If you have been researching different options for upholstered office furniture, you may have noticed that the phrases CAL 117 and CAL 133 keep coming up. While it is all too easy for consumers to ignore these signifiers, and chalk them up to a manufacturer’s label that doesn’t mean much, these labels are something you need to pay attention to. The safety of you and your co-workers is at stake.
What is the CAL 117 rating?
California Technical Bulletin 117, otherwise known as CAL 117 for short, is a regulation that sets the standard for upholstered furniture flammability in the furniture industry. While the regulation is only legally binding in the state of California, it has become a nationwide standard because the state represents such a huge market. CAL 117 requires that certain materials that are used in residential furniture pass both an open flame and smolder test.
How is upholstered furniture tested?
The tests are conducted within a closed test chamber where technicians can measure how quickly the open flame spreads and grows. The smolder test involves placing a lit cigarette on the furniture and measuring the length of the char that forms. Technicians also measure the amount of heat, smoke and carbon monoxide that is generated. Once the results have been recorded, they are then compared to specific criteria and a successful score will result in a certification for the manufacturer.
History of CAL 117 and Current Requirements
The requirement was originally issued in 1975 to protect consumers from purchasing products that had the potential to easily catch fire and act as an accelerant. The first set of standards dealt mostly with the filling materials, but since most fires don’t begin on the inside. In 2015, the newly revised version shifted the focus to cover materials and how they interact with filling. CAL 117 now comes with the following requirements:
- Upholstery cover fabrics, filling materials and other materials must pass certain smolder resistant requirements.
- If these components do not meet flammability standards, then a barrier material must be added for protection.
- Flame retardant chemicals can be added to furniture although they are subject to their own set of requirements.
- Manufacturers who don’t comply with flammability or labeling regulations are subject to a series of fines and will be required to cover the cost of further compliance testing.
There are some exceptions, such as for furniture that will be used exclusively outdoors. Otherwise, you will want to be on the lookout for products that come with a CAL 117 label. This indicates that you are investing in a product that meets certain standards and a manufacturer who cares about their customers.
What is the CAL 133 rating?
California Bulletin 133 is similar to CAL 117, except that it specifically regulates the flammability of furniture that will be used in “public spaces.” This includes both government buildings and offices owned by private companies that will house ten or more people. It was initially put in place to protect workers and buildings from stray cigarettes starting fires. While it has been a long time since it was acceptable or even legal to sit and enjoy cigarettes at your desk, CAL 133 is still used to set the standard for flammability across the country.
CAL 133 also involves passing a specially designed lab test, however, it differs from CAL 117 in that the entire piece of furniture must be tested rather than just a few select components. This presents a challenge for manufacturers because there are any number of combinations of fabrics, padding and frame materials that can be used to create furniture. Each and every combination must pass the CAL 133 requirements.
Are there CAL 133 exceptions?
As you might expect, CAL 133 is a complicated document that contains a lot of details. One notable exception is that buildings with certain sprinkler systems in place may not be required by city ordinances to only use CAL 133 certified furniture. However, regulations vary from state to state and city to city.
Who does CAL 117 and 133 effect?
If you are a business owner or office manager tasked with outfitting your building with the right furniture that both meets your practical needs and creates the right look, then you need to be aware of these regulations. In addition, you need to do your research and make sure that you are shopping for products that meet a variety of ordinances and local fire agency requirements.
A little preparation ahead of time will help ensure that you pass the necessary inspections and are able to avoid any costly delays. If you special order furniture, you may be required to foot the bill for the cost of a sample piece of furniture and the cost of a burn test, which typically runs between $400 and $600. That additional cost may be enough to motivate certain buildings to opt for pre-designed office and waiting room chairs that have already been put through the necessary testing process.
CAL 117 and CAL 133 might not fall under the category of common knowledge, but they represent important regulations and testing protocols that work to protect consumers. While these regulations may place extra burdens on manufacturers and building managers, they significantly reduce how quickly fire will spread throughout a home or public building. Be sure to lookout for these labels as you shop for residential and commercial furniture. If you have more questions, you can contact a CAL specialist.
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- How-To: Picking The Proper Upholstery For Your Office Furniture
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