The Government has issued a response to a 2016 consultation looking at updating and modernising the UK's furniture fire regulations, which suggests changing testing procedures and amending the regulations' scope to ensure the UK's high safety standards are maintained, while facilitating greater innovation.
The UK Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 set fire resistance requirements for cover materials and fillings used in domestic upholstered furniture. The 2016 consultation aimed to ensure that the legislative framework maintains fire safety for consumers, reflects technological advances in furniture manufacturing practices, and facilitates a reduction in the use of hazardous flame-retardant chemicals.
Taken together, the formal responses indicated generally broad support for the proposals relating to scope, traceability and labelling, and enforcement, yet there were mixed views on the proposals to revise the testing regime.
The panel suggested that a more effective way of addressing the risks presented by furniture in the modern home environment would be an outcome-focused, criteria-based approach," reads the report. "By taking the focus away from passing a prescribed test – which seems likely to perpetuate and potentially increase the use of flame-retardant chemicals - this approach would also remove barriers to innovation. It would, therefore, be a better way to encourage businesses to find new ways of making furniture fire resistant without a reliance on flame-retardant chemicals."
The report suggests that a change may be some way off yet.
"The Government will now develop a new approach to address the different sources and chemical risks posed by fire to upholstered furniture and furnishings," it reads. "It will focus on safety outcomes such as reduced risk of ignition; reduced risk of fire spread and will be underpinned by a set of essential safety requirements which all upholstered furniture placed on the market must meet.
"This approach is consistent with that taken for other consumer products. The new legislation will be supported by British Standards which will be developed by the British Standards Institution in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including industry, fire-safety experts and consumer representatives."
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says it will provide further details on how the proposals relating to scope, traceability, labelling and enforcement will be implemented when it is in a position to revise the regulations "in due course" – in the meantime, the existing regulations will continue to apply.