Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

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Foam Furniture - Frequently asked questions

What are the Furniture Regulations?

The DTI introduced the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations in 1988. This was due to the rising number of house fires and deaths caused by polyurethane foam filled furniture. At that time, furniture caused only 7.5% of all house fires but resulted in 35% of all deaths in fire. The Regulations specify that the fillings and coverings of all furniture should pass tough flammability tests.

Who do the Regulations apply to?

The Regulations apply to anyone supplying old or new furniture in the course of a business. This includes manufacturers and retailers of new furniture, and retailers of second-hand furniture. They do not apply when furniture is simply given away or sold by private individuals.

What sort of furniture do the Regulations apply to?

The Regulations apply to all upholstered furniture especially those containing polyurethane foam.

Why the concern about polyurethane foam?

Untreated this foam can give off very nasty toxic fumes when it burns. The heat from a fire in furniture containing the foam reaches such a level that people cannot pass through it within about three minutes of the fire starting.

How can I find out if my furniture complies with the Regulations?

All furniture that satisfies the Regulations will have a permanent label attached to it stating that it complies with the 1988 Regulations. Furniture sold as a collection of items like a three-piece suite will have the label on each seat.

I want to replace my non-compliant furniture but I can't afford to buy brand new furniture. What can I do?

The Regulations were introduced 12 years ago, so there is a large supply of second-hand furniture that complies with them. Check for the permanent label before you buy.

If I decide not to replace my non-compliant furniture, is there anything I can do to reduce the chance of a fire?

Let your family know that your furniture could be dangerous in a fire and ask them to take extra care, especially if any of you are smokers. Keep matches and lighters away from children, and make sure that your family have an escape plan in case of a fire. Everyone should have a smoke alarm.

I don't smoke so why should I be forced to buy furniture that complies with the Regulations?

It is true that non-compliant furniture is only dangerous if exposed to a source of fire. Smokers' materials like matches, lighters and cigarettes are particularly risky but they are not the only source of fire in our homes. Many fires involving furniture are caused by heaters being placed too close to furniture, and by the growing use of candles. Fires started in other items like televisions can also spread to furniture.

I live in furnished rented accommodation. Does the furniture supplied by my landlord have to meet the Regulations?

In most cases if the landlord is supplying furniture as part of a commercial let then the furniture has to comply with the Regulations. It would not apply to people letting their home on a one-off short-term basis, ie not as part of a business. Check with your landlord that your furniture is safe.

How can I get rid of my old furniture?

It is much better to dispose of it safely rather than pass it on to anyone else. Check with your local council to see what arrangements they have for collecting and disposing of larger items of furniture. Many councils will take it away for free.

My sofa was given to me and I have discovered that it's not compliant. Surely that shouldn't be allowed?

The simple giving of furniture by a charity or individual is perfectly legal and not covered by the Regulations. The DTI is encouraging charities and individuals not to pass on non-compliant furniture.

Is it possible to buy furniture that is not compliant with the Regulations?

The law states that you cannot buy from a shop any new furniture or second-hand furniture that does not comply with the Regulations.

My furniture was made before 1988, and doesn't have a label. Might it still meet the standard required by the Regulations?

No. It is extremely unlikely that any furniture made before 1988 would be up to the standards set by the Regulations.

What if I want to reupholster my pre-1988 furniture?

Professional reupholsterers must use fabric that complies with the Regulations, unless you choose to supply non-compliant material yourself. They should also tell you if the original filling material does not comply with the Regulations.

Who checks to see that furniture manufacturers and retailers stick to the Regulations?

The Furniture Regulations are enforced by local authority trading standards officers.

I have some antique furniture. Do the Regulations cover this?

The Regulations do not apply to any furniture made before 1950.

Do other countries have the same sort of Regulations?

Eire has similar Regulations to the UK. But the tests included in the Regulations are much stricter than any others in force in continental Europe, or the United States.

Furniture The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 1 (as amended in1989 2 and 1993 3 ) set levels offire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery.
This guide, which has been prepared in consultation with the Local Authorities Coordinating body on Food and Trading Standards and the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, is intended to help suppliers of these products understand how the new Regulations affect them.

To view the DTI Furniture Guide in PDF format click here or on thumbnail Pdf Logo

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