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Hotel furniture – safe and fit for purpose?

When supplying or buying furniture for hotels, understanding product performance levels and safety standards is vital.

The main issues faced by UK-based suppliers and purchasers of furniture for hotels and other similar establishments, including beds, seating, desks and tables, are:

Suppliers will always strive to supply furniture that is fit for purpose and, hence, will not create customer or user complaints. Purchasers too, will be concerned that they are selecting and buying the appropriate furniture for hotel bedrooms and public areas.

SATRA recommends that all furniture for hotel use should be selected on the basis that it meets the appropriate strength and stability requirements.

Purchasers of hotel furniture will find it useful to use a written specification, which will indicate the minimum performance and safety levels needed to satisfy any regulations and to minimise wear of the products.

Finishes on the surface of tables should meet the minimum requirements for durability, including scratch resistance, resistance to hot objects and resistance to liquids. In addition, the fabrics or leather covers selected for use on seating should meet the minimum performance requirements, which will help to significantly reduce or eliminate customer complaints during usage. Key attributes of fabrics or leathers for upholstery are light fastness, abrasion resistance, rub fastness, seam strength, pilling and soil resistance.

See table 1 for list of typical standards that SATRA uses to determine if furniture is fit for purpose when destined for hotel use.

Table 1: Typical standards for hotel furniture
Product type and/or location SATRA-recommended standard to demonstrate fitness for purpose and/or minimum safety requirements.
Seating EN 16139:2013 Test level 1 – 'Furniture – strength, durability and safety requirements for non-domestic seating'.

BS 7176:2007 + A1:2011 – 'Specification for resistance to ignition of upholstered furniture for non-domestic seating by testing composites – medium hazard'.

BS 2543:2004 – 'Upholstery fabrics for end use applications'. Classification – GC (general contract use). Suitable for upholstery likely to be subject to general contract usage – for example, environments where the furniture is likely to be used throughout the day.
Tables EN 15372:2016 Test level 2 – 'Furniture – strength, durability and and safety requirements for non-domestic tables'.

EN 12720:2009 + A1:2013 – 'Furniture. Assessment of surface resistance to cold liquids'.

BS 3962-5:1980 – 'Methods of test for finishes for wooden furniture. Assessment of surface resistance to cold oils and fats' and BS 3962-6:1980 – 'Methods of test for finishes for wooden furniture'.

Assessment of resistance to mechanical damage. EN 12721:2009 + A1:2013 – 'Furniture'.

Assessment of surface resistance to wet heat. EN 12722:2009 + A1:2013 – 'Furniture'.

Assessment of surface resistance to dry heat.
Beds and mattresses EN 1725:1998 – 'Domestic furniture. Beds and mattresses. Safety requirements and test methods'. (Adapted by SATRA for testing contract items and using more appropriate test parameters).

EN 1957:2012 – 'Domestic furniture. Beds and mattresses. Test methods for the determination of functional characteristics'. (Adapted by SATRA for testing contract items and using more appropriate test parameters).

BS 7177:2008 + A1:2011 – 'Specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, divans and bed bases'.

Public areas

Seating and tables in public areas of hotels will be used for a variety of functions, such as meetings, weddings, parties and other celebrations, and may be moved in and out of storage on a regular basis to cater for large dining functions or meetings. Repeated movement of items to and from storage areas increases the wear and tear on tables and seating and, therefore, products needs to be sturdy enough to survive these repeated movements. In some venues, the furniture will be in place permanently, so robustness for moving and storage may not be such an issue. In both cases, the furniture should be sufficiently strong to withstand normal use by those heavier individuals, together with some foreseeable misuse, such as a person standing on a chair or a table to change a light bulb or to hang decorations.

In the UK, hotel seating should meet the flammability requirements specified in BS 7176 so that it is resistant to ignition sources including a match flame and cigarettes, even though smoking is not permitted inside public buildings in the UK. It could be argued that smoking in public places or hotel bedrooms might occur despite rules and regulations. Therefore, this activity might be interpreted as ‘foreseeable misuse’.

In other countries, smoking may be permitted in bedrooms and public areas depending upon local regulations. Suppliers in non-UK countries should check with local authorities on current requirements for fire safety.

Reception furniture, including coffee tables, couches or chairs, will be used by persons entering the building with luggage and possibly wet or damp clothing such as raincoats. There is a risk that wet clothing and sharp parts of luggage could damage or mark upholstered furniture.

SATRA has inspected hotel furniture on many occasions for various clients. A list of some typical problem areas witnessed include:

Some of these issues would have been prevented if suitable specifications and product or material testing had been carried out before the contact for the purchase of the furniture was agreed.

Bedrooms

The best hotels are likely to have high occupancy rates, so beds and other furniture will require an appropriate level of durability (see table 1). This can be determined by testing before items are supplied. In the UK, seating, divan beds, upholstered bed frames, bed headboards and mattresses in bedrooms must meet the flammability requirements so that they are all resistant to ignition source, including a match flame and cigarettes, even though smoking is not permitted inside public buildings. Some hotels still permit residents to smoke in their bedrooms.

Fire safety requirements

In the UK, BS 7176:2007 + A1:2011 will be used to determine if seating products provide adequate fire safety for hotels. BS 7176 is a specification which lists various types of buildings and the appropriate level of fire safety needed to satisfy the specification. It is divided into groups of buildings and these are labelled as different ‘hazard categories’. The medium hazard category is appropriate for upholstered hotel furniture. The test requirements include a match flame test, smouldering cigarette tests and a flame ignition source 5 test (often called crib 5), which is specified in BS 5852 Section 11.

In the rest of Europe, different standards apply and many, but not all, EU States will rely on EN 1021-1 and EN 1021-2 tests to demonstrate fire safety. These are cigarette and match ignition tests on upholstery composite arrangements.

A typical case
An American chain of hotels was expanding their business in the UK and supplied upholstered furniture and beds direct from the USA. They were unaware of the UK flammability requirements and were informed by the local fire officer that their furniture would not be acceptable and would need to be replaced with items that complied with BS 7176:2007 + A1:2011 – 'Specification for resistance to ignition of upholstered furniture for non-domestic seating by testing composites' and BS 7177:2008 + A1:2011 – 'Specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, mattress pads, divans and bed bases'.

The UK fire officer was alerted by the absence of any informative labels regarding ignition resistance. When an item was tested, the materials failed to meet the requirements of BS 7176. The US supplier suggested a surface treatment as a remedy, but the fire officer rejected this, as it would not be effective in making the foam filling and the covers wholly compliant. The whole set of furniture items had to be replaced with compliant items or be re-upholstered using compliant covers and compliant filling materials.

Labelling contract furniture

While there is no mandatory requirement to label the product to indicate ignition resistance of upholstered furniture and mattresses, it makes good sense to do so. Failure to do this could put the furniture supplier at risk from legal action if the furniture is moved to a more severe hazard category and a fire occurs. If there is no declaration on the product as to the suitability of the item for a particular end-use or hazard category, the furniture supplier would be in a weak position if he had to demonstrate that the products were fit for purpose.

Additionally, the supplier may add his details to the product label to help with service issues, such as the purchase of spare parts or replacement products. If a supplier is making a claim for compliance with BS 7176 or BS 7177, the correct design of label should be used.

Recommendations

Suppliers of hotel furniture should check for any local rules and regulations regarding fire safety of furniture before quoting for contracts. Products and materials should be tested to demonstrate conformity, and they should be labelled to indicate the level of conformity, together with details of the source of the product. Delivery notes should also indicate the level of conformity of furniture. Test reports can provide a useful selling tool to demonstrate fitness for purpose.

Purchasers of hotel furniture should ensure that their product specification is consistent with any local or national rules and regulations concerning fire safety. They may need to consult with the operator of the premises, as he or she is ultimately responsible for fire safety. Purchasers should look for evidence that products offered and supplied actually meet the appropriate requirements – test reports will help to do this. If there are any doubts, further tests could be carried out to demonstrate compliance.

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Please click here for further information on SATRA's furniture testing services. To discuss how to ensure that hotel furniture is evaluated for safety and fitness for purpose, email furniture@satra.com