Changes to the Furniture & Furnishing Fire Safety Regulations are in danger of increasing rather than reducing the risk to consumers. Manufacturers and representative trade bodies have been urging the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) not to rush through amendments.
The industry fully supports the aim behind the proposed amendments to reduce the amount of fire retardants used in furniture, so improving consumer safety and reducing costs. However, they say any changes, if not properly thought out, could have a significant negative impact on the furniture industry as a result of confusion and increased costs, and in fact potentially increase the safety risk for consumers, rather than reduce it.
The warning comes hot on the heels of the news that the planned amendments are due to be put out to public consultation within the next four weeks, despite these concerns.
“We feel these amendments are being too hastily introduced so we have been urging manufacturers and retailers who share our concerns to contact their local MPs,” says Paul von der Heyde, chairman of the British Furniture Confederation, the organisation which represents the furniture industry’s main trade associations in their dealings with government.
The fear is that the tests proposed (alternative cigarette and match tests using FR compliant CM foam) currently lack sufficient technical detail and have not been robustly trialled.
“There is simply not enough detail in the documents to assess whether the changes would have a positive impact on safety and costs,” says Mr von der Heyde, “The industry has, for the past two years, been working closely with BIS over proposed amendments to the current regulations and we are disappointed at this piecemeal approach, which focuses on making this one amendment now, with other revisions addressed at a later date, “ he adds.
"We are also concerned that other issues that have a significant impact on the industry have not been addressed. They include the definition of seat pads and scatter cushions, the classification of outdoor furniture and the confusion around headboards and bed bases. We would much prefer a full and well considered revision of the regulations so the industry only has to take on board changes once and consumer safety is increased by eliminating current areas of confusion or weaknesses in levels of protection. The recent media attention from programmes such as Fake Britain and Watchdog on upholstery and beds which fail flammability tests emphasise the need for everyone to work together to ensure our regulations are consistently effective and more easily enforceable.”
Meanwhile, on behalf of the industry, FIRA has been rushing through trials of the proposed new tests and is this week hosting a joint BFM/FIRA meeting of manufacturers, foam suppliers, retailers and BIS at which the proposed revision will be discussed.
Anyone wanting to write to their MP should contact the NBF, BFM, FIRA or LOFA for further details.