x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Faulty wiring sparks serious safety risks

Shoddy substitutes for copper in some electrical devices and cables are a dangerous disgrace and call for tough punishment.

One faulty cable throws a spark, and a whole apartment building goes up in flames. In recent years, we have seen enough residential and commercial fires to be well aware of the danger. And now we have one possible explanation why these accidents have been so frequent: greed.

As The National reports today, some so-called "copper" cable sold in the UAE is endangering lives as builders use cheaper alternatives, in some cases under counterfeit brands. According to a survey by Dubai Cable (Ducab), copper that is used extensively in home appliances, extension cords and electrical wiring is being padded with plastic or adulterated with cheaper metals that do not conduct electricity as well.

As copper prices soar, that saves on costs, at the expense of safety.

Using cheaper metals in household appliances can lead to malfunctions and even fires. In the construction industry, skimping on building components undermines an entire project. This is not just a matter of construction quality, but basic safety standards. Material wholesalers (and construction firms, if they use the shoddy stock knowingly) are engaging in a criminal activity that could lead to extensive property damage and, far more seriously, injuries and loss of life.

And they know this. What they should know as well is that, if caught, they will be put out of business permanently.

Construction industry regulations in the UAE are strict but that has not stopped overseas manufacturers from cutting corners. Frequent inspections by officials of local firms using these materials, and threats to revoke business licences, could have an immediate effect.

Other industries suffer from similar cost-cutting practices. Counterfeit car parts and tyres have been offered by mechanics to customers who do not know the difference. And just as in the case of unsafe wiring, shoddy car parts pose an irresponsible risk to consumer safety.

The government has clamped down on the practice by mechanics. Last month, more than 30,000 counterfeit Toyota car parts were confiscated after raids on retailers in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Shops that continue to break the law face a minimum fine of Dh5,000; authorities should consider a policy to revoke offenders' business licences.

A few well-publicised prosecutions would argue mightily against such shortcuts. After all, the alternative is far more costly.