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It was recently brought to our attention that ULC has published a first draft standard – CAN/ULC S131 – “Test Method of Test For Fire Growth of Upholstered Furniture”.  This standard, when published, will be a voluntary standard; nobody that we know of seems to plan on making it mandatory.  This standard is quite similar to the California Technical Bulletin Cal 133  test standard that was published in 1992.

Cal 133 essentially implies burning a complete chair using an open flame gas burner while monitoring combustions parameters that are not allowed to get beyond prescribed levels.  This standard is required in some jurisdictions for some specific applications. This standard that pertains to fire safety is often required with other chair performance standard such as BIFMA X5.1, BIFMA X5.4 as well as the most recent BIFMA X 5.11 and BIFMA HCF 8.2 (draft)

We prepared a comparison to help you assess the differences between the ULC-S131 draft standard and the Cal 133 standard:

Peak of Heat Release Rate 80 kW Same
Heat Released @ 600s 25 MJ Same
Peak of smoke opacity  75 % Optional
Weightlost @ 600s 3 lb Optional
Concentration of CO 1000 ppm Optional
Ceiling temperature rise 200 0F Optional
4ft temperature rise 50 0F Optional

None of the “optional” parameters have a compliance requirement; they would be for information only.

One might therefore think that if they already have a compliant set of test results for CAL 133 they don’t need to re-test.  Wrong! Whereas you can deem a chair model to comply with Cal 133 by testing only one specimen and meeting all of the test criteria, in order to establish compliance to CAN/ULC S-131 – draft standard – as it stands today; you would have to test three samples and each of them would have to meet the CAN/ULC S131 test criteria.  This requirement addresses the variability aspects of Cal 133.

What’s next? From what we know and from what is presently happening in the US right now; we do not believe much will happen when this standard is released as it will only be a voluntary standard at least for now.  However with the trend of removing fire retardants from foams and fabrics used for chairs, because of their chemical toxicity, chairs might become more flammable than they used to be.  Might this trigger the need to find other alternatives and validate using a standard such as CAN/ULC S131? Time will tell…

Micom is a third party industrial laboratory accredited by the Standards Council of Canada, CGSB and ISTA.


All of the information and opinions contained in this blog are made with the information and the understanding that we have reviewed at the time of publishing.  However, despite our efforts, we do not offer any guarantee of their accuracy, thoroughness of our investigation or validity. The author of this blog is not liable for any inaccuracies or any losses or damages that may result from the use of the information or data contained herein. This blog has not been reviewed or verified for its accuracy by any peer group associates prior to publication.

Michel Comtois

Michel Comtois is an accomplished founder and CEO of Micom Laboratories Inc., an ISO/IEC 17025 (2017) A2LA-accredited independent laboratory specializing in product and material testing services. Before establishing Micom Laboratories in 1999, Michel, who also holds a Master’s degree in Physical Chemistry, gained extensive experience over a 14-year tenure managing departments spanning physical chemistry, physics, mechanical and material testing in research and contract laboratories. This exposure granted him a profound understanding of the intricacies of development and material testing processes.

In addition to his practical experience, Michel has played influential roles on various voluntary technical committees. He notably, served as the chairperson for CAN/CGSB 44.227 and the Head of the Canadian Delegation for ISO TC 136. He also contributed to the following technical committees: CAN/CGSB 44.229, CAN/CGSB 44.232, ANSI/BIFMA X5.1, ANSI/BIFMA X5.5, ANSI/BIFMA X5.6, ANSI/BIFMA X 5.9 ANSI/BIFMA X5.11, ISTA Certification Council.

Leveraging his unique expertise, he has led Micom Laboratories to become a renowned name in its niche, now operating out of a 16,000-square-foot test facility in Montreal, Canada, and serving a diverse customer base with an array of material and product testing services. Follow Michel on LinkedIn

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