Changes to the Furniture & Furnishing Fire Safety Regulations are in danger of increasing rather than reducing the risk to consumers, warns UK industry lobby group, the British Furniture Confederation (BFC), which urges the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) not to rush through the amendments.

The group fully supports the aim behind the proposed amendments to reduce the amount of fire retardants used in furniture, thus improving consumer safety and reducing costs. However, it says that 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 follows 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 BFC, which represents the furniture industry’s main trade associations.

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 Paul. “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."                

"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"                                      

“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 emphasises the need for everyone to work together to ensure our regulations are consistently effective and more easily enforceable.”

On behalf of the industry, FIRA is this week hosting a joint BFM/FIRA meeting of manufacturers, foam suppliers, retailers and the 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.