There are a series of prerequisite checks that decorative fabrics, upholstery fabrics and curtains must pass before they can be used in hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, theatres, day nurseries, schools or on cruise ships. Depending on which areas of public buildings they are used in, materials must be certified to ensure they are flame retardant.
Frank Wiedemann, Head of Quality Assurance at Schmitz Textiles, explains:
“As a German textile manufacturer, we have to meet a large number of requirements concerning virtually every area, i.e. certifications and approvals for safety, durability and environmental sustainability" explained Frank Wiedemann, who is Head of Quality Assurance for Schmitz Textiles at its production site based in Emsdetten in North Rhine-Westphalia. Only certified manufacturers like Schmitz Textiles are allowed to produce materials for certain markets and specific fields.
Checks are carried out by independent, accredited test institutes and/or public authorities in accordance with national and international standards or EU guidelines. These are, on the one hand, management certifications for quality, environment and energy. Schmitz Textiles has been assessed, audited and certified according to ISO 9001/ ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 by the German Organisation for the Certification of Management Systems (DQS).
On the other hand, there are product certifications. "First and foremost, our drapilux flame-retardant upholstery materials, decorative fabrics and net curtains are annually monitored by a third party" said Wiedemann. The State Materials Testing Office of North Rhine-Westphalia (MPA NRW-Brandprüfzentrum Erwitte) checks drapilux products for compliance to flame retardance in accordance with DIN 4102 (building material class B1) every year. As a result, drapilux flammstop materials are classified as flame-retardant and, in contrast to materials containing PVC, also produce very little smoke in the event of a fire.
Voluntary certification for even more security
Schmitz Textiles even goes beyond the legal requirements with this annual external monitoring. "The certification indicates that our products always meet the high requirements of fire protection for building materials. This means that our customers can always be one hundred per cent certain of the quality", said Wiedemann.
drapilux textiles are not only tested according to German law but also in accordance with European and international fire protection standards. In France, for example, materials must attain a M1 test result, which is an even higher grading than the German B1 certification. The drapilux material is not ignited at the edges but in the centre where the surface of the material is set alight using a gas flame. In order to qualify, the textile must be self-extinguishing within five seconds and must not fall to the floor whilst alight.
"Every fabric is examined in detail at drapilux prior to being tested externally"
It is always better to double-check: tests conducted in our own laboratory
"Every fabric is examined in detail at drapilux prior to being tested externally" explained Wiedemann. Schmitz Textiles has a fully equipped test lab to carry out in-house checks according to the prescribed standards. "This way, we can assure high standards straight from the development stages when creating new textiles, as fire protection tests can be carried out between the individual development steps and production steps" stated the head of quality assurance. Schmitz Textiles invest heavily in the safety of its products by establishing production and quality assurance processes which conform to the regulatory and legal norms. “It is a costly investment” stated Wiedemann, “but one whose benefits to the drapilux customer are clearly evident.”
Special measures for the maritime sector
It is particularly important to comply fully with and adhere to the fire safety standards aboard ships. With no escape routes and only limited options for fighting fires, preventive measures are absolutely essential.
When it comes to marine equipment materials, adherence to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is compulsory. In order to attain this, upholstery fabrics, decorative materials and net curtains must be tested and approved according to strictly defined test methods (FTP code 2010). In Europe, these are regulated under Directive 2014/90/EU.
The current 2014/90/EU Directive requires all marine equipment traders and importers to comply with Article 14, Paragraph 3. This Article states that any importer or distributor is considered to have the same responsibility for said product as the manufacturer, and must fulfil the same manufacturer's obligations in line with Article 12 if they wish to place maritime equipment on the market under their own name or label, or if they wish to use the equipment to furnish an EU vessel.
“These special measures for marine equipment materials must be strictly adhered to within Europe” said the expert. "drapilux maritime fabrics have the approval certificates of a European notified body (i.e. attained Modules B + D) and can therefore be safely used on all ships worldwide," stated Frank Wiedemann.
More interesting articles from the series #good2know:
Episode 1 - Intelligence woven in: How our fabrics become smart
Episode 2 - drapilux all in one: the all-rounder with a USP
Episode 3 - Pioneering role for drapilux: Where we're heading
Frank Wiedemann is also responsible for ensuring compliance with international fire safety standards at Schmitz Textiles, and responds to enquiries made by REACH - the European Chemicals Regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals. REACH is considered to be one of the strictest laws regarding chemicals worldwide.