The new BS 6701:2004 standard for the purchase and installation of telecommunications equipment brings together diverse requirements in the field . Rob Cardigan discusses its implications for premises owners and facilities managers
03 September 2004
The new standard BS 6701:2004 defines the responsibilities of property owners and facilities managers involved in buying or specifying the installation of telecommunication equipment, including IT networks. It also outlines safety requirements that need to be followed when installing and operating cabling.
But many building owners and facilities managers are unaware that this new standard exists. And if failing to comply, they are at risk of being responsible for operating unsafe telecommunications systems, and could be sued in the case of an accident or a death.
The new guideline applies to everyone involved in specifying telecommunications installation. It covers specification, planning, installation, handover, operation and maintenance of telecommunications equipment. It applies to new installations carried out after June 2004, but does not affect existing telecommunications systems.
BS 6701:2004 is a single UK installation standard that has been created to comply with European agreements that require the removal of existing or conflicting standards text in European countries. Until now, the process of planning and installing telecommunications cabling and equipment was not standardised. A variety of voluntary codes of practice (such as BS 6701:1994 and BS 7718:1996 for the installation of fibre optic cabling) have been applicable, but only if demanded by contractors and installers. The link between these documents has also caused confusion, owing to the multiple references that had to be made. BS 6701:2004 changes all this by bringing together all the former recommendations and requirements.
The new standard states that responsibility for installation, operation and maintenance of cabling equipment has to be shared between the owner of the building containing the cabling and equipment, or the authorised persons to which the specific responsibilities have been delegated, and the installer. Previously, sole responsibility was with the installer but now, the owner must identify hazardous areas within the building and has a contractual obligation to the installer to make sure they are working in a safe environment. For example, if an installer is blinded by a hazardous light output from an optical fibre he is unaware of, he is within his rights to seek compensation from the owner for not informing him of the dangerous conditions. The BS 6701:2004 standard, clearly defines and separates the joint responsibilities of installers and premises owners.
BS 6701:2004 also demands that all types of telecommunications cabling and the equipment it is connected to, for example, cables carrying voice and data information, conforms to the BS EN 50174 series. The original code of practice was intended for connection to certain telecommunications systems only and responsibility lay solely with the installer. Now BS 6701:2004 represents a vital part of quality assurance for the installation, operation and maintenance of such equipment and all types of telecommunications cabling.
The standard defines the specific responsibilities that affect property owners and facilities managers throughout the installation process. It requires that premises owners must provide an installation specification in accordance with BS EN 50174. This document should contain requirements for the contents of a technical specification, scope of work and contractual work.
It must define the approach to segregation of circuits, when it comes to the electromagnetic interference of the BS EN 50174 series of standards. The premises owner must classify areas containing optical fibre telecommunications equipment and optical fibre in accordance with BS EN 60825 (for the safety of laser products and optical fibre communications systems).
The installation specification, as well as any modifications, changes and deviations to the installation specification, must be agreed with the installer before installation starts. Premises owners should be aware of, and agree, a quality plan that has to be written by the installer. The standard also states that information relating to telecommunications equipment and cabling is complete and accurate, and the location of the consumer main earth terminal is documented and the information must be available for inspection.
When it comes to maintaining and operating the equipment, the property owner must have a documented policy in the event of faults and breakdowns. They must ensure that the telecommunications equipment and cabling is operated in accordance with the instructions provided by the installer. They are also responsible for ensuring that the selection and operation of optical fibre telecommunications equipment, cabling and test equipment is in accordance with BS EN 60825-2.
The operation of telecommunications equipment and cabling, in situations where explosive or flammable materials are generated, prepared, processed, handled, stored or otherwise encountered must be carried out in accordance with BS EN 60079-14 for electrical apparatus in explosive gas atmospheres and electrical installations in hazardous areas (other than mines). The telecommunications equipment must also meet relevant specifications in relation to protection against electric shock.
Owners must ensure that equipment and cabling is maintained in accordance with the instructions provided by the installer and that all relevant personnel are made aware of all policies required to maintain proper operation of the telecommunications system.
The BS 6701:2004 standard is mandatory for all telecommunications cabling and equipment in private and public premises where the IEE wiring regulations are contractually specified. Ignoring it risks the installation of an unsafe system and endangers staff and installers - a bad idea in increasingly litigious times.
Rob Cardigan is technical manager at Molex Premise Networks