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U.S. Congress Mandates Federal Compliance of California Flammability Standard for Upholstered Furniture

California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 adopted as federal flammability standard for upholstered furniture to take effect in June 2021.

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February 2, 2021

On Dec.21, 2020, Congress passed The Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (SOFFA), written within Congress recently passed a law mandating nationwide compliance with California’s flammability standard for upholstered furniture. Included as part of the massive COVID-19 appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on December 27, 2020, the mandate incorporates provisions previously proposed in the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (SOFFA), a bill widely supported by the furniture industry. Compliance with the mandate takes effect June 2021.

The industry has been discussing for years whether upholstered furniture should be required to withstand an open flame or just be smolder resistant. Prior to 2014, California required open flame testing on materials, a test difficult to pass without the use of chemical flame retardants. Due to growing concern over health risks associated with exposure to flame retardants, California adopted Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (TB 117-2013), eliminating the open flame test and giving manufacturers the option of smolder resistant fabrics or barriers beneath the fabrics.

What does SOFFA require?

  1. Compliance with the TB 117-2013 performance standard, which provides test methods for smolder resistance of cover fabrics, barrier materials and resilient filling materials for use in upholstered furniture
  2. A permanent label on upholstered furniture with the statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC requirements for upholstered furniture flammability.”

TB 117 is designated as a consumer product safety standard under the federal Flammable Fabrics Act, subject to administration and enforcement by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Despite SOFFA states that compliance is not subject to the testing and certification requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act — meaning that domestic manufacturers and importers do not need to issue certificates of compliance — companies rather remain cautious.  Non-compliance may mean federal enforcement, California enforcement, or even both.

The labeling provision is going to change. That means manufacturers will need to put together approaches for compliant labeling. The effective date of the standard is June 25, 2021. 

Manufacturers should start making preparations to provide the federal certification statement on labels along with the California/TB 117-2013 label language to avoid issues with products manufactured after June 25, 2021.

We will provide further guidance as soon as additional updates are available.

Meanwhile, you may find it useful to view the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20201221/BILLS-116HR133SA-RCP-116-68.pdf.

And, you can contact us for your questions or needs for compliance with flammability requirements for your upholstered furniture.

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