The LWF Blog
Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Prevention & Furniture and Furnishings – Part 111August 16, 2021 11:52 am
Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 110, LWF discussed industrial operations and fire prevention. In part 111, we look at furniture and furnishings and how the right choices can help prevent fire.
Furniture and furnishings for domestic or non-domestic buildings are covered by different legislation. For domestic environments, upholstered furniture is covered by the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (FFFSR), whereas for non-domestic buildings, it is subject to a fire risk assessment being carried out as per the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO).
Historically, there have been higher standards with regards to furniture fire safety for domestic premises. This is for various reasons – any premises in which a person sleeps are by their nature higher risk. People’s homes are not subject to the same requirements for fire prevention or alarm as non-domestic premises are. The FFFSR places requirements in relation to flammability of domestic furniture and beds.
Non-domestic furniture is required to meet the standards set out in BS 7176, which contains specifications for resistance to ignition of upholstered furniture. The standard lays out four different hazard levels intended for low, medium, high and very high hazard environments. Offices are considered a low-hazard environment; hotels would have an increased risk level. BS 7177 relates to mattresses, mattress pads, divans and bed bases (except mattress protectors). The standards contain guidance on likely classification of occupancies such as offices, public buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools etc.
It would not be acceptable to classify an office as a low-risk where it contained sleeping accommodation of any kind, for example. For this reason, it is important that the following factors are taken into account before deciding which classification level applies to a given building:
- Do people sleep on the premises?
- What level of occupancy is anticipated?
- Will automatic fire protection systems be in place?
- Are there any special hazards on the premises?
- Where is the hazard area in relation to other areas?
- Is staff control over evacuation effective?
- Can occupants escape unaided?
Where material has been imbued with ignition resistance, it should be established if this will be resistant to cleaning processes.
Each element of furniture and furnishings is relevant to fire resistance and many are covered by different British Standards. The correct standards for each element must be ascertained and followed as appropriate in any non-domestic environment and this should be covered by the fire risk assessment carried out for the RRFSO.
In part 112 of this series, LWF will begin to discuss means of escape. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.
Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.
While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.