At the onset of 2020, some people will make resolutions while others will go for predictions. I usually avoid both. This year though I am willing to make an exception specifically for the Furniture Industry, an industry I have been proud to serve for the past 29 years. So here is my prediction: Within the next 2 years, most major contract furniture manufacturers will have at least a portion of their offering listed as “BIFMA compliant”.
BIFMA has been publishing testing standards since 1973. In 2010 BIFMA unfolded its first evaluation and certification system, Level® a sustainability certification program for office furniture. This evaluation and certification system provides designers, procurement officers, architects, facility managers and others with a level playing field for specifying “sustainable” furniture. Level® is to commercial furniture as LEED is to buildings. Level® has gained considerable traction in the contract furniture world; it has received formal recognition in 2017 from the EPA and GSA. It has been used to contribute to sustainable building ratings such as LEED. Furthermore, it has also been made mandatory by the Canadian Government for its furniture acquisitions.
Until now there were no reliable certification programs ensuring claims made by the office furniture industry which were properly substantiated with regards to compliance for the nine BIFMA performance and safety standards. This is about to change. Indeed, BIFMA plans on launching its BIFMA Compliant® test report verification program on October first this fall. The program is already in its pilot stage with manufacturers uploading their information and BIFMA will start reviewing files for compliance purposes as early as April.
Many organizations use the BIFMA standards as a qualification requirement in their purchasing process. Most of them rely on the information supplied by vendors including their warranties. In few cases, a letter signed by the vendor certifying conformity to the said standards was required. To my knowledge, only two purchasing groups in North America have a more formal process. However both groups, except for some limited time periods, largely failed at properly monitoring the information that was supplied to them. This was mainly due to the lack of will/budget to properly allocate relevant resources in sufficient quantities and on a continuous basis. Indeed, maintaining that type of program requires dedicated technically competent resources with the funds to support them. Experience indicates this can really only work on a cost-recovery basis. Otherwise, certification costs go through the roof and nobody is willing to absorb them. Personally, I believe BIFMA is uniquely positioned to successfully rise to the challenge.
What will the program entail?
Essentially the BIFMA COMPLIANT test report verification program will be a formal process for manufacturers to self-declare conformance with the BIFMA Standards and publish that self-declaration in BIFMA’s website registry. For those of you familiar with Level®, the web registry for “BIFMA Compliant” will be quite similar to the one for Level®.
A sub-set of the submitted test reports will be audited on an annual basis by BIFMA’s technical staff. As with any compliance program, there will also be a complaint process for stakeholders wishing to challenge the compliance status of specific products. To ensure complaints are sound, they will have to be substantiated with test reports demonstrating non-compliance.
Program participants will only be allowed to be listed on the registry products if they can prove, through testing done in an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, to be compliant with the relevant BIFMA Standards:
- BIFMA X5.1 – General purpose Office chairs
- BIFMA X5.4 – Lounge & Public Seating
- BIFMA X 5.5 – Desk / Table Products
- BIFMA X 5.6 – Panel Systems
- BIFMA X 5.9 – Storage Units
- BIFMA X 5.11 – General-Purpose Large Occupant Office Chairs
- BIFMA X6.1 Educational Seating
- BIFMA X6.4 Occasional-Use Seating
Program participants will have to upload their test reports as well as an Excel spreadsheet containing the products to be listed on the test report verification program platform. Licensees will be allowed to modify the registry with some limits to the number of changes they want to make on a monthly basis. In addition, they will be allowed to use the “BIFMA Compliant” mark exclusively for the products line or part thereof, for which they have demonstrated compliance based on a worst case scenario analysis.
Who will be allowed to participate:
The BIFMA Compliant test report verification program will be opened to BIFMA members and non-members. BIFMA members will get a preferred rate.
Policing the Mark:
BIFMA will audit program participants on an annual basis for proper use of the mark. In severe or repeated instances of non-conformity or misuse of the mark; participants might have their BIFMA Compliant removed.
Products shall be tested if one of the following conditions occur:
- New products;
- Test reports are older than 10 years ;
- 3 years after issuance of a new edition of an existing standard (only for the tests that were changed and are more difficult than the previous tests;
- Changes made to the certified products having a potential impact on the compliance outcome.
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.
My career has been focused on simulating real life in the lab under controlled yet accelerated conditions. My passion for lab testing lead me to start Micom Laboratories Inc. 16 years ago. Through time I made sure Micom has the necessary equipment to simulate various environmental parameters such as the sun, vibrations, heat, cold, thermal shocks and humidity. I wanted to be able to move things back and forth, apply stresses to the products and materials we test and see how they react to the various stimuli. To do so we test products and materials against known standards and specifications (certification) and in many cases by creating my own test protocols and specifications (this is the cherry on top of the sundae…). This is what led me to participate in many standards writing committees and to become chairman of some of these committees.