Whether you’re buying furniture for a school, a church, a crematorium, a GP surgery or any other public building, it’s vital that what you buy complies with all of the relevant fire safety regulations. The problem is, it can be difficult to know what regulations apply in what settings. Well, if you’re not sure what the fire safety regulations are, and what furniture is compliant, read Rosehill’s complete guide now.
What is contract furniture?
The first thing you might be wondering is, “what is contract furniture?”
By contract furniture, we mean any furniture that is intended for commercial or public use. Contract furniture is different from domestic furniture.
It’s important to make this distinction because different regulations apply to contract and domestic furniture.
Contract furniture is generally subject to much heavier use than domestic furniture and is situated in different environments. The way contract furniture is designed and manufactured is heavily influenced by the premises in which it is intended to sit.
The history of furniture fire safety regulations
Before we delve further into the individual regulations that apply to each setting, we’ll first take a brief look into the history of furniture fire safety regulations, how they came about, and what the situation looks like today.
The first dedicated piece of furniture-focused fire safety regulation came about following a period during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s when furniture fires became a major cause for concern and led to many deaths.
In response to this the UK Government introduced the Furniture and Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations in 1988. These regulations were subsequently amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010.
The Furniture and Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations
Without going into too much technical detail, these regulations set out six core requirements for furniture manufacturers and the furnishings they produce:
- Upholstery composites (the fabrics or textiles used throughout a piece of furniture), must be cigarette resistant.
- Furniture filling materials must meet specific ignition requirements.
- Certain items of furniture must have a permanent fire label attached to them (bed bases and mattresses are exempt from this requirement). The label will state that the piece of furniture meets the requirements of the legislation.
- Furniture that falls under the regulations must have a display label at the point of sale which shows that the furniture is compliant.
- Covers must be match resistant (although there are a few, limited, exceptions).
- Furniture suppliers are required to hold records (for up to five years), to demonstrate that they are compliant with the legislation.
Whilst these regulations have significantly improved the fire safety of furniture used in domestic settings, it was widely recognised that contract furniture (such as furniture used in churches, community centres, GP surgerys and elsewhere), has to face a more complex set of fire safety challenges.
As a result, a further piece of legislation was introduced that covered furniture as part of a wider series of reforms to fire safety in commercial buildings.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO)
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order introduced profound and sweeping changes to the fire safety of commercial properties.
As one fire safety expert summed it up, “the Order is designed to provide a minimum fire safety standard in all non-domestic premises (with a few exceptions)”.
The RRFSO introduced three things in particular which you should be aware of:
- If the building is a workplace, then a Responsible Person (RP) must be designated. This is the person who controls the building (or has a degree of control of the building). It is this person’s responsibility to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire.
- The Responsible Person must be assisted by a Competent Person who must have ‘sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to properly assist in undertaking the prevention and protection measures’. If you are unable to appoint a Competent Person then you must appoint a third party provider to undertake this role.
- The requirement to undertake a fire safety risk assessment of your property.
We know that many people reading this article may not be doing so on behalf of an employer (for example, if you sit on a Parochial Church Council, or volunteer at a community centre).
So, you may be wondering, how does the RRFSO affect you?
Well, the RRFSO states that in premises which are not workplaces, the Responsible Person will be either:
- The person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or undertaking (for profit or not).
- The owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.
Brush aside the legalese and what exactly does this mean?
“If it is not a workplace then any person having control to some extent or the owner can be designated the Responsible Person”.
So, what does this all mean when you’re looking to buy furniture for a church, community centre, school, crematorium, GP surgery or other type of public building?
Fire safety risk assessments
It’s the job of the Responsible Person to carry out a full fire risk assessment of the building for which they are responsible.
This fire risk assessment will need to cover:
- Fire escape routes.
- Fire detection systems (e.g. fire alarms).
- Construction of the building and the materials used throughout.
- Fire fighting equipment in place (e.g. fire extinguishers).
- The contents of the building (including furniture).
As you can see, the required fire risk assessments as part of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order are broad and encompass many different factors.
This means that the RRFSO does not specify precise ignition resistance requirements for furniture.
Instead, you, as a Responsible Person, need to buy furniture which is fire resistant and adheres to British Standards and other related standards for contract furniture.
We’ll take you through these standards next.
How to buy fire resistant furniture for a school, church, GP surgery, crematorium or other public building
If you want to buy furniture which will be compliant with the broad requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, then there are a number of things you should look for.
The most important of which are the British Standards that the furniture complies with.
There are two types of standards – both of which are used to assess the ignition resistance of upholstered furniture and furnishings. The two types of standards are:
- Specification – Standards that specify performance requirements.
- Test Procedure – Standards that detail the test procedures required to meet performance levels set by the specification.
The specification standard that you should be looking for on furniture for your building is BS 7176: 2007.
The test procedure standards that you should be looking for are: BS EN 1021-1: 2006, BS EN 1021-2: 2006, and BS 5852: 2006.
We will explain what each of these standards mean next.
What British Standards are there for contract furniture?
As we have seen, there are a number of different standards which contract furniture must meet in order to be compliant with fire legislation. Below, we’ll take you through each of these standards and what they mean.
What is BS 7176: 2007?
BS 7176: 2007 applies to upholstered furniture and specifies the ignition resistance of upholstered furniture for non-domestic seating. If a piece of furniture does NOT meet the specification for BS 7176: 2007 then you should not be buying it for your premises.
A piece of furniture will be tested to see if it meets the specification of this standard using the following tests.
What is BS EN 1021-1: 2006? (AKA: Smouldering Cigarette Test)
BS EN 1021-1: 2006 is one of the tests that is used to see if a piece of upholstered furniture meets the specification requirements of BS 7176: 2007. The test involves using a smouldering cigarette to assess the ignitability of a piece of furniture.
What is BS EN 1021-2: 2006? (AKA Lit Cigarette and Match Test)
This standard is a similar test to BS EN 1021-1: 2006, however it differs in that a match flame (or equivalent) is used to test the ignitability of a piece of furniture.
What is BS 5852: 2006? (AKA Crib 5/ Crib 7 Test)
This test involves the use of both smouldering and flaming ignition sources to assess the ignitability of a piece of upholstered seating.
There are six different ignition sources (confusingly numbered 2-7!) that are used as part of this test. Ignition sources 2 – 3 are gas flames and other ignition sources. Sources 4-7 are wooden cribs (a crib is composed of wooden planks that are glued together).
This is why you will often see pieces of upholstered furniture labelled as Crib 5, Crib 7 etc.
This is to indicate the ignition source it was tested against as part of BS 5852: 2006. So, an upholstered seat which has passed BS 5852: 2006 at ignition source 5 will be labelled as BS 5852: 2006 Sect 4 IS5 (Crib 5).
It is these standards that set the requirements for the ignitability of upholstered furniture for use in non-domestic settings.
Note – to request a testing certificate related to a piece of furniture, allowing you to demonstrate that you have bought compliant furniture for your premises, email your order details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can send this through.
What British Standards should a piece of furniture have for my type of building/premises?
When looking at how ‘ignition resistant’ a piece of furniture needs to be, the British Standards Institute also takes into account the type of premises in which the furniture will be used.
When you are selecting furniture for your premises, you should first use the table below to determine what level of ‘risk’ your premises represents. Once you have established this, use the second table to determine what British Standards are required for the furniture in your premises.
|Examples of premises and their level of hazard according to BS 7176: 2007|
|Low Hazard||Medium Hazard||High Hazard||Very High Hazard|
|Colleges||Casinos||Offshore installations||Locked psychiatric accommodation|
|Day centres||Hospitals||Sleeping accommodation in certain hospital wards and hotels||Prison cells|
|Offices||Places of entertainment|
|Churches||Public houses and bars|
|Buy to Let Homes||Services messes|
Note – the actual hazard level of your premises will depend on how the building is used. For example, public halls and community centres are typically low hazard. However, if they are licensed, then they will be a medium hazard.
Once you have identified which hazard category your premises sits in, use the table below to ensure that the furniture you buy has the appropriate British Standards.
Remember, all upholstered furniture for non-domestic settings must meet BS 7176: 2007.
The table below shows the additional test procedures which a piece of furniture should have gone through.
|Low Hazard||Medium Hazard||High Hazard/Very High Hazard|
|Requirements of fabric||BS EN 1021:1 2006 (smouldering cigarette)||BS EN 1021:1 2006 (smouldering cigarette)||BS EN 1021:1 2006 (smouldering cigarette)|
|BS EN 1021:2 2006 (match flame)||BS EN 1021:2 2006 (match flame)||BS EN 1021:2 2006 (match flame)|
|BS 5852: 2006 Sect 4 IS5 (Crib 5)||BS 5852: 2006 Sect 4 IS7 (Crib 7)+|
|Requirements of foam||Foam used in upholstered furniture must be Combustion Modified High Resilient (CMHR), that conforms to the requirements of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations.|
Special testing requirements
It’s worth noting that there are also special testing requirements for very specific use cases.
For example, furniture that will be used in marine/maritime environments, such as on a vessel, must pass specific tests and attain a ‘Wheelmark’ – an accreditation that is required for equipment placed on board ships. Our Highland range is one such fabric that is suitable for use on ships.
If you have any specific or niche furniture requirements, please contact us. We only show our most popular ranges online, but are able to source a much wider range of upholstery options including Crib 7 materials.
We realise that all of this information can be quite a lot to take in! So, let’s take a look at some real-world examples.
How to pick new seats for your church
If you are looking to buy new upholstered seats for your church then you first of all need to identify the fire hazard posed by your premises (low hazard).
Now that you know the hazard level of your premises, you then need to buy upholstered seats which conform to the following standards:
- BS 7176: 2007.
- BS EN 1021: 2006.
- BS EN 1021:2 2006.
How do I find this information?
The manufacturers and retailers of furniture have a legal requirement to ensure that the furniture they are selling conforms to all of the necessary British Standards and fire safety legislation.
Here at Rosehill we carefully select all of our furniture to ensure that it conforms to all required standards and legislation.
What else should you look for when buying contract furniture?
As well as ensuring that the furniture you are buying conforms to fire regulations, there are also a number of other things to look for to ensure you buy high-quality furniture.
Martindale fabric abrasion test
Also known as the Martindale fabric rub test, this is a test that is used to measure the durability of a fabric.
The test involves the use of a Martindale machine which pulls the fabric taut and then lowers it so that it is in contact with small discs of either worsted wood or wire mesh. These discs are continually rubbed against the fabric in a circular motion.
Whilst the discs are in motion, the fabric is continually inspected.
The test usually ends in one of two ways; when two yarns break or when there is a noticeable change in appearance to the fabric.
The fabric is then given a Martindale score.
The Martindale fabric abrasion scores
- Decorative use – when a fabric scores between 6000 and 10,000 on the test, it will be deemed suitable for decorative use only.
- Light domestic use – where a material scores between 10,000 and 15,000 it will be categorised as only being suitable for light domestic use.
- General domestic use – sofas, beds, recliners which are used in the home will all have a Martindale score of between 15,000 and 25,000.
- Heavy duty use – a Martindale score of between 25,000 and 30,000 will mean that a fabric is suitable for use on heavily used pieces of household furniture.
- Commercial/severe contract use – fabric that will be used on furniture in public and commercial settings will need a Martindale score of 30,000 or higher.
When buying furniture for your church, school, GP surgery, crematoria or other public building, ensure that it is upholstered with a fabric that has a Martindale score of 30,000 or higher.
Note – here at Rosehill we don’t offer any furniture with a Martindale score below 30,000 (the majority of our items have a score over 50,000 and some of our vinyls are over 300,000 – 10x the amount you need for typical contract use).
So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best pieces of fire safety compliant seating on the market right now.
The best fire safety compliant seating for public buildings
Below we’ve set out some of the most popular upholstered chairs for public buildings including schools, community centres, GP surgeries, crematoria and more.
Maxim Deluxe Stacking Chair
Perfect for churches, church halls and community centres, the Maxim Deluxe Stacking Chair is an elegant, yet robust and practical upholstered chair.
Designed to accommodate the needs of today’s church congregations, the Maxim Deluxe is one of, if not the, most comfortable church chairs available in the UK. Being 520mm wide and with mortise and tenon joints, the Maxim Deluxe will provide long service.
The chairs are made to order, to the specification that fits your use and environment. They can be customised in a number of ways with a wide range of fire retardant fabrics to choose from. Whilst the solid hardwood frame is beech as standard, it can be stained or swapped for an alternative timber such as solid oak or ash.
Churchill Deluxe Chair
One of the most popular chairs from Rosehill, the Churchill Deluxe is a chair that combines comfort with durability.
It features a large 11” back pad for increased back support, as well as a deep and luxurious seat. This makes it perfect for scenarios where your visitors will be sat for long periods of time such as church services, community events or funerals.
The Churchill Deluxe is also available in a stacking option – ideal if you’ll need to store your chairs on a regular basis. Additional options include the ability to add a bookbox and links.
As with the Maxim Deluxe, the Churchill Deluxe is made with mortise and tenon joints, meaning it’ll withstand considerable wear and tear and offer a long service life.
Oxford Stacking Chair
If you’re looking for a lightweight, flexible, upholstered chair that’s perfect for offices, meeting rooms, waiting areas, libraries or other public spaces, then you can’t get much better than the Oxford Stacking Chair.
The chair’s frame is made from rotary cut beech veneers, finished with a clear lacquer. The seat and pads have a ply board inner, which keeps weight to a minimum. As a result, this chair is lightweight and easily stacked, yet strong enough to provide a long service life.
As well as a selection of upholstery options, the Oxford Stacking Chair can also be finished in anti-microbial vinyl – ideal for GP surgeries, hospitals, dentist waiting rooms and other settings in which hygiene is a priority.
Urban Lightweight Stacking Chair
This is the ultimate multi-purpose chair. Whether you need a large number of chairs for your school hall or you need a large number of easily stored chairs for your restaurant or event space, the Urban Lightweight Stacking Chair will meet your needs.
Featuring a stylish skid-based frame, this chair has shaped back and seat pads which provide comfort without adding significant weight.
The Urban Lightweight Stacking Chair can be stacked up to 25, using Rosehill’s specially designed Zigzag Stacking Trolley.
Gogo Lounge Chair
With a charming retro modernist aesthetic, the Gogo Lounge Chair will make a perfect addition to your school staff room, waiting room, or reception area. And, with a 10-year warranty on the frame, you can rest assured that it’ll last.
Available in either a standard or armchair version, the Gogo features detailed stitching on the back pads and is manufactured from timber sourced from sustainably managed forests.
The Gogo’s stylish frame is available in eight classic finishes as standard, along with a huge range of fire resistant fabrics. For the healthcare market, it’s also available in various antimicrobial finishes.
Get the finest furniture for your public building with Rosehill
We hope you’ve found this guide to the fire safety regulations that apply to contract furniture useful. Whilst this is not a comprehensive guide (and you should always refer back to original legislation and standards bodies for definitive information), it should help you select the right furniture for your premises.
However, if you find you’ve still got some questions after reading this article, then please contact our customer service team who will be happy to help and offer free advice and guidance. You can reach us by email at email@example.com or by telephone on 0161 485 1717.
Shop seating at Rosehill now
For more contract furniture buying guide and information, check out the Rosehill blog…