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Bean bags and fire safety

Do bean bags need to meet the same flammability regulations as other items of domestic furniture?

Image © www.istockphoto.com/lugo

Bean bags are often sold over the internet, by catalogue shops and furniture stores. They are large enough to sit on and make excellent items of casual seating for young people. They are often constructed from an outer bag made of textile, which contains a loose filling material. The most popular loose filling material is polystyrene beads.

This question of whether bean bags need to conform to the UK flammability regulations arises from time to time. According to the UK Government's Guide to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, the cover and the fillings of such products are captured by the regulations and therefore must comply with the appropriate tests.

Requirements

The requirements in the UK fall into three categories:

  1. The cover of the bean bag must be match-resistant. To demonstrate this compliance, the cover should pass the Schedule 5 Part 1 test, which is a modification of BS 5852:Part 1:1979 with ignition source 1 and non-fire-retardant foam. The only exception to this is if the cover is composed of 75 per cent or more of cotton, viscose, modal, flax, silk or wool, separately or in combination. In this case, it need not be match resistant provided it is used over a fire barrier interliner that passes the severe test in Schedule 3.
  2. The cover and filling together must be cigarette resistant. To demonstrate this compliance, the cover and filling should pass the test specified in Schedule 4 Part 1 of the regulations.
  3. The filling material should pass the appropriate test specified in the regulations. The actual test will vary according to the type of filling used. As stated previously, the most common type of filling in bean bags is polystyrene beads. For this type of filling, which is classified as a non-foam filling, the appropriate test would be Schedule 2 Part 1 which uses ignition source 2.

Do bean bags actually comply?

SATRA purchased some bean bags and tested the covers according to the UK regulations. The results were revealing, as table 1 shows.

Table 1: Results of flammability tests carried out by SATRA
Supplier code and source of bean bag Result of flammability test specified in the regulations
A: Internet from a UK-based company Pass
B: Internet from a UK-based company Fail
C: Internet from a UK-based company Pass
D: Retail outlet in the UK Fail

The results, of course, constitute neither an exhaustive nor representative survey but they do indicate some concern, as these failures could have been picked up by the UK enforcement agency and resulted in a criminal prosecution. All the products carried the correct flammability labelling and where the product failed this would be deemed as an additional offence – a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

How can we help?

15 PER CENT DISCOUNT ON FIRST SATRA TEST - please click here.

Please click here for information on SATRA's furniture testing services. If you are concerned about the fire safety aspects of any upholstered furniture products (including bean bags), SATRA would be pleased to carry out tests on your behalf – email furniture@satra.com for assistance.