FRETWORK’s Peter Wragg provides the lowdown on a new Code of Good Practice that aims to ensure safe and effective flame retardancy in upholstered furniture.

When BBC consumer programme, Fake Britain – Furniture Inferno took to the airways in 2014, demonstrating how non-compliant and potentially unsafe furniture finds its way to market, it was essential that the negative coverage didn’t undermine the importance of the safety standards and the significant role they had played in reducing house fires and saving lives.

In response, some of the key companies within the FR treatment industry joined forces, represented by FRETWORK, in order to begin to put right the wrongs highlighted. Having listened to the concerns of their customers, members knew that it wasn’t enough to simply say “it wasn’t us”. They also had to find a way of offering assurance.

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The working group felt that a similar, independently audited scheme to the NBF Code of Practice could work for FR treatment companies, and could be the foundations for an industry platform which would offer the level of assurance required.

It became apparent to us that there were some serious hurdles to overcome, not least the fact that the current FR test procedure is destructive, which allows certification only against the ‘destroyed’ test sample. It also requires time-consuming water soak and conditioning time which doesn’t lend itself to effective production process controls. So, how could anyone really be sure that the fabric they had treated was ‘compliant’ if it had never been tested to the required standards?

The answer was simple. Treatment companies would need to run robust process control systems that linked directly to the fabrics despatched to the customer. Only by having the fail-safes in place could they offer the level of assurance now required. These systems would also need to be subjected to independent assessment.

Fast forward to today and we at FRETWORK are ready to launch our own Code of Good Practice (FCOGP) for the purpose of ensuring safe and effective flame retardancy in upholstered furniture. Accredited members will be deemed compliant by means of an independent audit of the processes used in the treatment of textiles to meet the requirements for UK Upholstered Furniture (Fire) (Safety) Regulations (FFR’s).

The scheme is offered to all FR treatment companies, irrespective of size. The audit is designed to assess a company’s ability to offer safe goods based on key elements such as knowledge & understanding, identity & traceability, process control, testing and record keeping. It tackles the question of water soaking and indicative (non-standard) testing, as well as ‘add on’ treatments that could affect the flammability of a fabric.

Audits will be conducted independently by FIRA (BM TRADA) for all FR treatment companies who wish to be included in the scheme. On completion of a successful audit, approved companies will be certified and have the option to use FCOGP literature and Logos to benefit their customers’ own due diligence systems.

For anyone who would like to know more about the new FCOGP, the working group will set out the scheme in greater detail at the upcoming FRETWORK Forum in Kegworth on the 26th of October.

If you would like further information relating to the scheme, or would be interested in attending the FRETWORK Forum, please contact Peter Wragg at: fretwork@btinternet.com.