serves as a reminder that companies sourcing or accepting products from less expensive overseas suppliers must have quality assurance processes in place to ensure the safety of consumers."

A much graver industry issue

Ai Group CE Innes Willox supported the action taken by ACCC. He said, however, the case was just another example of the more ubiquitous issue the construction industry has been struggling with, "the non-conforming building products dilemma".

"Ai Group's recently published report – "The quest for a level playing field: The non-conforming building products dilemma" – revealed the widespread use of non-conforming products across the building and construction sector," Willox said.

"This report specifically highlighted concerns that sub-standard cable and other non-conforming building products could jeopardise consumer and employee safety, detract from long-term asset values; and impact negatively on Australian businesses.

"Ai Group has been leading a multi-stage project with industry stakeholders to investigate and address non-conforming products in Australian building and construction supply chains.

"To increase engagement across the industry in the project we have formed the Construction Products Alliance.

"The Alliance has developed five priority areas for action around research, certification, surveillance, engagement and education."