If you provide furniture for residential tenants or students, you’ll undoubtedly have come across the term Crib 5 before. Essentially, having furniture that’s Crib 5 (AKA Ignition Source 5) compliant means your furniture and furnishings have passed UK Fire Regulations. This doesn’t mean items are completely fireproof, but it greatly reduces the risk of ignition, which can save many lives in the long-run.
Statistics show the majority of fire-related deaths (80% in 2016/17), occur in single occupancy dwellings, such as flats, maisonettes and houses. Between 2016 and 2017, there were a total of 334 fire-related deaths across England, with 71 of those fatalities being attributed to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. With numbers that high, it’s no wonder a great deal of effort goes into producing fire resistant furniture to stop flames from spreading and to reduce the death count.
For furniture to meet UK Fire Regulations, they have to pass three tests to be deemed legally compliant. We take a closer look at what’s involved across the three tests and explain the consequences of using furniture that doesn’t meet Regulation standards.
Test One: The Smouldering Cigarette Test
Fires caused by cigarettes are a huge concern worldwide. In the United States alone, one in every 31 cigarette house fires resulted in death, with 43% of those deaths occurring in the living room and 34% in the bedroom.
According to the London Fire Brigade, smoking is the most common cause of fire fatalities, and they urge people to never smoke in bed and to avoid smoking in armchairs and sofas. However, not everyone listens to their advice, which is why furniture needs to pass the smouldering cigarette test.
To pass, a lit cigarette is placed along the crevice of a test rig constructed with furniture materials and is left to burn for its entire length. If the rig doesn’t catch aflame or if no smouldering is observed, the material passes the test and is safe to use.
Test Two: The Match Test
The match test works in a similar vein to the smouldering cigarette test. A lit match is held alongside a crevice of the testing rig for 20 seconds before it’s removed. If no flames arise and if there is no progressive smouldering, the test is recorded as “No ignition,” and the material passes.
Once a material has passed tests one and two, they can then be subjected to Crib 5 procedures. If materials don’t pass these tests, they do not move on to the third.
Test Three: Crib 5
This test is used in relation to upholstery and furniture coverings, and is conducted by building a small crib-like structure from wooden planks that have been glued together. These structures have to be five tiers high to be used in the test — hence the name, Crib 5. Another standard, referred to as Crib 7, is used to test materials that will go into prison cells and high risk environments.
Lint is then attached to the bottom of the structure and propane-diol (a non-flammable liquid) is added. The structure is then ignited with a match.
For a material to pass the Crib 5 test, the flames must extinguish themselves within 10 minutes, and they mustn’t burn to the end of the material or through the padding behind it.
It’s important to remember that different fabrics burn at different rates, and their natural fire resistance will vary as a result. Many materials can be treated to stop flames from spreading, but they will still burn, as only the back of the material is treated. When the flames burn through the surface of the fabric, the treated area will act as a firewall to put the fire out.
Can All Materials Be Made Crib 5 Compliant?
Not all materials can be sprayed with treatment. It can cause the fabric to change colour or deform. This means furniture being made from an unsuitable fabric may require the use of a felt interliner instead, providing the material has still passed the smouldering cigarette and match tests. Alternatively, another fire resistant chemical can be sprayed on top to make sure it’s safe to use in a hospitality setting.
Acrylic and polyester upholstery is difficult to treat with normal solutions, as the less natural fibres a material has, the less fireproof it usually is.
There’s no way of determining beforehand whether a treated fabric will pass the Crib 5 test, even if similar materials have been approved for use. Materials undertake a rigorous process of testing under different conditions to ensure before being awarded Crib 5 status.
What are the Consequences of Using Non-Compliant Furniture?
All hospitality businesses have to adhere to UK Fire Regulations, so it’s important to check your furniture if you manage:
- Rental properties
- University accommodation
- Bed & Breakfasts
- Holiday parks
- Health care centres
Government legislation dictates that it’s an offence to use materials that haven’t passed safety regulations. If your furniture doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, you could be faced with a £5,000 fine for each item that doesn’t comply, plus a six-month prison sentence. What’s more, your insurance company will nullify your policy in the event of a fire, meaning you could stand to lose a huge amount financially.
In a worst case scenario, you could face a criminal charge if anyone dies in your property as a result of negligence.
What’s the Best Way to Ensure You’re Compliant?
While the consequences of using any piece of furniture that doesn’t pass the cigarette, match and Crib 5 tests can be dire, there are very few furniture providers out there who actually sell non-compliant products.
At LOFT, we pride ourselves on supplying landlords and student accommodation providers with the highest quality furniture in terms of comfort, style, practicality, and most importantly, safety. We’re always happy to prove our product credentials, so you can be sure that choosing us to provide furnishings for your rental property will keep things safe and compliant.
LOFT is often relied upon to safely furnish PBSA & HMO properties, meaning we are best-suited to ensuring any student property developments you have underway meet UK regulations. LOFT will gladly assist in the detailed specification development for any project, through design consultation and our specialist in-house procurement team who will source products to meet your compliance, performance and style needs.