WORDS ON FIRE
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by Timothy Jacobs

 

Flammability Updates & News

It’s Here—Cal TB 603 is in Effect; Hints for Retailers; Interesting News at the Federal Level; the Latest on Bedding Flammability and More

Time, Politics and Flammability Law

It is hard to believe that the year 2004 has flown by so fast! At year’s end 2003, the Democrats were still trying to figure out whom they would feed into the election apparatus, and we all had at least one more year to plan our strategies for complying with the new flammability laws that were looming for 2005 and beyond.

Well, here we are in 2005, yet it appears that the post-election news is good for the business community: with Republican hegemony, the political climate in the good old USA should be especially business-friendly. For example, the Bush Administration’s American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 gave manufacturers more R&D tax deductions, improved the tax laws for manufacturers regarding foreign income and showed a business-friendly aspect in many other ways. In this past election, in addition to retaining the presidency, Republicans gained four seats in the Senate and four seats in the House, with sizable majorities in both.

Then again, those of us who sell futons in the state of California, as well as those who sell futons to consumers in California, now must ante up. California Technical Bulleting 603 is officially in effect as of January 1, 2005.

Testing Labs That Can Do the Dual-Burner Testing Required of the New Standard
• California Bureau of Home Furnishings (BHFTI), c/o John McCormack, North Highlands, Calif., Phone 916-574-2057
• National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), c/o Tom Ohlemiller, Gaithersburg, Md., Phone 301-975-6481
• Omega Point Laboratories, c/o Chip Haby, Elmendorf, TX, Phone 210-635-8118
• U.S. Testing, c/o Jeff Simmons, Tulsa, Okla., Phone 918-437-8333
• Govmark, c/o Steve Winn, Farmingdale, N.Y., 631-293-8944
• Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Northbrook, Ill., c/o Bob Backstrom, 847-272-8800
• Twin City Testing, c/o Brent L. Larson, St. Paul, Minn., Phone 651-659-7275

California Bureau Advice to Retailers

The California Bureau of Home Furnishings & Thermal Insulation offers the following advice about TB 603 to retailers in California.

Enforcement of TB 603 will be done by state inspection of retail stores, beginning, of course, in 2005. To pass the inspection, all products covered under the law must have the labeling prescribed by law. All business records (such as invoices) must be available to the inspectors when they come by. Among other things, such records will be important to verify the manufacture date of your merchandise, because all "merchandise manufactured after January 1, 2005 must be TB 603 compliant."

Also, do not forget that futons and mattresses still must meet the testing, documentation and labeling requirements of 16 CFR 1632, and futons (accounted as dual-use furniture by the state) must also comply with California Technical Bulletin 117.

BHFTI adds the following warning: "Violations could result in the retailer being cited, fined, ordered to withhold products from sale and having its license revoked."

You Need to Know This

Make sure that your manufacturer certifies that all the mattresses, box spring sets and futons they sell you that were manufactured on or after January 1, 2005, comply with TB 603 and are labeled appropriately. BHFTI emphasizes the manufacturer’s role but will hold you, the retailer, responsible for buying only products that are manufacturer-certified and labeled. Here I quote BHFTI’s bulletin on the subject. "Only products certified by the manufacturer to pass the Technical Bulletin 603 test can lawfully be labeled: ‘This product meets the requirements of the California Bureau of Home Furnishings Technical Bulletin 603.’ Other labeling requirements remain unchanged. The tag must be visible to consumers when they shop." Inspectors will be looking for all of this.

On the other hand, products that were manufactured to meet the TB 603 standard but were manufactured before January 1, 2005, are not accountable for being labeled as such. To be sure, consult your manufacturer’s guarantees and records. Remember, you must have this documentation on hand, showing the manufacturer’s guarantee that the merchandise is TB 603 compliant.

Also, faking compliance can bring serious consequences. The BHFTI bulletin makes a point of stating, "It is illegal to affix a law label to products that do not meet the TB 603 fire-safety standard."

About Your Pre-2005 Inventory

Your existing inventory no doubt includes products manufactured before January 1, 2005. These pre-2005 items must meet the flammability and labeling requirements that were in effect when they were manufactured. However, they do not come under the jurisdiction of TB 603, and you can sell them even after January 1, 2005.

BHFTI also stresses the following points: only products that are certified by the manufacturer to meet TB 603 can legally be advertised or described as meeting the standard. Also, if you didn’t catch the full drift of what compliance is about, it will be illegal to sell newly manufactured merchandise to California consumers "if the products are not certified to meet TB 603 and labeled accordingly."

A Full List of Items Accountable to TB 603, and Exemptions

The California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation has provided the following complete list of items that must meet the requirements of TB 603:
"The law applies to all mattresses, mattress/box springs sets and futons, regardless of where they were manufactured. If the product was manufactured after Jan. 1, 2005, and is being sold in California, it must comply with TB 603." The list goes on to include "mattress sets (including all-foam types and quilted air beds); adjustable mattresses; crib and bassinet mattresses; day beds; mattress alone (designed to be sold without the foundation); futons, including flip chairs; hybrid flotation and hybrid airbed ensembles; rollaway and hide-a-beds; sofa sleeper mattresses, only if detachable; Murphy wall beds with detachable mattress; trundle beds with detachable mattress; and remanufactured, ‘renovated’ (or recovered) mattresses."

Items exempted from adherence to TB 603 are: "Camping pads/mats for outdoor use; traditional airbeds and bladder water beds without quilting; infant car beds/pads; and sofa sleepers where the mattress is not detachable." But—sorry, guys, "sofa sleepers" here does not mean "futon sofa sleepers."

What Types of Businesses Are Responsible to TB 603?

The California BHFTI states that every business that wholesales, imports or retails bedding and upholstered furniture to California consumers must adhere to TB 603 and must be licensed by BHFTI.

Contact Information for California TB 603

For more details, contact: The California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation, 3485 Orange Grove Ave., North Highlands, CA 95660-5595, log onto the BHFTI website at http://www.bhfti.ca.gov, e-mail to www.bhfti.ca.gov or phone (916) 574-2041.

The California Bedding Standard Also Progresses

The California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation is currently developing flammability regulations for filled bedding products. Such products include, according to a BHFTI draft of what is known as TB 604, "comforters, quilted duvet covers, quilted bed pads, bedspreads, bed pillows and bed-rest cushions, mattress pads, quilted bed shams, quilted pillowcases, padded headboards, foam topper pads (covered and bare), etc."

This developmental work includes the drafting of a "Technical Bulletin 604" product-testing standard. BHFTI assures us that "textiles, such as sheets, pillowcases and blankets, are not covered by the proposed standard, nor does the Bureau regulate them." Representatives from industry, trade associations and testing labs are helping to develop the proposed standard and are working with BHFTI to develop "an achievable, scientifically sound and economically viable technical standard."

You can get a look at an October 1, 2004, draft of the TB 604 test procedure and apparatus document in their website link for TB 604. For example, Section 1.2 of this document stipulates that "the method tests a sample of the filling material enclosed in standard sheeting fabric or in its actual fabric. The test specimen is placed on a horizontal cement board on a weighing device and ignited on one corner with a small open flame. Weight loss is recorded and used to assess the performance of the specimen under these test conditions."

Section 1.11 gives us the Pass/Fail criteria, as follows:
"Foam: The specimen fails to meet the requirements of this test procedure if either of the following conditions is reached: 1) The average gross (fabric and fill) weight loss percentage of triplicate samples exceeds 25.0% in 6.0 minutes; 2) The weight loss percentage of any individual specimen exceeds 30.0% in 6.0 minutes.

"Other Filling Materials: The specimen fails to meet the requirements of this test procedure if any of the following conditions is reached: 1) The average gross (fabric and fill) weight loss of triplicate samples at 3.0 minutes exceeds 25.0 g; 2) The average gross (fabric and fill) weight loss percentage of triplicate samples exceeds 30.0% in 6.0 minutes; 3) The weight loss percentage of any individual specimen exceeds 35.0% in 6.0 minutes."

BHFTI’s TB 604 bulletin also states, "The task force and BHFTI are nearing completion of this work. Release of a proposed Technical Bulletin 604 standard and subsequent public work review is planned." For a hard copy of the draft TB 604, e-mail your request to contactbhfti@dca.ca.gov." (Or see the BHFTI contact information given previously in this column.)

The US CPSC Staff Has Issued Recommendations to Commissioners on the Upcoming National Mattress Standard and Also Recommends Proposed Rulemaking on a National Bedclothes Standard

On November 1, 2004, the staff of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission presented the CPSC Commissioners with a "Draft Proposed Fire Safety Standard for Mattresses." The staff also recommended an "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" to develop a flammability standard for bedclothes. The Commissioners are now considering the Draft Proposed Standard and will vote on whether to publish it in the Federal Register. The timeline for this action is not now known, although it is commonly felt that a new federal standard will not be forthcoming before 2006. (And, of course, the Commissioners are also considering whether to go ahead with the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.)

The "Draft Proposed Fire Safety Standard" is actually Tab K of a very interesting document, produced by the CPSC staff, called "Briefing Package, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Flammability (Open Flame) of Mattresses and Foundations and Options for Addressing Bedclothes Involvement in Mattress/Bedding Fires" (available at www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia05/brief/briefing.html).

Among other interesting options posed to the Commissioners by the CPSC staff were such as that "the mattress must not exceed a 200 kilowatt (kW) peak heat release rate within the 30 minutes of the test, and the total energy released must be less than 15 megajoules (MJ) for the first 10 minutes of the test. Materials are commercially available that can be used to produce comfortable, practical and reasonably priced mattresses with significantly improved fire performance."

Note that the proposed parameters are tilting toward the California TB 603 standard (which, among other requirements, requires a 30-minute test, while the CPSC thinking had to this point been leaning toward a very rigorous 60-minute test). This, among other positive propositions (shared prototype testing and fairly open, results-oriented testing criteria), makes this document a highly worthwhile "read" for any concerned industry member. Then again, this is not yet a finished standard—the CPSC Commissioners have decisions to make. All we can do is try to anticipate and prepare as best we can.
In addition to the web address given above, you can log on to the US CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov, or call their information office at 301-504-7908.

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