Regulatory Compliance

Flammability

A national flammability standard for upholstered furniture advocated by AHFA for more than five years was passed by Congress in December 2020.

The “COVID-19 Regulatory Relief and Work from Home Safety Act” was included in a massive appropriations bill signed into law by President Trump on December 27, 2020. It incorporates all provisions included in the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (SOFFA) drafted by AHFA in 2017.

The new legislation was sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS). It requires the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to adopt California’s Technical Bulletin 117-2013 as a federal flammability standard for residential upholstered furniture.

California TB 117-2013 outlines performance standards and methods for testing the smolder resistance of cover fabrics along with the barrier, filling and decking materials used in upholstered home furnishings. AHFA formally petitioned the CPSC to adopt TB 117-2013 as a national standard in October 2015.

The CPSC evaluated the prospective costs and benefits of TB 117-2013 but, in September 2016, announced it would instead pursue “alternative approaches that address the hazard through a combination of research, education and outreach, and voluntary standards efforts.” But no alternative approaches to the TB 117-2013 standard were ever proposed by the Commission.

AHFA subsequently developed the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act, legislation that would end the CPSC’s 40-year stalemate over upholstered furniture flammability by mandating adoption of California’s TB 117-2013 standard.

SOFFA advanced in the House in 2017 and 2019 but on both occasions stalled in the Senate. Like SOFFA, the new “Regulatory Relief and Work from Home Safety Act” ensures all upholstered furniture sold in the United States will meet a rigorous fire safety threshold. It mandates the best test methods and construction standards known today and will prevent a patchwork of differing state and local regulations.

KEY PROVISIONS

Compliance Date: All residential upholstered furniture sold in the United States must comply with the flammability tests for covered components specified in TB 117-2013 beginning June 25, 2021.

Labeling.  All residential upholstered furniture must have a permanent label with the statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered furniture flammability.” All products should be properly labeled after June 25, 2021.

Recordkeeping. Although the new law does not discuss any recordkeeping requirements, CPSC may specify these during the adoption of the standard. Regardless, companies should consider setting their own policy for recordkeeping. In particular, importers should require overseas manufacturers to provide proof of test results for all covered components and certify that products are properly labeled before shipment.

Sell-through. The law does not discuss any “sell-through” period for products that have not been tested or are not labeled as required. CPSC may allow for a sell-through period in the final standard. Companies should work to sell non-compliant inventories and ensure imported products in transit are properly labeled prior to June 25, 2021.