California releases draft flammability standard

By Gordon Damant

On Feb. 24, 2003 the California Bureau of Home Furnishings issued its proposed rule for the open–flame resistance of residential bed sets.

The CBHF’s proposed rule for the open–flame resistance of residential bed sets includes the following information:

  • The CBHF has proposed the test method developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The NIST test method was developed as a result of several the Sleep Products Safety Council. Specifically the CBHF’s proposal will require bed sets to be tested by the NIST Dual Burner system, under the ignition conditions developed during the first phase of the NIST research.
  • The CBHF proposes a pass/fail criterion of 150 kW. To put this proposal into perspective, mattresses constructed to comply with California Technical Bulletin 129 for use in public buildings must meet a criterion of 100 kW. However the criterion for TB 129 is for a mattress test only, whereas the CBHF’s new proposal will require both the mattress and foundation, when used, to be tested as a set.
  • The bureau is proposing that the duration of the test be 60 minutes. This is consistent with the length of test required by TB 129. However, the International Sleep Products Association and the SPSC hoped for, and suggested, a test duration of 30 minutes. The longer test duration would double the testing capacity of the limited number of test laboratories currently capable of performing the new NIST test.
  • The CBHF indicated that the formal rule relating to bed set flammability would have an effective of Jan. 1, 2004.
  • A separate flammability rule outlining the bureau’s proposal for bedclothes will be published in April, with a probable effective date of April 2004.

Where we go from here

Now that the California Bureau of Home Furnishings has proposed a flammability test method and standard for residential bed sets, a rule–making process has commenced that will involve the following key steps:

  • Feb. 24 was the start date for a 45–day public comment period related to the CBHF’s proposal. During the public comment period, any interested party may file formal written comments with the bureau, or may file written comments and testify at public hearings. A hearing in Northern California will be held Tuesday, April 22, at 10 a.m. at the Edmund G. Brown Building in San Francisco. The hearing for Southern California will be held on Thursday, April 24, at 10 a.m. at the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar, Calif. The 45–day public comment period will terminate with the Southern California public hearing.
  • Following the public comment period, the bureau reviews the comments received. After review of the comments, if the bureau then decides to amend the original proposal, an amended proposal is published with another public comment period of 15 days. However, comments are restricted to the proposed amendment and typically no additional public hearings are scheduled.
  • If the bureau decides, either following the initial 45–day public comment period, or a subsequent 15–day comment period, that it does not intend to further amend the proposed regulation, then the bureau proceeds to develop its final rule–making file.
  • Upon completion of the rule–making file the bureau submits the file to the California Office of Administrative Law , who has 30 business days to review the file to ensure that the bureau has followed all of the legal requirements for rule–making under California law.
  • When and if the OAL finds the rule–making file to be fully in compliance with legal requirements the regulation is adopted by the bureau and filed with the Secretary of State’s office to become effective on the day specified in either the law or the regulation – in this case currently Jan. 1, 2004.

Mattress makers response

If the schedule follows that outlined above, and assuming no delay in the implementation of the standard, mattress makers supplying bed sets into California on and after Jan. 1, 2004 will be required to comply with the new flammability requirements. Products manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 2004 will not be covered by the new flammability standard. Therefore, California retailers will be permitted to sell merchandise in stock that was manufactured prior to the Jan. 1, 2004 compliance date.

To avoid confusion and potential problems relating to the date that specific bed sets are made, we suggest that manufacturers selling into the California market may want to confirm that they can accurately distinguish between pre–effective–date and post–effective–date mattresses. Under the existing federal smoldering cigarette mattress standard, mattress manufacturers already must indicate on their products when and where they produced the mattress; for example, by placing the date of manufacture on the law tag. Given the upcoming AB 603 standard in California, manufacturers may want to confirm that their product dating process is operating correctly.

These latest developments, along with the current mattress flammability activities of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, are additional evidence of the critical need for mattress producers to immediately start addressing the important technical and manufacturing challenges that will be required to achieve full compliance with these new flammability requirements. Although we are still unsure of the timing of the next step in the federal rule–making process at CPSC, it is not unrealistic to expect that all bed sets manufactured for sale in the U.S. will be required to comply with an open–flame test within the next 12 to 24 months. We also anticipate that the CPSC test standard will be similar to California’s.

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