London – The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is planning a new consultation on the UK 's furniture flammability regulations, the department said.
Terry Edge , policy manager of the Consumer Product Safety team at BIS , said that the proposed new test requirements for consultation would better reflect the reality of furniture in use in the UK and that the test regime would be simplified if the proposal is adopted.
According to the proposal, seen by UTECH-polyurethane.com/Urethanes Technology International the key changes to the flammability regulation from a polyurethane perspective are:
- A reduction in the amount of flame retardant needed to make fabric coverings compliant;
- A reduction in the amount of testing needed. Currently fabric and foam combinations which pass the more stringent match test need to be tested against a less stringent smouldering cigarette test. Under the new proposals , for fabric/upholstery combination s that pass the match test , the cigarette test will not be necessary.
- The new test proposal is based on a combination of combustion modified foam (as appears in most finished products) and the fabric being tested . The current test requires the use of flammabile polyurethane foam fillings that do not appear in finished furniture.
- An increase in the parts of furniture that must comply with the regulation. Under the proposals , for example, the whole of a sofa will have to be compliant, compared with about 60% now -- e.g. sofa arms will now be included. However, BIS says the extra testing will be minimal and in any case is off-set considerably by the removal of the cigarette test.
The desire to change the testing regime is coming from pressure on brominated flame retardants in cover fabrics , said Edge, as seen in recent announcements from the California Bureau of Toxic Substance Control.
Edge said that overall the plan was to maintain product safety, reduce the costs to industry of sofa manufacture and to make foam-upholstered products greener.
Overall the proposal suggests that there could be annual savings of £30m-50m ($49-82m) to the UK furniture manufacturing industry from lower levels of flame retardant and the removal of the cigarette test. The formal consultation process is likely to start later this year.