Flame retardant fabrics and their legislations
Last updated: 01/08/2016
Fabrics are among the materials most susceptible to fire in any situation, whether in the home or on board a yacht. There are now many products on the market to help protect the interior of yachts including flame retardant treated fabrics.
We spoke to Graham from Indi-Clean about providing flame retardant fabric to the superyacht industry, “Flame retardant treatment (FR) for fabrics is nothing new, it's been in use for years on board aircraft etc… But certainly these last few years the service of flame retardant application for interior fabrics has been required much more often on board vessels, demanded by the surveyors from all flag states.
“In the past, fabrics in need of flame proofing tended to be industrial quality, think aircraft and train seats, these days we need to be able to treat the most delicate fabrics and see no change of appearance. Almost any fabric that absorbs liquid can be treated. The type and weight of the fabric dictates the best application method and chemical mix. The FR chemical is sprayed onto the fabric with an electric spray gun.
“As the science behind the FR chemical has got better, the chemical has also got safer - safer for us during application, safer for guests and crew to live with, safer in its manufacture and safer in its disposal. As a green company, Indi-Clean probably would not have got involved with the FR chemical of old.”
Since October 2012, new legislation has been put in place by the International Maritime Authority to govern the fire safety standards applicable for all textiles on board any marine vessel. With the introduction of this legislation, fire and flame retardant fabrics now need more than a pass from the IMO FTP Code of Practise in order to be recognised as being ‘fire safe’.
Graham went on to say, “We work closely with Flame Screen UK because after our own investigation, their FR works best for us. It passes all the relevant IMO tests, is MCA compliant and has a very extensive Material Safety Data Sheet. However, most important to us, is the many toxicology test reports that their product passes - it's safe to use.”
According to Marinefireretardant.com, the October 2012 legislations brought about some changes to the existing MCA MGN 453 codes in areas that correspond to Fire and Flame Retardant Fabric Application. The changes related to this are as follows:
1. Stricter accreditation and annual audit process for service providers
2. Technical experience and expertise in Textiles
3. A Declaration of Conformity must be issued to the yacht and the Flag Administration
4. Full and detailed documentation of treatment process
5. Product application process must be witnessed by a Nominated Body approved by the concerned authority
6. Verification on product application rates
7. Product should survive pre-conditioning treatment
8. Plant and facilities must undergo audit processes
9. Audit on Service Providers Quality Manuel to ensure traceability
10. A register of all trained and certified personnel employed by service providers
11. The certification on the vessel is to be valid for no more than 2 years, ideally for one year
Generally speaking, most fabrics can be treated to become fire retardant to help with allowing minimal damage in the event of a fire. Most protections for such fabrics are composed of polymeric coupling agents. This is a polymer itself, but it functions to fill in organic fillers to the polymer found in synthetic fabrics. These compounds can be talc, glass fibres, calcium carbonate, or a flame retardant like ATH (aluminium trihydeate) or what is also known as Mg(OH)2- magnesium hydroxide.
These fillers service multi-pronged purposes; sometimes to bring down the production cost- as in the case of calcium carbonate, talc, to add strength to fabrics- glass fibres, calcium carbonate, and finally to make it fire resistant- ATH, Mg(OH)2.