Fretwork | Upholstery – What’s special about it?
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Upholstery – What’s special about it?

Upholstery – What’s special about it?

Upholstery – What’s special about it?

To answer this question it is necessary to consider the risk based approach taken by both the testing and performance requirements together with the usage circumstances.

Upholstery is found in most homes in the UK. The more there is the higher the chances that something might happen.

Upholstery plays a large role in the interior style and design of our living circumstances. It is part of the colour scheme and tends to be what we use when we are actually living in our homes – often called ‘watching tv’.

Upholstery is very often quite large objects that have fillings to provide the comfort factor. A consequence of this is that they use modern polymer based materials and contain, in effect, a lot of air. The cover fabrics can use a variety of techniques to provide colour, texture and feel resulting in textiles that can be challenging to fire retard.

Research from the 1970 and 1980 period showed one very worrying aspect of the burning behaviour of upholstered furniture: small ignition sources (such as smoker’s materials) can ignite this large object and turn it into a very large secondary ignition source. This produced a large amount of smoke and toxic fumes in a restricted air supply burn scenario. More concerning was the delayed action effect demonstrated very conclusively by the data. The initial ignition source may have been accidentally left/dropped/applied in the late evening hours but the critical stage of the fire occurred some hours later when house occupants were not only asleep but in a different room.

To combat this risk it was necessary to design test procedures that assess the principal components of the upholstery but more importantly in a combination that imitated the construction of upholstery. An ignition test has proved an effective assessment of the identified risk.

This is the basis of the test procedures adopted by the implementation of the UK Upholstered Furniture (Fire) (Safety) Regulations.

The risk of the ignition behaviour present in a use scenario for every household why upholstery is a special case for consideration. The potential for a fire to develop when the article is left unattended e.g the charging of small electronic goods is demonstrated in FRETWORK Newsletter No. 34.

Peter Wragg
Peter Wragg
pjw@fretwork.org.uk
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