The British Furniture Confederation (BFC) has produced a video which demonstrates how consumers may be at risk from the sale of chairs, passed as safe, but likely to go up in flames.
The BFC, an alliance of the industry's main trade associations, commissioned the video following new guidance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) regarding motorised furniture.
Says BFC chairman Jonathan Hindle: "The upshot of this guidance appears to be that two items of motorised furniture could be offered for sale in the UK side by side and Trading Standards would not be able to take any action against the supplier, even though the product did not conform to the current Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations (FFFSR)."
The video shows one compliant and one non-compliant chair being subjected to a fire source equivalent to a burning match - with dramatically different results.
Jonathan continues: "The need for and effectiveness of the FFFSR is currently being questioned by a number of stakeholders but what prompted us to carry out this test was that we were informed that the directive - which encompasses CE marking - covered all aspects of safety, including fire safety. It is therefore our understanding that a product that is CE marked in the EU, but outside the UK, can be CE marked as safe given it follows the guidelines within that country."
The BFC was concerned by this advice, fearing that it could undermine the UK's safety regime and put the public at risk. It therefore commissioned a piece of research looking at the fire safety performance of an electric rise-and-recline chair that conforms to the FFFSR, and of an identical chair constructed in materials used in furniture construction in the EU.
The video demonstrates the speed of escalation of fire on the non-compliant chair compared with the compliant one, after a flame source equivalent to a match was applied for 20 seconds. The flames on the compliant chair self-extinguished within a few seconds of the source being removed. The non-compliant chair was burnt to a cinder within 10 minutes.
The BFC has submitted this video to Kelly Tolhurst, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at BEIS, to demonstrate that the suggestion that the directive and the FFFSR offer the same level of fire safety is not the case and urgently needs revisiting.
"Our main concern is to protect the public by maintaining high levels of fire safety in the home. We believe that this film does demonstrate the ongoing effectiveness of the FFFSR in protecting the general public and that they need to be retained," says Jonathan. "However, they are in urgent need of updating to reflect modern materials and manufacturing techniques and to ensure environmental concerns are met and we are urging Government to engage in meaningful consultation as soon as possible."
Watch the video here.