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Home>Fire>Manufacturing>Scrapping furniture regulations “will cost dozens of lives each year” warns FBU

Scrapping furniture regulations “will cost dozens of lives each year” warns FBU

01 January 2024

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has warned that a central Government plan to deregulate furniture safety regulations could cost dozens of lives every year. The Trade Union is warning that, unless Westminster politicians change course on this matter, decades of safety regulations may be lost.

Under the current rules – introduced as the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 – manufacturers must submit all furniture for independent testing on flammability. These regulations are estimated to have saved between 50 and 70 lives every year.

However, the Government has proposed scrapping these rules in favour of a voluntary regime. Consultation on the plans closed last year and Government ministers are now considering various proposals.

The Trade Union has warned that the Government is “using the pretext of dealing with lithium batteries and other fire hazards” in a bid to launch a “dangerous programme” of deregulation.

Profit before safety

Matt Wrack, general secretary at the FBU, said: “The Government wants to scrap mandatory flammability tests for furniture and open the door for manufacturers to sell furniture that may be hazardous. Research shows that the current regulations save 50 to 70 lives every single year. The Fire Brigades Union fought for decades to put them in place.”

Wrack went on to comment: “The arrival of lithium batteries and other fire safety hazards points to the need for more regulation, not less. The UK Government is putting the interests of profit and big business before the safety of the rest of us.”

He concluded: “We had hoped that the Grenfell Tower disaster would make Government ministers wake up to the dangers of profit driven de-regulation. It seems they have learned nothing.”

Need to think again

In parallel, the Government has also set out its plans for the Fire and Rescue Service through publication of its response to the consultation process around the White Paper entitled: ‘A Profession We Can All Be Proud Of – Reforming Our Fire and Rescue Service’.

The FBU suggests that the proposals outlined within this document are “dangerous and ill-conceived”,

Matt Wrack noted: “The Fire and Rescue Service is in crisis. We have lost one-in-five front line firefighter jobs since 2010, while response times are slower than ever before. The Government’s proposals will not put a penny back into the Fire Service or deliver national standards on response times and crewing.”Wrack added: “Plans to scrap collective bargaining and forcibly merge police and fire governance structures have been watered down, but many of the proposals are still dangerous and ill-conceived. They sit alongside an authoritarian attempt to ban strike action in our sector.”  

National Joint Council

According to Wrack, Government ministers are aiming to empower chief fire officers to dictate how the Fire and Rescue Service is run at the expense of democratic accountability, local communities and firefighters themselves. The proposals “attack” the National Joint Council and pay agreements, but “offer no evidence” for this, in turn “making a mockery” of the policy process.

“The Government should be listening to firefighters,” concluded Wrack. “Instead, the politicians seem content to leave the same people who’ve presided over an era of decline and mismanagement – ie the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) – in charge. The Firefighters’ Manifesto sets out a plan for a modern and resilient Fire and Rescue Service underpinned by the resources it needs. We will bitterly oppose further cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service as well as any attempt to sideline the voice of firefighters.”