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'FR' - friend or foe to nonwovens.

Fire resistance, fire retarded, FR and flammability are all nomenclature associated with the textile and nonwoven industries to communicate properties of materials relating to fire, burning and heat. Durable and non-durable are the typical general categories. Some of the other descriptors include smoke generation, melt, ignition conditions, flame spread and toxicity.

Some 40 years ago, many fabric producers, end use manufacturers and marketing organizations became more sensitive about the fire retardancy of the products because of lawsuits and the legal responsibilities that were growing in number and cost. There was also significant legislation passed, demanding new and different practices. Some of the legislation is shown in Table 1.

Date Item Title
1954 Flammability of clothing 16 CRF 1610
1954 Vinyl plastic film 16 CRF 1611
1971 Large carpet & rugs CRF 1630
1971 Small carpet & rugs CRF 1631
1972 Children's sleepwear 16 CRF 1615
 sizes 0-6X
1973 Mattresses & pads 16 CRF 1632
1975 Children's sleepwear 16 CRF 1632
 sizes 7-14

This concern regarding FR continues today with additional complications and complexities since there are many state, county, city, institutional and other entities with their own requirements, restrictions and combinations of tests. There are numerous tests and requirements relating to flammability, burning conditions or other effects that are used in our industry. Some of these come from the ASTM American Society of Testing and Materials), NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), National Bureau of Standards, U.S. Department of Agriculture, INDA (Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry), Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, UFAC (Upholstered Furniture Action Council), Canvas Products Association International and UL (Underwriter Laboratories). In addition, there are many test methods and/or requirements and specification from federal agencies such as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), military, Department of Transportation and the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The list continues with still others from colleges and universities as well as those of individual companies and corporations.

From The Caveman

Days -- The Power Of Fire

We learned that fire and heat can destroy about anything since the caveman burned his brontosaurus meat over the open fire. Since that time we decided that fire and heat were going to be with us and we should learn to live with it. So we invented the computer controlled microwave oven and made a few other astounding discoveries and decisions. Some of these included the fact that fire and extreme heat were the injuries in automobiles, so has the efforts of reducing or preventing fire and heat damages brought benefits. However, safety glass has not stopped auto accidents and FR products will not stop fire and heat damages. The obvious solution was to not have an auto accident or break the glass. So it is with fire and heat. Prevention and safety measures are fundamental in avoiding the need for expensive protection products and/or systems whenever possible.

The costs of fire and heat can be observed by most of us in physical loss, pain and mental anguish. The increases in cost of FR insurance may not have been as obvious. We recognize that the replacement cost of your property goes up and so does the cost of insuring it. When does the cost and additional efforts required become unreasonable or make the situation intolerable? If this occurs, what can be done to resolve the situation? This may be the situation in nonwovens in the near future.

Several years ago, a particular magazine demanded my attention when I looked at the cover. The publication was Record magazine (November/december 1991) and the cover photo showed rolls of nonwovens stacked vertically and ablaze. Beside the photo was noted "A New Hazard Uncovered -- Rolled Nonwoven Fabrics." Inside it stated, "A publication of Factory Mutual Engineering and Research for insureds of Allendale Insurance, Arkwright Protection Mutual Insurance and Factory Mutual International."

After observing the photographs of the burning nonwovens and trying to understand the test method, I surmised that the nonwovens industry was in for escalating FR insurance and being placed in an undesirable category because of their tests. After discussing the situation with INDA, we decided that it would be appropriate to invite Factory Mutual Research Corporation to make a presentation at the INDA Highloft Conference in May 1993 and explain its test methods, findings and "loss prevention data."

We also invited them to present an update at the INDA Highloft Conference in June 1995. The company did not make the presentation but did send a paper that described its highloft polyester batting fire test. It offered the company's loss prevention data publication, which contains some 24 pages with fire protection guidelines. The expenses and efforts to conform to these brought much discomfort to nonwovens manufacturers and others that store, inventory or in some way possess nonwovens.

Estimates to conform to Factory Mutual's requirements under the present situation could be more than $1.25 per sq. foot to provide the storage conditions with additional sprinkler systems, spacing, packaging and racking. Factory Mutual's fire protection guidelines, developed in 1991, are scheduled for a fifth year revision. An industry-wide meeting should be held in the near future before the guidelines are rewritten. Nonwoven roll goods producers suppliers and end users should attend and participate.

In an effort to support the nonwovens industry and assist in ascertaining a fair determination of FR and the testing to accomplish this, INDA is surveying its roll goods companies, attempting to determine the interest in supporting new tests.

Members of the nonwovens industry and several insurance companies believe that additional testing could yield more accurate and equitable information in determining the FR and requirements of nonwovens in manufacturing, inventory, storage and handling. Such testing would probably cost $250,000. Other insurance companies have expressed interest in participating in such tests and are prepared to assist in the cost of new testing.

FR for the nonwovens industry demands the attention of all of us. We must try to understand how it fits into the overall picture of running our business and our lives. Some of the areas relating to FR to review: What are your present insurance costs? How much will they increase and when? Who will determine these costs and what tests and data will they use to set them? Should all nonwovens be in the same category? Should nonwovens be classified as textiles? Which FR tests should be used in rating or classifying nonwovens? How does storage/packaging/shipping affect the situation?

There are fibers, binders, finishes and other methods of making nonwovens more flame and heat resistant available today. Other possibilities have been suggested to improve our FR situation. These include a total FR treatment with the use of an FR fiber or treatment, using FR nonwovens as the outer wrap of the roll and using FR packaging procedures and materials. Another approach that is being considered is to store nonwoven roll goods in a "disposable" place such as a cheap building or trailer away from the plant and offices.

It's a complicated situation and could have dramatic effects on our business. It deserves your attention and you should be aware of how it will change your business in the future.

Tom Holliday is a well known consultant to the nonwovens and textile industries whose column on a wide range of nonwovens-related topics appears every other month in NONWOVENS INDUSTRY. Mr. Holliday operates his consultancy firm, Thomas M. Holliday & Associates, out of his office at 25 Edgewood Road, Yardley, PA 19067:215-493-2501.
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Title Annotation:fire resistance standards
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Previous Article:1995 government affairs wrap-up.
Next Article:Focus: Europe.

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