Foam-filled furniture product safety policy statement

Petrochemical foams used in domestic furniture pose significant risks in a fire. The foam contributes to the speed, spread, severity and survivability of domestic fires.

Background

The majority of domestic furniture in New Zealand is foam-filled. The foams used can catch fire at relatively low temperatures, burn quickly and intensely, and emit suffocating poisonous smoke that can spread fire quickly through a home.

Tip Icon Orange2 Note

An average 3-piece foam-filled furniture (FFF) suite has the combustible potential of 10 litres of fuel and in a fire poses a high risk for harm or death through burns and/or inhalation of toxic gases.

Even though most homes have smoke alarms they aren’t always active. Even if alarms are active, the speed that foam burns and the quantity of suffocating toxic smoke produced can outpace a person’s ability to respond to an alarm.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) foam-filled furniture fire demonstration

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) demonstrate how intensely foam-filled furniture burns. The petrochemical foams used in most furniture contributes to the speed, spread, severity and survivability of a domestic fire. In less than 2 minutes the fire could be survivable. This is why the New Zealand government is asking the furniture industry to manufacture, source and supply more fire safe furniture.

What is a product safety policy statement?

A product safety policy statement (PSPS) is a regulatory tool that gives industry the opportunity and flexibility to respond to the identified issues and deliver on the outcomes sought, ie furniture that is more fire safe. A PSPS aims to achieve the desired outcomes without the need for legislative intervention which can be more restrictive.

If the industry or parts of the industry do not move to address the issues then regulatory interventions will be considered to ensure that the risks are mitigated across the market.

What can you do as a furniture supplier

The PSPS for foam-filled furniture aims to advise the New Zealand furniture industry of the risks associated with these products in a fire and outlines the government’s expectation that suppliers (importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers) respond by making sure that the foam-filled furniture products they supply are more fire safe.

Unsure where to start? Some of the options available include:

Tip Icon Orange2 Note

Evidence is emerging that older flame retardant chemical technologies, such as organohalogens, present hazards to consumers, and combustion products from some flame retardants pose hazards to fire-fighting personnel.

We also encourage the industry to look to develop novel solutions to achieve the desired outcomes. Designing these around schemes established overseas, such as that in Californian model, will mean that the solution could have international market appeal.

What you can tell consumers while you make safer furniture available

While you are working toward supplying more fire safe foam-filled furniture, you should encourage your consumers/customers to follow the advice from Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) – ensure that they have:

  • working smoke alarms, and
  • an escape plan.

Check out the 'At home' fire safety advice section on the FENZ website(external link).

What is Trading Standards' role?

We are committed to working with the industry to achieve the outcomes set out in the PSPS – that is to improve the fire safety of domestic foam-filled furniture products.

We want to work with individuals and businesses to identify and develop ways to deliver safer furniture. As our understanding builds we will share the knowledge and tools developed to support the industry as a whole.

We are looking at the potential for a labelling scheme that suppliers can use to show customers that their furniture is safer in a fire. If you are interested in the labelling approach email us your details and we will keep you in the loop.

The product safety policy statement (PSPS)

This is the official version of the PSPS for foam-filled furniture.

Product Safety Policy Statement Foam-filled furniture [PDF, 406 KB]

The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Hon Kris Faafoi, announced the Foam-Filled Furniture policy statement in July 2019.

Beehive website media release - Commerce and Consumer Affairs - Fire risk of foam-filled furniture(external link)

NZIER cost benefit analysis

As part of the regulatory development process, MBIE engaged the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research (NZIER) to undertake an independent analysis of the costs and benefits of introducing a product safety standard for fire-retardant foam furniture (the CBA). We are pleased to make this valuable research available.

Burning couches: A cost-benefit analysis on regulating for fire retardants in foam furniture (NZIER 2019) [PDF, 1.2 MB]