How to Identify Counterfeit Cabling in Healthcare Facilities

By Contributed Article | August 10, 2015

Counterfeit cabling can endanger the lives of patients in medical applications and facilities, and engineers and installers should take care to authenticate the cable they’ve purchased. Here are tips on how to identify counterfeit cabling in healthcare facilities.


red house cautionMedical facilities aren’t immune to fraud: Drug counterfeiting and insurance fraud are a few examples of questionable activities that have captured the attention of the industry in recent years. Another form of fraud that plays a behind-the-scenes role is often unnoticed by the public but can be just as detrimental to the well-being of patients – counterfeit cabling.

The demand for cabling that is compliant with safety and performance standards is increasing, and as a result, counterfeit cables have become more common. Sold under false pretenses, these cables do not meet the key industry performance and physical construction standards required in a medical facility, ultimately causing poor network performance, invalid system warranties, and potential damage to active equipment due to plugs with substandard physical characteristics.

Because operational and network performance are the difference between life and death for patients, the stakes have never been higher. Engineers need to ensure the network is successfully designed and installed with cables they can rely on.

The Risks

Counterfeit cables often aren’t compliant with critical safety and performance standards; therefore, using these cables in a medical facility can make it unsafe. Legitimate cables must adhere to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) ratings, which means the cables have been inspected, tested, and certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to meet the industry’s highest safety standards.

To be UL-listed, both plenum- and riser-rated cables must pass fire safety tests aimed at reducing the spread of fire and heavy smoke, both of which can prevent safe evacuation in the event of a fire. Cable failures can result in flames spreading extremely rapidly, with temperatures quickly reaching up to +1093°C. Counterfeit cables haven’t been tested to withstand fires and are not fit for use in a healthcare facility because of the significant associated risks.

There are also legal ramifications to consider. Even if a company is unaware that the components are counterfeit, it may still be liable. This building code violation can result in costly cable replacement, potential lawsuits, or even misdemeanors with significant fines, and companies can face charges of negligence, fraud, or breach of contract and warranty.

How to Identify Counterfeit Cabling

While identifying a counterfeit cable isn’t easy, there are a few signs that can help you spot them. Bogus marks and labels on packaging are a giveaway; these marks can include the cable legend indicating the components are UL-listed, Electrical Testing Labs-verified by Intertek (an inspection product testing and certification company), or compliant with TIA 568-C specification for commercial building cabling. While these features may seem legitimate, they must also be traceable.

To ensure a cable is authentic, it’s important to take note of three things:

  • Valid Electrical Testing Lab (ETL) marks are accompanied by a manufacturer’s control number. The manufacturer should have the test results readily available, and companies should check and verify the ETL listings through Intertek’s website.
  • Companies can verify UL file numbers, which are shown adjacent to a UL label, through UL’s online certification, and UL’s credit-card sized hologram authenticator can help verify its unique holographic label.
  • The Communications Cable & Connectivity Association (CCCA) also offers a free CableCheck mobile app that includes instructions on how to check marks and legends for authenticity and for field-screen cables.

Avoid becoming a victim of counterfeit cabling. To securely, efficiently, and legally connect the network of a healthcare facility, it’s critical to choose a reputable cabling manufacturer, as well as to train network engineers, buyers, and system installers on how to identify counterfeit products.

brian-shuman-beldenBrian Shuman is a senior product development engineer at the Belden Engineer Center in Richmond, Ind. He can be contacted at [email protected]. To visit Belden online, click here.

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