Fire Testing Laboratories and International Standards

Do your products meet the fire testing standards of every country you import to? Learn what you need to know about fire testing standards and lab testing here.

Why Manufacturers Need Fire Testing Conducted in Laboratories

Do your products meet the fire testing standards of the country where you want to import goods?

It can be tricky to determine, for two reasons: the flame testing standards of each county vary, and different types of products require different testing methods and standards.

In this article, we will explain the types of products that need fire testing conducted in laboratories, and what tests to perform.


What is Fire Testing in Manufacturing?

Fire tests, or flammability tests, measure how easily materials ignite, how quickly they burn, and how they react when burned. Fire testing laboratories use various testing methods, depending on international flammability testing standards and the type of material being tested.

These laboratories perform tests on samples of textiles and fabrics in controlled conditions to determine the following:

  • Fire resistance - To determine the ability of materials used in the manufacturing of products to withstand fire or provide protection for a period of time.
  • Flame spread - To measure the propagation of flames away from the source of ignition, across the surface of the sample and evaluate the potential for flames spreading in the event of a fire.
  • Reaction to fire - To evaluate the extent to which a product contributes to fire when exposed to flames.
  • Flashpoint - To determine the temperature required for combustible liquids to catch fire.

Why do Manufacturers Need Fire Testing?

In the US and European markets, there are regulations governing the import and sale of most products, including flammability standards such as the EU Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC. Most other well-developed consumer markets have similar regulations. Therefore, manufacturers and suppliers must use fire testing laboratories to have their products tested and certified to be fit for sale.


Types of Products Which Require Fire or Flammability Testing

Regulations governing fire testing methods vary depending on the type of product and the material it’s comprised of, such as:

  • Clothing textiles and vinyl plastic film for apparel
  • Children’s sleepwear
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Drapes and drapery linings
  • Polymers (plastics) used in electronic products and appliances
  • Fabrics and textiles used in furniture and bedding
  • Interior and exterior building materials
  • Toys

Furniture for the UK market

According to the UK’s Fire Safety Alliance, domestic furniture fires kill 1,500 people a year in Europe and seriously injure a further 15,000. The UK introduced stringent fire safety standards and regulations for upholstered furniture in 1988. The UK and Ireland are the only European member states to adopt such standards for furniture. Sofas and mattresses predominantly fall into this category.

Fire testing of sofas and mattresses measure heat release, smoke release and opacity, combustive gas release, and total mass loss.

This type of flammability test is done by igniting the furniture with a lit cigarette or an open flame to simulate accidental or deliberate fires, and evaluate how the product reacts.

Flammability of fibers used in clothing

The flammability of clothing depends on the fiber, fabric, and design of the garment.

  • Natural Fibers
    • Wool: will catch fire but resists burning and extinguishes itself
    • Cotton: highly flammable, burns rapidly
    • Silk and linen: very flammable, burns rapidly
  • Man-made Fibers - Rayon, acetate, and triacetate: highly flammable (may also melt and cause serious burns) Nylon, polyester, acrylic, and olefin: not highly flammable but may melt and cause serious burns

Children’s sleepwear for the US market

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission demands that all children's sleepwear (pajamas, nightgowns, and robes) manufactured in, or imported into, the United States must meet the Federal standards of flammability by passing the flame test.

Flammable fabrics can be made flame retardant by using inherently flame retardant fibers or by adding a chemical flame retardant finish to the fabrics. However, many flame retardant chemicals are regulated because they can be toxic. In this case, additional chemical testing may be required in order to comply with health, safety, and environmental regulations.

Care Labeling

If flame retardant chemicals are used in the manufacture of garments, proper care instructions for washing and ironing must be added to the clothing labels, informing the consumers on how not to decrease the flame retardant properties.


What Lab Tests Do Manufacturers Need to Conduct and What are the Benefits?

Both domestic manufacturers and importers of consumer products across a wide range of industries must prove that their products satisfy national health and safety standards, making testing and certification essential for successful placement on the market.

Putting your products through fire testing with an accredited third-party product-testing laboratory allows you to qualify for the appropriate certification for your product and the destination market.

By acquiring certification, you also reduce the risk of your product being rejected or recalled from the market for non-compliance. In addition, you mitigate the risk of paying fines or compensation in the event a consumer takes legal action as a result of a fire involving your product.

Destination markets worldwide enforce consumer safety regulations governing fire testing standards. While the testing standards for different countries are similar – heat and/or flame is applied to product samples to measure flame resistance, the spread of flame, and reaction to being burned – each destination market has its own specific fire testing requirements.

Here are the types of flame tests that are generally performed on consumer products and textiles to comply with worldwide consumer protection standards.

Vertical Flammability Testing

A sample of the fabric or textile is held vertically over a bunsen burner for between 10 and 20 seconds. The following observations are made:

  • Length of time the sample burns after the flame is removed
  • How much of the specimen burns
  • Any dripping flaming particles

Horizontal Flammability Testing

This test is used to observe whether the sample material continues to burn after the test flame has been removed. This determines the rate at which the specimen burns.

Flammability of Mattresses and Furniture

Flammability testing of mattresses and furniture is an essential part of ensuring fire safety for consumers. These flammability tests are done in a burn-room to measure heat release, smoke release and opacity, combustive gas release, and total mass loss. This type of fire testing ignites mattresses or furniture with a lit cigarette or a large open-flame to determine how a product will react in cases of accidental and intentional fires.

Garments

Fire testing standards for garments commonly require that strips of fabric from various parts of the garment, including seams and trim, must self-extinguish within a short time, usually about 10 seconds, and will not burn more than a few inches when exposed to a vertical flame. The same garment must meet the same requirements after it has been laundered up to 50 times.

Toys

Toys destined for European markets must comply with specific physical and flammability requirements outlined in the EU Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC.

The directive specifies the categories of flammable material that are prohibited in all toys in order to reduce the risk of burn injuries. The toys considered as presenting the greatest fire risk are: toys to be worn on the face or head such as fake beards, mustaches, wigs, masks, hoods, and headdresses; costumes; soft toys; and toys intended to be entered by a child.

Fire testing for toys verifies the rate that flames spread, or the maximum ‘after-flame time,’ giving the child enough time to drop the toy or become distanced from it before serious injury occurs.

Flame Testing Standards Adopted by Different Countries

If you’re developing a product for a particular regional market, it’s important to be aware of the diverse flame testing standards adopted by individual countries as well as the standards governing particular types of products and industries in those countries. Here’s a list of flame testing standards adopted by different countries.

International Flame Testing Standards

International: IMO FTPC P7 Textiles and films - Fire Test Marine Equipment

An international standard specifically for fabrics and textiles used in the marine industry; a flame is applied to the test sample to determine the burning behavior.


International: IMO FTPC P8 Upholstered Furniture - Fire Test to Marine Equipment

As above, fire testing for upholstery materials for maritime use is subjected to two ignition sources: a smoldering cigarette and a flaming source equivalent to a burning match.

US Flame Testing Standards

USA: NFPA 701

A burner flame is applied to a vertically oriented textile fabric to determine the spread of flame.

USA: NFPA 260A/UFAC Class 1

To simulate chair upholstery being burned by a cigarette.

USA: NFPA 255 / ASTM E 84

For testing red oak and reinforced cement board under a specific fire exposure conditions.

USA: Boston BFD IX-1

A vertical flame test to measure the ignition resistance of a 4" x 12" specimen when exposed to 6" propane torch flame for 10 seconds. After flame, flame propagation distance, and afterglow (propagating and non-propagating) are measured.

USA: CAL 117 Sec.E Part 1 (CS191-53)

To test upholstery materials with a burning cigarette.

USA: FMVSS 302

For testing the flammability of fabrics used for the interior of motor vehicles.

USA: NY Port Authority FAR Part 25.853 - 1992

To specifically measure ignition resistance of a 12" x 12" specimen when subjected to 1.5" vertical flame for 12 seconds, as well as char length, after flame, and drip burn.

European Flame Testing Standards

Europe: EN 13773

As with the UK standard, a flame is applied to a vertically oriented test fabric to determine the burning behavior.

Europe: EN 1021 Part 1 and 2

To examine the burning behavior of fabric exposed to a burning cigarette and a butane flame.

Europe: EN ISO 6940-6941

To determine the mean ignition time and flame spread properties.

UK Flame Testing Standards

UK: BS 5867 part 2 type B and C

A flame is applied to a vertically oriented textile fabric to determine the fire behavior.

UK: BS 5852 source 0, 1,5 (Cigarette, Match) and (Crib 5)

Different ignition sources are applied to a constructed test rig to examine the burning behavior of a test material.

UK: BS 7176

A range of tests to assess resistance to ignition from cigarettes and matches of upholstered furniture for non-domestic seating by testing composites.

Flame Testing Standards in Other Individual European Countries

Austria: Önorm B 3825

To assess the burning behavior of chairs when a flame is applied to the test fabric.

France: NF P 92 503-507 (M1)

Electrical burner test, rate of flame spread test, and dripping test.

Germany: DIN 4102 (B1)

Test the spread of flame over a period of time.

Italy: UNI 9175 (Classe Uno)

For testing the combustion of upholstered furniture with and without flame and/or glow.

Italy: UNI 9177, 9174 and 8456 (Classe Uno)

The spread of flame is measured along the sides of a vertical or horizontal surface of a specimen exposed to a flame and a radiant panel. The afterglow, damaged zone, and dripping are also observed.

Switzerland: SNV 198898

For determining flammability and smoke density.

Flame Testing Standards in Other Countries

Australia and New Zealand: AS 1530 part 2

To test materials that don’t melt or shrink.

Australia and New Zealand: AS 1530 part 3

To test ignitability, flame propagation, heat release, and smoke release from a vertical heat source.

Australia and New Zealand: AS 3744.2

To test upholstery materials subjected to a match-flame.

Australia and New Zealand: AS-NZS 4088.1

To assess the burning behavior of upholstered materials ignited by a burning cigarette.

Canada: CAN/ULC-S109

To determine the relative response of fabrics to a flame under low intensities of fire exposure.

China: GB 20286

To test and assess the burning behavior of fire retarding products and subassemblies in public places.

Japan: JIS L1091

The burning behavior of a specimen is observed when subjected to a flame.

Taiwan: CNS 10285 L3196

For determining flame retardancy properties of textiles and thin building materials, such as plywood.


How Can QIMA Help?

QIMA labs around the world are accredited to carry out the fire testing you need to get your products certified for your destination market. Our product safety professionals will help determine the appropriate fire testing standards for your product and its destination market.

Expertise in all industries

QIMA's product experts and lab technicians are regularly trained in the latest regulations and testing requirements in their fields of specialization, which includes: softlines (garments, footwear, textiles); hardlines (toys, electronics & electrical, cosmetics, jewelry, eyewear); and food industries.

Transparent testing and pricing

When you choose QIMA for your fire testing requirements, you’ll get the exact tests you require, at affordable, all-inclusive prices. You’ll also benefit from instant results, accessible online for your convenience, wherever you are in the world.

Contact us for more information about our lab locations and worldwide services.