Trade Advice Document
Trading advice from several sources is available to help businesses comply with the law.
The Health and Safety Executive website has advice on:
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute provides advice on a number of topics:
Second-hand upholstered furniture
In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
Used upholstered furniture is subject to stringent safety standards. Regulations cover the flammability of upholstered furniture (including beds, sofa beds, cots, cushions and mattresses).
In general, the safety provisions require that upholstery must pass the cigarette test, fillings must be fire retardant and the covers must pass the match test. Upholstered furniture and mattresses that meet the requirements of the Regulations should carry permanent labels (with a few exceptions).
Under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, used furniture must meet the same stringent standards as new furniture on sale in the shops.
The Regulations apply to furniture that is intended for private use indoors, including beds, divans, sofa beds, children's furniture, cots, cushions, high chairs, mattresses and pillows. They also cover outdoor furniture that is suitable for indoor use (such as upholstered dining sets for use in conservatories and gardens).
As stated above, the safety provisions require that upholstery must pass the cigarette test, fillings must be fire retardant and the covers must pass the match test. However, some of these requirements are relaxed or varied for mattresses, bed bases, pillows, cushions and insulated bags for carrying infants under the age of six months.
The following are excluded from the controls:
- Furniture made before 1 January 1950
- materials for upholstery of furniture made before 1 January 1950
- goods for export
Upholstered furniture, apart from the exemptions mentioned above, must carry a permanent label with the heading 'CARELESSNESS CAUSES FIRE'. In the case of mattresses, look for a label stating compliance with British Standard BS 7177: Specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, mattress pads, divans and bed bases.
Any items not bearing this labelling may not comply and you are advised not to sell them until you have obtained expert advice - for example, from the original manufacturer.
The 'New upholstered furniture' guide contains more detailed information on the labelling requirements.
In addition to the specific rules on flammability, furniture must be safe in all other respects - for example, free from sharp edges and splinters.
The general safety requirement is imposed by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. For more information see 'General product safety - producers' and 'General product safety - distributors'.
The maximum penalty is a fine and six months' imprisonment; the court may also forfeit any or all of your furniture.
In addition, where a product causes personal injury or property damage, the supplier could be liable to pay substantial damages.
- Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (opens in a new window)
- General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (opens in a new window)
Last reviewed / updated: September 2016
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
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