If you are creating a commercial hospitality venue of any sort, you are legally obliged to address the issue of furniture fire safety. Everything that could affect the chance of fire - and that alters the chances of safe escape - needs to be considered. This list includes the materials used in the building, escape routes, fire detection, fire fighting (sprinkler systems, extinguishers...) as well as the contents of the building including furniture.
Your legal obligaitons as the designer of a hospitality venue
The fire safety of upholstered furniture supplied into the non-domestic market is complex. It is heavily influenced by the end use of the premises for which the furniture is intended.
Non-domestic furniture is not subject to fire safety controls through direct legislation; its fire safety behaviour is regulated, indirectly, by RRFSO. In 2005 The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) was introduced, requiring that all premises must have:
- A Responsible Person - this is either the employer, occupier or owner of the building who must carry out a fire risk assessment, provide adequate ‘general fire precautions’, consider the safety of all relevant persons, record both the significant findings and the control measures taken and provide adequate training for staff.
- A Competent Person (can be the same person) - this person must have “Sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to properly assist in undertaking the prevention and protection measures.” This person will assist the Responsible Person to fulfil his / her duties. If there are no suitable candidates, third party assistance is advised.
- An up-to-date fire safety risk assessment taking account of: Materials and constructions used; provision of escape routes; fire detection; fire fighting systems etc and the building contents (which includes furniture).
The requirements of the RRFSO are enforced by the relevant Enforcement Authorities (e.g. Fire Authorities, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Local Authorities etc) who can ultimately serve an enforcement notice; the ultimate punishment is fines and a custodial sentence for the Responsible Person.
The RRFSO does not specify precise ignition resistance requirements for furniture and furnishings, but knowledge of these forms part of the risk assessment. The Responsible Person will identify and specify appropriate ignition resistance levels for furniture which shall be passed to the specifier or purchaser. Appropriate ignition resistance is determined by the use of the premises (see chart).
What is BS 476-6:1989+A1:2009?
This is a set of British Standards which addresses fire tests on building materials and structures. It is sometimes applied to surfaces of furniture, in which instance flame-proof lacquers are required.
Fire retardents in furniture
Which ignition resistance is appropriate is determined by the use of the premises for which it is intended - this is set out on the chart below. To see an example of 'Crib 5', click here.
Furniture fire safety training
We're more than happy to answer any questions you have on the information above. We know that learning all the fire regulations and furniture ignitability requirements can take some time and it's important to get it right. It's often easier to digest this kind of technical information in person with an expert instructor. We offer design practices free CPD training on health and saftey topics such as fire retardents and furniture testing. Learn more here.
Want to learn more furniture fire safety knowledge?
Download our Hospitality Furniture Knowlege book to learn about furniture robustness and testings as well as tips and tricks of the trade that will help you specify your next project. Alternatively call us on 0800 8494 135; we're happy to help with any project you may have.