Technical Bulletin — July 2013

July 2013

The California State Fire Marshal (CSFM) is updating its textile flammability document, Title 19, for the first time since 1993. A change to the pass/fail for the small scale test was drafted in 1993 and has been used by the industry ever since but had not been vetted through the CSFM's official process.

A revision draft was prepared by a working group comprised of CSFM staff and industry members in 2008/09. The CSFM has created a Flame Retardant Advisory Committee to analyze this draft and make any changes before it is submitted for public comment. It was emphasized that this Flame Retardant Advisory Committee serves in an advisory capacity only; the CSFM has authority over final changes.

Summary of current work

A meeting was held July 10, 2013.

Key points from this meeting include:

Articles 1 through 7 of the California Title 19 regulation were approved by the Flame Retardant Advisory Committee. Some articles were approved with exceptions. An exception affecting the specialty fabric industry is as follows:

Exception: modify language of Article 2. Section 120 Nonflammable Material The Flame Retardant Advisory Committee raised concerns about the current language in the definition of a nonflammable material. The issue of concern is the language “inherent” which could be interpreted in different ways in the industry. Another point of discussion was the consistency of the language throughout the document. Several recommendations were made, such as adding: “fabrics that meet the flammability requirements of this regulation.” No agreement was made by the committee regarding the definition. CSFM staff tabled the discussion and assigned the task of modifying the definition to a subcommittee.

The issue of the field testing and field results was discussed at length during the meeting, including the need to retest due to an actual field failure. This is of great concern to fabric manufactures that spend thousands of dollars to retest a fabric that was already approved to meet the California Title 19 regulation.

In section 1270 of Article 6, the following sentence was stricken from the regulation: “Repeated field failure(s), regardless of laboratory test results, shall be presumed to result from chemical(s) or faulty application.” The language remaining in this section is of concern to the fabric supplier/laboratory, as they are responsible in the result of a field failure: “Since laboratory tests of textile and other materials only approximate results of the actual field use, continued listing of a registered chemical or fabric or material shall depend upon the ability of the chemical of fabric or material to prove satisfactory in actual use.”

Additionally, retest requirements for registration of flame-retardant fabric or material, located under Article 7, section 1286, was discussed. The issue of concern here is the “actual field failure.” A field failure occurs when the product fails in the field, such as a fire causing a tent to burn. If an actual field failure occurs, the fabric supplier becomes responsible for retesting a fabric, which may have been caused by other variables. The point was made that the retesting is only required after repeated failure, so the committee suggested that the language “repeatedly” be inserted before “fails the field test.” However, the article was passed as it is written in the current draft.

Other issues concerning field testing were voiced in the meeting:

  1. The field tests are not done in controlled environments and have variable results.
  2. Field tests should not supersede laboratory tests.
  3. Field tests may be abused by the code officials that are administering the tests

The Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), that was present on the teleconference, explained repeatedly that the purpose of a field test is to protect the customer. The intent is not for a field test to replace a laboratory test. Some on the call, including the AHJs, reported that they would prefer a laboratory test over a field test. The AHJ’s explained that they generally will administer a field test when a certificate of flame resistance is missing, or other documentation that the fabric was tested in a laboratory is missing. Other possible reasons given for a field test included frayed fabric that appears to be exposed or a product that is being used in a way other than how it was intended to be used. Finally, if there is any threat to safety a field test will be administered.

One AHJ on the call reported that he/she takes the job of being an AHJ very seriously and has only required a field test 3 times in twelve years. One example given by the AHJ to perform a field test was a hotel that did not have a certificate or documentation of the laboratory test for the fabric. In this case, a field test was administered and passed. Another concern voiced is the issue of AHJs or building officials that are not educated about field testing and the threat of a random field tests being administered.

Additionally, the topic to educate AHJs to perform field tests in a more controlled manner was discussed. AHJ’s on the call report that initiatives to educate AHJ’s is being discussed, but they are being held back by the completion of the Title 19 regulation.

Timeline

The CSFM staff has another call scheduled in August to review the remaining articles. CFSM staff has not concluded when the California Title 19 regulation will be completed. The following are the steps required for the regulation to become effective. Note: the regulation can be sent back for additional work or disapproved.

  • The Regulations and initial statement of reasons (ISR) are developed by the advisory committee
  • The committee votes on the regulations; they need to pass by a simple majority. However, normally CSFM staff like to have most members agree on the language.
  • The regulations are sent to CSFM staff for review and to complete the economic impact study
  • The regulations are presented to the State Board of Fire Services for consultation
  • Then the regulations are moved to our Code Development and Analysis Division for review
  • The regulations are then sent to the State Fire Marshal for approval
  • The regulations are sent to Agency for signature
  • The regulations are sent to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for 45 day public notice
  • Comments are received and addressed
  • If required it is sent out for additional 15 day public notice
  • Comments are received and addressed
  • The staff complete a final statement of reasons
  • The Code Development and Analysis Division completes the package and send it to the OAL for review and approval
  • The OAL sends the regulations to the Secretary of State for publishing on Jan. 1, April 1, July 1 or Oct. 1
  • Regulations are effective

IFAI members will be informed so that we can make a public comment as an industry, or as individuals. IFAI members, especially any textile and/or flammability experts, are encouraged to attend the next Flame Retardant Advisory Call meeting, as the guests on the call are able to make comments to influence the decisions made by the advisory committee.

Information

The CSFM Flame Retardant Advisory Committee roster, meeting announcements and minutes are available the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The next conference call is Aug. 7, 2013, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. Central Time. Anyone is welcome to participate as a guest on the call, but only advisory committee members have voting rights.