Concerns over the flammability performance of upholstered furniture and mattresses have been raised due to evidence presented in the BBC's recent Fake Britain programme.
With the industry under scrutiny, compliance with General Product Safety and Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations has never been more important and some of the key considerations are summarised within the following ten top tips from FIRA's flammability expert, Tristine Hargreaves.
1. Responsible sourcing of product
Product safety is a key element of furniture production and you must show that all products placed on the market meet the requirements of the General Product Safety Regulations. Knowing and understanding your supply chain is critical in understanding the risks associated in sourcing your product.
2. Building quality into design
Know your product from the start. Understand the basic design and specification. What upholstery materials are being used and what needs to be tested and how compliance will be achieved.
3. Sourcing of raw materials
You need to ensure that each batch of materials are of good consistent quality, and compliant with the appropriate test requirements. You should have a good understanding of where your materials are sourced from along with an agreed specification for the material.
4. Basic factory assessments
Know your factory. Understand where materials are stored, how the materials are controlled, how the products are produced. You need to understand the factories capabilities in order to ascertain and mitigate any risks.
5. Process control
Good process control is critical in ensuring that your product is compliant. It is important to ensure that FR materials are stored correctly and separated from any NON-FR materials. Storage and control of materials throughout the production process should be controlled and critical control points established and checked.
6. Traceability of materials and product
Batch traceability is critical for upholstered furniture flammability. You need to be able to identify what materials have been used in the production process and how that relates to the final batch number identified on the permanent label attached to the product. This information will play a critical role should there ever be a need for product recall.
7. Regulations and requirements applicable to furniture products
The Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations (as amended) are a legal requirement and products made available for sale must comply with the requirements of these Regulations. The Regulations impose requirements for filling materials, cover materials and labelling of the products.
8. Flammability testing and understanding test results
It is important that you carry out regular testing of the materials used in your product. The Regulations require you to test the fillings and the cover materials used in the product. You are also required to carry out further due diligence testing to ensure that the product is compliant in production.
You should also understand the test results that you receive and know how the read the test report that relates to your product. You need to ensure that the correct test has been carried out, and also know how to interpret whether the result is a good clear pass, or whether it has been a borderline pass. This will help to focus your attention on whether to carry out additional testing or increase the level of monitoring and measuring of your product.
9. Create a technical file for your product
A technical file is essential for your product. This will contain various information relating to the product - from its initial introduction - through to the end life of the product. You could consider retaining information on the product specification, test results, returns information just to mention a few.
10. Monitor and measure products placed on the market
A requirement of the General Product Safety Regulations is to carry out monitoring and measuring of products placed on the market. This could include regular due diligence testing of components, but also surveillance testing of products offered for sale.
FIRA has a team of specialists with expertise in all of the above areas. A small investment in due diligence, flammability training and testing at the start of the process could be priceless when dealing with product safety issues and protecting your brand.