House Passes ‘SOFFA’

  •    Author: Mike Jasfer

The House of Representatives has passed the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act (HR 2647). The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA)-backed legislation would make California’s Technical Bulletin 117-2013 a federal flammability standard.“SOFFA has had bipartisan and broad stakeholder support,” said AHFA CEO Andy Counts, who thanked Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) for co-sponsoring the bill and ensuring it came for a vote. Counts also noted House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who helped move the measure through the committee process.Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) co-sponsored the Senate version, S1341, introduced in May and passed by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. It now awaits action by the full Senate.“If SOFFA is now passed by the Senate, it will provide a legislative victory for both parties and, more importantly, a win for American consumers,” said Counts. California TB 117-2013 outlines performance standards and methods for testing the smolder resistance of cover fabrics, barrier materials, filling materials and decking materials used in upholstered furniture. It had support from a broad coalition of stakeholders, including AHFA, firefighters, fire scientists, environmentalists and consumer groups.In October 2015, AHFA formally petitioned the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to adopt the performance standards and test methods prescribed by TB 117-2013 as a national, mandatory flammability standard for residential furniture. The agency evaluated the prospective benefits and costs of adopting the measure but, in September 2016, announced it would pursue “alternative approaches that address the hazard through a combination of research, education and outreach, and voluntary standards efforts.” However, no alternative approaches to the TB 117-2013 standard were ever proposed by the Commission.  The CPSC’s 2019 budget called for yet another review of TB 117-2013, but no action other than “data analysis and technical review” took place 2020.“For four years, AHFA has advocated making TB 117-2013 a national standard. It would ensure all upholstered residential furniture sold in the United States meets a rigorous fire safety threshold. SOFFA would mandate the best test methods and construction standards we have today but, importantly, it would not prohibit the CPSC from future rule making if new fire safety technologies become available,” Counts said.SOFFA was introduced in both houses in 2017-2018, but the 115th Congress adjourned in January 2019 with no action on the measure.About the AHFA: The American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus over 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide. AHFA initiates research and provides technical leadership in the development of product construction and safety standards for residential furnishings.  For more information, visit www.ahfa.us.
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