A new nationwide standard for upholstered furniture flammability was signed into law on December 27, 2020 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which includes the COVID–19 Regulatory Relief And Work From Home Safety Act. This legislation embraces the California Technical Bulletin (TB 117-2013) for testing the smolder resistance of materials used in upholstered furniture. The California standard has been mandatory in that state since 2015, so the standard should already be on the compliance radar for most national retailers.
TB 117-2013 is intended to assess the flammability of upholstered furniture when exposed to a smoldering cigarette, a common cause of residential fires. TB 117-2013 requires different tests for outer fabric, inner linings, and filling material that simulate a discarded, lit cigarette. Each material is required to survive for an extended period without creating flames or overly smoldering or charring. The previous version of the TB 117 standard also required an open flame test, which had been criticized for forcing manufacturers to use flame retardant chemicals.
The law’s reach extends to most indoor furniture that contains cushioning, pillows, or fabric coverings, but excludes mattresses, bedding, or furniture used exclusively for exercise. The COVID–19 Regulatory Relief And Work From Home Safety Act also limits the ability of states and municipalities to create their own flammability standards for upholstered furniture, insuring a single, nationwide standard.
The full text of TB 117-2013 can be found here. In addition to performance requirements, the law requires products to be labeled with a permanent label that includes the statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered furniture flammability.” The law expressly states there is no requirement to issue a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC).
Furniture flammability has been studied by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for years, but regulators had not previously adopted a standard. In 2016, CPSC staff examined the TB 117-2013 standard and concluded that it “contained a number of limitations that weighed against adopting it as a national standard.” A majority of the Commissioners disagreed and directed staff to work with the state of California to improve and refine TB 117-2013. As recently as September 2019, CPSC staff once again recommended that the CPSC terminate rulemaking for upholstered furniture flammability because TB 117-2013 does not reflect real world conditions, uses inappropriate parameters, and “would not improve the safety of upholstered furniture from the current level.“ Instead, CPSC staff argued, “it would establish, as a national standard, a test method that most manufacturers have met for 40 years.”