A report by the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VAF) showed that Vietnam exported $7.3 billion worth of timber, non-timber forestry and wooden furniture products in 2016. This is translated into $5.12 billion worth of wooden furniture exports, an increase of 7.1 percent compared to the previous year. With such a huge demand for wooden products, Vietnam is capable of becoming the world’s wooden furniture production base with Vietnamese products sold in 120 countries and territories from legitimate sources. Realizing the great untapped potential of the industry, Vietnamese enterprises are now making bigger investments in design and new equipments.
The importance of products’ safety
One essential requirement for placing products on the European market is products’ safety. The European commission established a Rapid Exchange of Information System for identification of products which are dangerous or risky. With this platform which is updated weekly, consumers can retrieve information on the product (identification), brand name, actual risk (risk level), country of origin updated.
There are few furniture-related incidents which result in product recalls so far. Majority of the recalled furniture are seating furniture (director chairs, rocking chairs etc.) due to (i) complete collapsing of the product, stability issues or entrapment of fingers, which seldom result in injuries for the consumers.
Such recalls usually involved multiple parties, often resulting in financial compensation requests and loss of reputation of manufacturers etc. All in all, resulting costs easily exceed the efforts needed for safety testing.
European Product Safety Directive
Products imported to the European market must comply with the European Product Safety directive. Within this directive, actual products’ safety characteristics are one of the main safety compliance criteria. Safety testing according to applicable standards is an appropriate mean for ensuring products’ safety. Based on the feedbacks from relevant authorities, industry players and test institutes, most product safety standards are reviewed and updated frequently.
With that, a piece of furniture is deemed mechanically safe if it complies with all applicable standards. More often than not, the 3 main criteria for testing of the mechanical safety of domestic furniture encompasses: 1. General & general safety requirements, 2. Mechanical strength requirements & Stability requirements.
General & general safety requirements
All components which the user come into contact with during normal use shall be designed in a way that risk of physical injuries or damages should be mitigated.
For instance, all areas of seat, back & arm rests of a chair a user comes into contact with when sitting shall be rounded or chamfered. All other areas, accessible to the user shall be free of burrs and free of sharp edges, and any hollow component must be closed or capped. Movable and adjustable parts shall be designed in a way where risk of injuries should be minimised. During normal usage, there must not be any shear and squeeze point. where the user’s hands or fingers can get injured when seated.
Mechanical strength requirements refer to the structure of the product. The key considerations includes whether the chair is able to withstand one’s body weight over a few years. Also, the chair must not break when one sit down, lean upon the backrest and applying pressure to the armrest. Within related European standards mechanical safety tests and requirements are described for basically every major component (e.g. seat, backrest, armrest, legs etc).
Stability characteristic of a product is the ability to withstand forces that tend to cause the loaded product to overturn. For example, a chair must not flip over when someone sits on the front, sides or lean towards the backrest.
To minimize the risk to consumers and safeguard product reliability and safety, we recommend for all furniture manufacturers to consider relevant safety standards and requirements for verification of products’ characteristics by appropriate tests.