By Pat Martin, SPSC Executive Director
Our industry is facing a critical fork in the road on flammability. We are in the tough position of working through an open–flame regulation in California – scheduled to be issued by January 2004 – while anticipating a federal open–flame standard from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It’s a crisis that calls on us to pool our best thinking and resources, to develop a common goal and to speak with a single voice.
Thankfully, when the federal law is promulgated, it will preempt the California statute. But we still face an unknown period of time during which the California regulation will be in effect prior to the implementation of the federal standard. We are hopeful that California and the CPSC will work together to make the transition to a unified, national regulation seamless in terms of the compliance requirements for mattress producers.
With the support of income from mattress safety hangtag sales and the efforts of countless industry volunteers, the Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) has worked hard so that these regulatory activities will be in sync. To achieve that goal, our focus has been on pursuing sound scientific research in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology over the past four years. NIST’s work will help us contribute to a meaningful improvement in our products’ fire performance and to do it without imposing an unreasonable burden on our industry.
One of the results of the SPSC’s work with NIST is the development of a specialized burner for use in open–flame compliance testing of our products. Currently, the California Bureau of Home Furnishings is considering whether to use the NIST burner or a different burner used with the current TB–129 burner. The SPSC has taken a formal position that the NIST device, designed specifically to replicate the type of ignition that mattresses face with burning bedclothes, is the more appropriate choice for a residential standard. The TB–129 burner was developed in California to mimic fires originating from a wastebasket in institutional settings.
As an industry, it is vital that we continue to speak with a unified voice, encouraging California to give full consideration to the excellent work done by NIST and urging state and federal regulators to coordinate with each other in setting their new mattress standards. By taking this approach, we again will have served our industry’s best interests and substantially improved residential fire safety in American homes, just as we did over 25 years ago when the federal cigarette–ignition standard was first developed and implemented.