Congress enacts national furniture flammability standard

The video above is of a time-lapsed smolder test conducted by NIST on an upholstered chair.

WASHINGTON – Congress passed the COVID-19 Regulatory Relief and Work from Home Safety Act, which incorporates the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (SOFFA) supported by several industry groups including the American Home Furnishings Alliance and Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association.

The new law instructs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish conformance with California TB-117-2013 as a national standard in the United States. California enacted SOFFA in 2013. Its corresponding technical bulletin calls for using a smolder test instead of an open flame test to determine the fire safety of upholstered furniture and other consumer products.

In issuing a press release about the passing of the Work from Home Safety Act, Brad Miller, director of advocacy & sustainability for BIFMA, said,A national flammability standard based on realistic testing reduces the need for potentially hazardous flame retardants and simplifies compliance across the country.”

SOFFFA was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of 2019. It was included in the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on Dec. 21 that was combined with the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 27.

The stated intent of California TB 117-2013 “is to produce upholstered furniture which is safer from the hazards associated with smoldering ignition. This standard provides methods for smolder resistance of cover fabrics, barrier materials and resilient filling materials for use in upholstered furniture.”

Earlier this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a new supply of a specially designed cigarette used to ignite upholstered furniture, mattresses and other soft furnishings to test their flammability. Known as the Standard Cigarette for Ignition Resistance Testing (SRM 1196a), it differs from commercially available cigarettes. It is unfiltered, has a longer tobacco column and uses unbanded paper that allows the cigarette to burn even when it is not puffed, thus making it a stronger ignition source for testing purposes.

Note: The video below showcases NIST’s new SRM cigarette.



Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Profile picture for user richchristianson
About the author
Rich Christianson | President/Owner/C-Level

Rich Christianson is the owner of Richson Media LLC, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on the industrial woodworking sector. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his nearly 35-year career, Rich has toured more than 250 woodworking operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia and has written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends. He has also directed and promoted dozens of woodworking trade shows, conferences and seminars including the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Canada’s largest woodworking show.