Intense Industry Interest over Proposed Furniture Flammability Regulations
A government proposal that all furniture and bedding in New Zealand contains flame retardant PU foam, sparked intense debate at Furniture Industry forums held on the 10 and 11 February 2016 in Auckland and Christchurch.
Furniture and bedding manufacturers, retailers and importers from around the country were invited to attend the forums which were jointly hosted by the Furniture Association (FCANZ) and the NZ Fire Service.
The lead agency in this issue is Trading Standards (previously SANZ) which is now an Operational unit under MBIE (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment). MBIE’s Principal Advisor, Training Standards, Safety and Technical was present at both forums and provided background information including how this matter was dealt with in the UK where furniture flammability regulations were introduced in 1988.
At issue is the NZ Fire Service’s concern at the high number of house fire fatalities in New Zealand and the speed of fire development in modern homes. Modern furnishings contribute to this very rapid fire development and polyurethane foam makes a significant contribution.
The Fire Service says the much faster fires mean occupants in house fires have very limited opportunity to extinguish a developing fire and importantly have much less time to safely escape. This is resulting in a very high level of property damage, severe burn injuries and fire related deaths. The Fire Service believes that much of this damage and injury could be avoided, as has been evidenced in the UK, by limiting the speed of fire development of polyurethane foams. The video below demonstrates the points the Fire Service are making
Industry concerns included; health issues associated with flame retardant chemicals, the need for improved education and enforcement around the use of fire alarms, compliance issues i.e. how would such regulations be enforced particularly on imported furniture and bedding and the fact that Australia rejected such regulations some years ago.
At the conclusion of the forum in Auckland, the Ministry agreed that prior to making any decision on introducing furniture flammability regulations it will; • Gather more feedback from the industry. • Undertake further research including what other countries have done. • Study any reports produced on this subject, both at a local and international level. • Develop a discussion document within the next 12 months for furniture industry consideration.
To assist MBIE in this process, we strongly urge FCANZ members to provide the Association with details of any relevant reports, data, information etc., which they feel MBIE should be aware of as they prepare their discussion document. Any non-members present at the forums or who weren’t present but would like to provide information and remain involved in the on-going debate, can contact the Association at firstname.lastname@example.org for a membership application form. Membership is open to furniture manufacturers, retailers and importers. The annual subscription is just $175 (GST incl).