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Assessing tables and desks

Although in use every day, the design and constructional requirements of tables and desks are rarely considered.

Furniture manufacturers, on the other hand, must consider these issues and a variety of performance and fitness for purpose standards are in force, taking into account the type of product and its intended market.

Simulating use

Tables are used in a variety of applications and can be moved around many times during their lifespan. A range of tests can be carried out to determine if a table or desk is fit for purpose. These include assessing the effects of static load, fatigue, sustained load, impact, dropping and overturning. Tests are designed to simulate normal use and an acceptable amount of misuse. For example, the vertical static load test simulates several people sitting or standing on the table to reproduce instances where this may occur, such as school plays.

Domestic and contract

Tables intended for the domestic (home) or contract (hotel and office) environments should be fit for a wide range of purposes. BS EN 12521:2015 calls for combined strength and stability requirements for the domestic market and BS EN 15372:2016 for contract use.

As well as combining the strength and stability into one standard, one of the procedures for assessing strength involves dropping the table (usually onto the legs at a slight angle) and examining for any resultant damage. The drop height depends on the weight of the product, with heavier items being dropped from lower heights.

Components and devices

Other aspects of tables and desks such as glass components, cable management elements and associated devices (for example, swinging PC monitor arms) need to be assessed for fitness for purpose.

Many consumers want proof that furniture on the market meets the required standards. Office furniture in the UK and Europe is almost always subjected to extensive testing, as it is usually a requirement of the purchasers. Office furniture is in constant use, sometimes 24 hours a day, and must be durable and dimensionally stable. Contract furniture, used in establishments such as hotels and hospitals, is also required to meet requirements relating to the severe conditions it will undergo during service.

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