Is your fire retardant foam really fire retardant?

In the industrial sector and also in daily life, security and safety is of the utmost importance. Fire protection systems are getting more and more sophisticated in all walks of life. As polyurethane foam has numerous applications in daily life, therefore, it needs to comply with the most strict safety requirements; particularly fire resistance.

There are several situations where fire retardant foam is a necessity:

–          Home furniture in certain countries and states

–          Office and hospitality furniture in certain countries and states

–          Building and construction industry

–          Automotive markets

–          Aviation

–          Public transport (railway or metro)

–          Comfort and bedding sector (hospitals and nursery care)

–          Public places (theaters, cinemas or even conference centers)

Mattresses and furniture cushions are in general made of highly flammable polyurethane foam. In order to meet fire safety guidelines, manufacturers treat this foam with a fire-retardant treatment.

To check whether your fire retardant foam is really fire retardant, you should be aware of the different test standards meant for the fire retardant foam, depending on the country in which you live.

Depending on the country of intended use, there are different grades of fire retardant polyurethane foam that comply with the most strict test standards.

Polyether Fire Retardant foams are the most common and meet the requirements of the standard fire safety regulations in most countries and are available in a variety of grades. These foams are expected to have comparatively higher lifetime properties and are based on the formulations of conventional polyether.

So once you have specified your requirement for fire retardant foam, how do you ensure that the factory will use fire retardant foam on an ongoing basis?  To start, using a trustworthy factory is very important.  If the factory is dishonest, has recently been forced to give a price discount, or has financial problems then they might be motivated to use standard foam instead of fire retardant foam as there is a cost savings.  If their production line is disorganized and not paying attention to the requirements of your PO, they could accidentally use standard foam.  Finally if the factory is used to producing lower end furniture that does not require fire retardant foam, then they might just make an honest mistake and not use fire retardant foam on your order.

Fire retardant foam is generally color coded differently from standard foam, so you can visually see a difference.  The fire retardant properties are tested by exposing the foam to fire from a butane torch for few seconds and can be verified by an independent testing lab.  You can request to have foam from the batch of foam intended for use on your order (make sure you get a lot number) to be tested by an independent lab prior to the factory using the foam. Also, exposing the foam to a lighter at the factory is a quick way to do a field test to ensure the foam is indeed fire retardant.

Having someone on your team to check on these things prior to shipping could be the difference between the fire retardant foam performing as it is suppose to in a high risk situation and someone getting hurt and your company being entangled in a lawsuit.

What do you think?

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