Summary: Broad Answer – it is a watersoak plus ‘normal crib 5’ plus cigarette test plus match test. Now read on for the detail.
For contract upholstery fabric in the UK your fabric normally needs to be treated to pass BS 5852 Part 2: 1990: Source 5 (Crib 5). So when you are getting a fabric treated you should ask for it to be treated to that standard. As a designer that is all you should normally have to do.
Now, you have to get the treatment undertaken at a UKAS accredited company. That means they will do it properly. There are a variety of ways of treating fabrics to meet the standard. You don’t need to know them all, that is the job of the treatment house. Just tell them what standard it needs to achieve AND that you will be getting it tested independently afterwards (that encourages them to do it properly). For safety also say that the fabric will be subject to a watersoak (more of that in a minute).
The reason for doing this is that some older treatment methods are ‘legal’ within the BS but they can fail the test. This is because the treatments can contain phosphorous based chemicals that wash out. And the problem with that is that, if a fabric is not inherently fire retardant, then part of the test will involve it being soaked in water. Hence all the hard work put into the treatment is washed away and the test may well be failed.
Some treatment houses do not have some of the more expensive machinery required to undertake some of the treatments. They just immerse in a fire retardant bath of chemicals.
As part of the treatment some treatment companies will also carry out an indicative test. You should get a certificate to confirm this after treatment. This means that essentially your fabric should pass the crib test. But the crib test itself has not been carried out as that takes a while.
You probably need to check with your client/fire officer if they are happy with this indicative test or if they want to pay the extra to have the full crib 5 test done with the time delays that involves.
It’s a fire regulation. You have to do this properly and take it seriously, you would be surprised that several companies do not and the repercussions of not doing it are great indeed.
In summary then and as a minimum you should:
1. Ensure you are dealing with a UKAS accredited treatment company.
2. Say “Please treat this fabric to pass BS 5852 Part 2: 1990: Source 5 (Crib 5)”
3. Say “It will be watersoaked and tested afterwards.
4. Say “Please perform an indicative test at the end of the treatment and give me a certificate of treatment”
Well, actually no. What I have said above stands as generally true. Most of the UK fabric companies and designers work with Crib 5. However there is a slightly higher level of testing and certification called BS7176:1995. Strictly speaking I would say that everyone should use this standard…but they don’t.
When would you use this? When a bit more certainty is required. The BS7176:1995 test includes the Crib 5 test and also a cigarette and match test and also a watersoak. When specifying the test you would need to say how the fabric will be used e.g. in a hotel, in a prison, in a restaurant, in a hospital, offshore installation, and so on. These types of end-usage environments determine the HAZARD CATEGORY of the test that is undertaken. Additionally you will need to specify the EXACT upholstery foam that will be used in the installation, so the test will mimic the final end-use environment as much as possible.
So do you ask for your fabric to be treated to BS7176:1995 Medium Hazard? Well you can, it won’t hurt. But the treatment will be the same as for Crib 5. Some of the UK fabric treatments houses that we spoke to have not heard of this British Standard, which was surprising.
So really it is ‘simple enough’ as far as the treatment goes. Treat to Crib 5.
Testing is more complicated. Essentially you are getting the fabric tested to ensure it will work in a specific situation YOUR SPECIFIC PROJECT’s SITUATION – as we’ve already said the treatment is the same as for Crib 5. If you are in a complex environment you should get an expert involved. My understanding also is that if you are planning to sell furniture to the contract market then achieving a BS7176 pass will allow you to label your product as being suitable for certain environments.