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Labelling domestic upholstered furniture

Correct labelling and record keeping ensures that furniture in the UK retail supply chain can be checked for regulatory compliance.

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 contain specific labelling requirements (in addition to the technical requirements) for covers and fillings. This article describes these labelling requirements for domestic upholstered furniture displayed, sold or supplied in the UK.

In the context of this article, upholstered furniture does not include mattresses or upholstered bed bases.

The requirements apply to all upholstered furniture, and the materials used in them, supplied into the UK domestic (household) market. All upholstered furniture, including headboards, must have both the correct temporary display label and the permanent label.

Display labels (swing tags)

Each item of upholstered furniture must be fitted with a swing tag when on display or sold at a retail outlet. It is either a square green bordered label, if the cover is match resistant, or a red bordered triangular label, if the interliner route (see box 1) to compliance has been followed. The design and wording of both labels is fixed in the legal regulations and fully defined. Figures 1 and 2 show the labels that are specified in the regulations. Note that the requirement to fit a display label does not apply to pillows, scatter cushions and separately-supplied loose covers.

Box 1: The interliner route to compliance

A Schedule 3 interliner is a special fire-resistant material placed between the outer cover and the filling material. Schedule 3 interliners may only be used when the outer cover is composed of at least 75 per cent (individually or in a mixture) by weight of cotton, viscose, modal, flax, silk or wool. When a Schedule 3 fire barrier interliner is used, the cover does not have to pass the match test.

Permanent label

There are two versions of this label permitted. One, known as the ‘full label’, has full details of the supplier and another, called the ‘short label’, does not show the supplier’s details. The permanent label is an information label with some standardised wording and requires additional information that is specific to the product. The ‘full label’, which is often used on furniture imported into the UK, must provide the following information:

An alternative to this is to use a shorter label containing the following information:

Some retailers prefer the furniture to have the shorter label, as this does not reveal the manufacturer’s name. This might be because of own branding within the store. If the shorter label is used, the final supplier (retailer) must retain records of the information that would have been on the longer label but is omitted from the shorter label. Clearly, compliance with the permanent labelling requirements requires liaison between the retailer and the supplier. The main function of the permanent label is to enable 'traceability' back up the supply chain.

Figure 1 (left): Front and back of display label cited in the UK regulations suitable for match-resistant covers. Figure 2 (right): Front and back of display label cited in the UK regulations suitable for non-match-resistant covers and furniture fitted with a compliant Schedule 3 interliner

Provision of information

The first supplier in the UK must maintain records and make them available on request to the UK enforcement agency (trading standards officers) to show how compliance with the regulations has been achieved. This includes the results of any tests that have been carried out on the furniture or its components. Evidence of how these test results relate to particular pieces of furniture must be provided, together with how any record relates to the information given on labels and batch numbers on the furniture.

In other words, there should be complete traceability that will allow a trading standards officer to isolate a specific piece of furniture in a retail store and inspect the available records to check that the materials used in the item have passed the relevant tests. Ideally, test reports should be available.

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