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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Columnist: Agyemang, Frank

Combating Sub-Standard Cables, GSB seems serious!

The subject of sub-standard electrical cables and accessories is a major challenge that poses danger to lives and property in the country. Electrical cables per se are considered as high-risk goods due to the sensitive roles they play in our houses, markets, offices and even on our streets.
Categories of electrical products identified as high risks by the Electrical Safety Foundation International include control relays for industrial equipment, circuit breakers, fuses, electrical receptacles, ground-fault circuit interrupters, conduit fittings, electrical connectors, lamps, electronic lamp ballasts, dry cell batteries, lithium-ion batteries, smoke detectors, power strips and surge suppressors, electrical extension cords and power cords for computers and other equipment.
It is very frightening to know that sub-standard electrical cables and accessories have found their ways into our markets and even our homes. A source at the Ghana Standards Board (GSB) hinted that some people even go to the extent of bargaining for old electrical cables retrieved from old or dilapidated buildings for re-use on their projects. This problem really requires some level of urgency in dealing with it.
Fake or sub-standard cables could be identified by characteristics such as reduced diameter of copper conductor, sub-standard insulation, reduced insulation thickness, shorter length per coil, fake labels and fake packaging.
Reduction in copper conductor size or use of non-copper conductors could lead to cable overheating, fire outbreaks and electric shocks in walls, especially damp walls. Household appliances such as air-conditioners, radio, television, computers, electric light bulbs and refrigerators could also be damaged.
The Ghana Standards Board (GSB) of recent times appears proactive with respect to fighting the influx of sub-standard electrical cables and accessories. Admittedly, this is the right time for such posture taking into consideration the not so long series of fire outbreaks traceable to electrical faults. The frequent outbreak of fire in houses, markets, offices and other locations in various parts of the country are partly due to the use of sub-standard cables by sections of the public. Such sub-standard cables are usually sold at cheaper prices compared to the high-priced quality ones which are safe to use.
GSB is taking the fight to the dealers and importers of such products. Through its market surveillance activities, GSB has detected the proliferation of sub-standard electrical cables and extension sockets nationwide.
Acting Director of the Inspectorate Division of GSB, Mr. Kofi Nagetey disclosed that in their pursuit to trace the source of sub-standard electrical cables, it was established that most of such products enter the country through the entry points at the eastern frontier. This he explained was possible due to the porous nature of these entry points and the resultant difficulty in tracking these products. It was also noted that not all electrical products cleared from the Tema Port were inspected by officers of the GSB. I personally find this worrying and pray that situation be given a second look. It is time all electrical products brought into the country were inspected by the GSB for our own safety.
GSB has recommended to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) to prohibit the importation of electrical products through the land borders and limit the importation only through the seaports and the airport. This is to facilitate close monitoring of imported electrical gadgets.
Additionally, the GSB through MOTI has directed that Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) to ensure those electrical cables and other electrical products are inspected and tested by GSB before they are released at the various entry points. Unannounced swoops in collaboration with the security agencies are being planned to be executed nationwide to wipe out sub-standard electrical products.
Joining this worthy cause are the three manufacturers of electrical cables and accessories in the country namely, Nexans Kabelmetal Ltd, Tropical Cable and Conductor Ltd and Reroy Cables Ltd. They have consented to pool resources together in collaboration with the GSB to fight against the menace of sub-standard cables. Now that the three manufacturers have a neutral platform, being the GSB, it is instructive that they embark on an aggressive educational campaign via the media and other seminars focusing on the safety of Ghanaians as their priority. After all, the GSB recognizes that these three local manufacturers meet national and international standards and guarantee safety to users.
These local manufacturers could decide to embark on their own respective campaigns but the impact could never be like using a common platform to send a common message. The onus also lies on the GSB to do its homework very well by constantly examining products of these manufacturers so that none of them take the consumers for granted in terms of Standard and Quality.
GSB believed that the general public could not be ignored in the fight against sub-standard cables and accessories hence the call for co-operation by avoiding patronizing such products. Those dealers who are only interested in their moneys and do not care about the safety and health of consumers live among us. The public could therefore go the extra mile by exposing such persons.
The GSB in collaboration with stakeholders should also consider instituting an award for journalists whose investigations and stories could lead to the arrest or exposure of dealers in sub-standard electrical products. This could become part of the Ghana Journalists Association’s yearly award ceremonies. The media is a major cornerstone in this fight and it should be duly recognized.
For Kate Quartey-Papafio, the Chief Executive Officer of Reroy Cables, the GSB’s current proactive posture could make a significant long-term impact only if it is sustained in collaboration with other stakeholders like the cable manufacturers, Ghana Electrical Traders Association, Ghana Union of Traders Association, Ghana Electrical Contractors Association and Prestige Electrical Engineers and Contractors Association of Ghana.
She also noted that whiles GSB is focusing on sub-standard cables and accessories, it is appropriate to consider the problem that quack electricians too pose. A quack electrician with the best cables could also do as much damage as sub-standard cables since electrical wiring is also a very sensitive venture.
By:
Frank Agyemang, Public Relations Officer of Reroy Cables Ltd.