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Consultation launched on fire safety of domestic upholstered furniture

07 August 2023

THE FURNITURE and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 were introduced to protect consumers from injury and death resulting from highly flammable upholstered furniture. According to the Government, “important changes” are required to take account of current hazards and risks. That being so, the Department for Business and Trade and the Office for Product Safety and Standards have launched a consultation process to seek views from a wide range of stakeholders on the proposed “new approach” to the fire safety of domestic upholstered furniture.

In particular, the consultation’s focus is trained on the scope of the regulations, the essential safety requirements, the conformity assessment procedure, the labelling requirements, the technical file requirements, the proposed timescales for the implementation of – and transition to – the new regulations and measures designed to both encourage and enable a reduction in the use of chemical flame retardants.

This new approach is based on safety outcomes that will be underpinned by a set of essential safety requirements, which all products in scope of the regulations must meet in order to be placed on the market.

Further, it will “maintain and improve” fire safety for consumers by “better representing the safety of the product” as it appears in their homes, while in parallel serving to facilitate manufacturing innovation and a reduction in the use of chemical flame retardants.

The consultation process includes:

*a 49-page consultation document setting out the rationale for the new approach and the proposals

*a 40-page impact assessment setting out the estimated costs and benefits of the new *approach

*draft regulations that run to 28 pages and illustrate the new approach in legislative form

Independent research report

The evidence base supporting the consultation includes a 113-page independent research report produced by the Office for Product Safety and Standards. Published on 1 August and entitled ‘Fire Risks of Upholstered Products’, the document stems from work conducted by researchers at the Oakdene Hollins consultancy, the University of Birmingham, the University of Central Lancashire and Whaley Research. It summarises key evidence that can be used to inform policy proposals relating to the revision of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

In essence, the report presents information on fire statistics, fire-retardant strategies, the chemical flame retardants currently adopted for making furniture compliant with the regulations and the potential contribution of furniture-derived chemical flame retardants to the high background levels of those compounds found in UK indoor environments.

Further, the report describes the methodology created to determine whether certain upholstered articles or products represent a significant fire risk. It applies this methodology to a systematic review of products, identifying holistic hazards and risks associated with the fire safety of furniture and assessing the risk factors and weighting criteria for product types to be considered for inclusion or exclusion in the policy proposals.

Response from the NFCC

Responding to the consultation announcement, the National Fire Chiefs Council has stated: “We are supportive of the draft essential safety requirements as they seek to maintain and improve fire safety. This is demonstrated through the focus of stopping and delaying ignition to aid escape in the event of a fire.”

*The published consultation will remain formally open for a 12-week period, closing at midnight on 24 October