Fire risk of foam-filled furniture addressed
Hon Kris Faafoi
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
17 July 2019 PĀNUI PĀPĀHO
The Government has taken steps to improve New Zealanders safety by making furniture safer and reducing the high levels of toxic smoke it could emit in fires, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said today.
Manufacturers and retailers must now find ways to make products safer and a Product Safety Policy Statement (PSPS) has been enacted.
“Simply, we need to make this furniture safer because it is in every home in New Zealand,” Kris Faafoi says.
“About 80% of new and existing household furniture in New Zealand is foam-filled, including lounge suites, some mattresses, and seats. These are highly flammable when ignited and the foam can catch fire at relatively low temperatures, burn quickly and intensely, and emit suffocating poisonous smoke that can spread quickly through a home.
“Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) ran a demonstration for me and I saw first-hand how this foam-filled furniture can play a significant role in domestic fire risk,” Kris Faafoi said.
“The product safety statement we have now enacted is the first step to improving this situation, as currently there is no requirement to inform consumers about the potential fire danger of FFF products or impetus for manufacturers to move to safer foam products. This gives a chance for industry to lead and deliver on this initiative without the need for regulation.
“My hope is that manufacturers start adopting safer foam materials, retailers use better labelling and sell safer furniture products and importers bring in safer products.”
The PSPS is backed by FENZ experience and international research, which identifies FFF products as playing a significant role in the speed and severity of domestic fires.
An average 3-piece FFF suite has the combustible potential of 10 litres of fuel and is a high risk for harm or death through burns and/or inhalation of toxic gases.
Coroner’s reports show that more people die of smoke inhalation than of burns from the flames. From 2006–2016, the total number of deaths during residential structure fires was 177 and from 2012-2017, there were 1227 fire related injuries.
“We have already received a strong response from FENZ in support of the improvement to fire safety standards and we will continue to work with them to ensure better safety outcomes for consumers,” Kris Faafoi says.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has consulted with the furniture industry and will be monitoring its uptake of the PSPS over the next two years.
“Retailers and manufacturers have an opportunity to make the lives of consumers safer. If they don’t act, we will consider enacting a regulatory regime at that stage.”