Fire safety is a complex and case specific area, which is further complicated by the many stakeholders involved. Expectations are influenced by stakeholders such as regulators, specifiers, industry bodies, fire engineers, insurers, competitive forces and market conventions.
Despite this complexity, there are two clear conflicting agendas, one for and one against the use of fire retardants in commercial furniture.
Incidents like the Grenfell Tower tragedy have highlighted the public safety agenda and the case for improving safety by making fire standards more stringent and increasing the use of fire retardant or combustion modified materials in buildings, furniture and fittings.
On the other side of the equation, we are seeing a global movement away from the use of liquid fire retardants in consumer goods, furniture, fittings and building materials. This movement is fundamentally driven by businesses investing in consumer, employee and workspace wellbeing, the drive for lower VOC’s and clean working environments, as well as acknowledgement of the detrimental impact that liquid fire retardants can have on the environment at end of life.
The United Nations’ Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) has listed four Brominated fire retardants as persistent pollutants. Environmentally and socially responsible businesses will have discontinued the use of these materials due to the risk they pose to our environment at end-of-life disposal or within stewardship programs which may seek to recover and recycle the materials. Three of these compounds are PBDEs which the import or manufacture of, was prohibited in Australia in 2006.
Trisphosphates and halogenated fire retardants are assessed individually and are still being used within our industry in Australia. Local bodies have recommended further research, and in some cases restrictions and controls on these compounds. The case is similar globally with the European Commission introducing labelling requirements and enforcing restrictions or banning the use of some of these materials in children’s toys, medical implants, cosmetics, construction materials, and pregnancy and breastfeeding products.
Globally green building certifiers such as WELL impose limits and restrictions on the use of halogenated fire retardants. However, Australian certifiers and bodies are yet to catch up. Perhaps due to the challenge in meeting both the fire safety expectations and environmental and wellbeing standards.
To meet fire compliance obligations, expectations of stakeholders and to keep people safe, Australian manufacturers of furniture, foam, and textiles for commercial applications have voluntarily adopted a UK fire safety standard; BS5852-Source 5, which looks at the ignitability properties of the furniture composite. In order to achieve these requirements liquid flame-retardant chemicals, such as halogenated or brominated compounds have needed to be used in the production of furniture components.
The public fire safety agenda has significant merit; however, it is environmentally unsustainable to continue to address these requirements with liquid fire retardants. The AFA supports companies that innovate as the best approach to reconciling this paradox.
Innovation and the production of polyurethane foam with the least environmental impact and using the most sustainable processes, are the core philosophies of Joyce Foam Products for more than a decade. We are the Australian leaders in this field, and our customers have come to rely on the superior environmental reputation and credentials of using Joyce foam in their products.
Over the past twelve-months Joyce has invested over $1 million in the development of a new range of foams designed to address this issue. Joyce’s new Ultimate Comfort is a range of combustion modified, high resilience (CMHR) commercial furniture foams, that achieve the stringent fire safety expectations of the Australian market, without the use of brominated, trisphosphate, or halogenated fire retardants. In addition to the environmental benefits, the removal of liquid fire retardants from the chemistry has provided improvements in durability, resilience, and reduced hardness variation.
Joyce is proud to be one of the first companies in the world to have successfully commercialised such a range.
For further information on Joyce or the new Ultimate Comfort foam range please get in touch with our Customer Service team on 1800 021 304 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.