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The testing of storage furniture
How cabinets, wardrobes, and other types of storage furniture can be assessed for strength, durability, safety, and ‘fitness for purpose’.
Image © freemixer | iStockphoto.com
There are various types of storage furniture – some are intended for use in the home, and others are for non-domestic applications including hotels, hospitals and offices. Within the home, kitchen storage furniture is quite different to bedroom storage furniture. However, the boundaries between domestic and non-domestic use – and indeed, between different sectors – is becoming increasingly blurred with similar designs being used across a number of sectors.
Any such furniture should be fit for purpose – it should not collapse when loaded, and it should not topple over inadvertently.
Storage furniture can be broadly divided into two categories, depending on whether or not it is intended to stand on a floor (‘free-standing’), or mounted on a wall. The tests required in each case are different. This article describes the standards that are used in Europe and the UK to test furniture.
Domestic storage furniture
Two standards are often used together to test domestic storage furniture. One covers safety and the other encompasses strength and durability.
Tall storage furniture can pose a serious safety hazard – especially where children are involved – and safety aspects are covered by EN 14749:2016 – ‘Furniture. Domestic and kitchen storage units and kitchen worktops – Safety requirements and test methods’. This standard features stability tests, and also sets out requirements for ‘product information’. EN 14749 covers safety of both free-standing and wall-hanging furniture.
The need to test stability of storage furniture is a key safety aspect. In recent years, across Europe and the USA, children have died when using wardrobes or large chests of drawers as a plaything for climbing on. Such items must either be designed to resist toppling, or else be fastened to a wall. EN 14749 includes a test to check the strength of wall attachments.
To show that an item of storage furniture is strong and that any moving parts (for instance, drawers and doors) are durable, BS 4875-7:2006 – ‘Strength and stability of furniture. Domestic and contract storage furniture. Performance requirements’ is used. Despite its name, this standard does not include any stability tests, so EN 14749 is often used to complement it. A notable feature of BS 4875-7 is that it sets out five levels of testing severity, according to the intended application. Levels 1, 2 and 3 are appropriate for ‘delicate’, ‘careful domestic’, and ‘general domestic’ uses respectively. Bedroom furniture is an example where level 2 (‘careful domestic’) testing is appropriate, and level 3 testing is suitable for dining room furniture.
BS 4875-7 does not cover fire testing or the testing of the durability of surface finishes.
All materials used in storage furniture should meet the requirements of the UK REACH regulations. In addition, where children have access to the furniture, testing accessible surfaces for hazardous substances may also be required.
Non-domestic storage furniture
For this type of furniture, EN 16121:2013+A1:2017 – ‘Non-domestic storage furniture. Requirements for safety, strength, durability and stability’ is used. The strength and durability tests are more severe than those in BS 4875-7 at levels 1, 2, and 3. This standard does include stability tests. EN 16121:2013+A1:2007 refers to another linked standard, EN 16122:2013 – ‘Domestic and non-domestic storage furniture. Test methods for the determination of strength, durability and stability’ for details of the actual test methods.
There are two test levels in EN 16121. Level 1 is for ‘general’ use (for instance, in hotels) and level 2 is for ‘severe’ use (such as in barracks). It can be used to test items designed to stand on the floor, as well as those for wall-hanging. There are also additional requirements for storage furniture to be used in schools or kindergartens.
Usefully, EN 16121 gives guidance as to how to select units from a range of storage furniture to be tested, in order to avoid having to test every variant in a range. Therefore, not all units with similar construction and which share similar hardware (such as fixings and hinges) have to be tested.
The scope of EN 16121 is significant. Of course, it does not apply to domestic storage furniture, but this standard is also explicit that it does not apply to office storage furniture (for example, filing cabinets for documents), industrial storage, kitchen storage furniture and retail storage furniture. There are other standards that may be used for some of these categories.
EN 16121 does not cover testing for fire resistance or for the durability of surface finishes. Where children have access to products, particularly in schools and kindergartens, testing accessible surfaces for hazardous substances is recommended.
Kitchen storage furniture
In the UK, BS 6222-2:2009+A1:2017 – ‘Domestic kitchen equipment. Fitted kitchen units, peninsular units, island units and breakfast bars. Performance requirements and test methods’ is used to assess strength and durability. It does not cover safety aspects – these are embraced by EN 14749 (see above).
Because kitchen storage furniture is often delivered to the end user part-finished, included in BS 6222-2 are load tests that replicate those encountered when the items are assembled and installed, as well as in use.
There are two test levels in BS 6222-2. Test level ‘G’ is applicable to units for general domestic use and Test level ‘H’ applies to units for heavy-duty use where users are unlikely to exercise care.
Tests are included for unusual components such as ‘carousels’, where access is gained by rotating interior ‘trays’ out of the cabinet rather than by opening drawers or doors.
Detailed guidance on selecting items from a range for testing is provided in Annex A.
As kitchen storage furniture may be expected to be subjected to treatment likely to affect the surface finish, BS 6222-3:2017 – ‘Domestic kitchen equipment. Performance requirements for durability of surface finish and adhesion of surfacing and edging materials. Specification’ may be used to address this aspect.
Office storage furniture
There are several standards which collectively set out how to test office storage furniture – such as filing cabinets. These are:
- EN 14073-2:2004 – ‘Office furniture. Storage furniture. Safety requirements’
- EN 14073-3:2004 – ‘Office furniture. Storage furniture. Test methods for the determination of stability and strength of the structure’
- EN 14074:2004 – ‘Office furniture. Tables and desks and storage furniture. Test methods for the determination of strength and durability of moving parts’.
There is another rarely-used related document, PD CEN/TR 14073-1:2004 – ‘Office Furniture, Storage furniture: Dimensions’, which sets out the dimensional requirements based on standard paper and media sizes. The ‘carcass’ of the item of storage furniture is tested using EN 14073 parts 2 and 3. The tests include various strength tests and stability assessments, which are described as ‘safety tests’. The scope covers both items that stand on the floor and those that hang on a wall or partitioning screen.
The moving parts – such as doors (both hinged and sliding), drawers, roll fronts and flaps – are tested according to EN 14074. There is a special test for ‘mobile’ units that are fitted with wheels. An important point to note about EN 14073-2 is that it has a ‘National Annex’, which sets out extra requirements for the UK market. Unfortunately, this means that an item which conforms to EN 14073-2 in, for instance, Germany may not conform in the UK. The extra requirements for the UK market include durability aspects that go beyond safety aspects.
With the move to more flexible working and open offices, the divide between office and other non-domestic storage furniture is becoming less distinct, and manufacturers may consider having their office storage furniture tested to EN 16121:2013+A1:2017.
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