Press release

Fire safety reforms to cut use of harmful chemicals

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A consultation launched today (7 August 2014) details planned changes to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

Proposed changes to the way household furniture and furnishings are tested are set out today, with the potential to significantly reduce the use of harmful fire retardant chemicals whilst maintaining fire safety.

A consultation launched today by Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson details planned changes to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

The regulations set out required standards of fire resistance for domestic goods such as beds and sofas. These goods are currently tested through a mixture of match and cigarette experiments.

The proposals include:

  • changes to the foam used as a filling in the match test. Future tests would be carried out using combustion-modified foam, rather than the non-fire retardant polyurethane foam used at present
  • plans to exclude certain fabrics from the cigarette test, including those which have already passed the match test
  • a new testing requirement for currently unregulated materials found in furniture that can be highly flammable, such as webbing and card

The changes will continue to provide the same level of protection to consumers while cutting regulatory burdens, and are expected to lead to significant reductions in the use of fire retardant chemicals which can be damaging for both human health and the environment.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said:

Fire safety testing in the UK offers the highest possible level of protection to consumers and I am determined to maintain these standards.

However, by using fewer hazardous chemicals and removing some of the duplication in the testing process, we can better protect human health and the environment while reducing bureaucracy at the same time.

Toni Eldridge, Legal Compliance Product Safety Specialist, Trading Standards said:

It is hoped that the planned changes to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 will assist Trading Standards Services to not only ensure the highest level of protection to consumers, but also to promote a fair trading environment within the UK.

The consultation closes on 7 October 2014.

Notes to editors:

  1. A copy of the consultation document can be found at Furniture fire safety regulations: proposed amendments.
  2. Main points of proposed changes:
    • new match test for cover fabrics to be undertaken over combustion-modified foam, not non-fire retardant polyurethane foam as with the current test
    • the new match test/cigarette test will include suitable lead-in times to allow industry to develop new compliant products, and sell off existing stock (compliant with the current tests). The final lead-in period will be determined by the feedback BIS receives during the consultation period.