Sitting Pretty

Assessing Furniture to BIFMA Standards

12 September 2017

Manufacturers of furniture for workplace settings use standards from the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) to determine the safety, functionality and reliability of products when exposed to daily use. BIFMA standards cover products such as task and side chairs, public seating, desks, office systems and storage units found in office, lounge and classroom environments.  The standards are voluntary, but most purchasing agents in the industry view them as the minimum level of acceptability. 

BIFMA's methodology is built around simulating real-life use over a 10-year period. In the commercial realm, this averages to 8 hours a day for 5 days a week, as could be expected in a typical office. Higher traffic areas, like airports, heathcare facilities and call centers require modified testing to account for added use. Furniture intended for residential spaces must also be adjusted as it will be used less and it is necessary to avoid over testing. When modifications are in order, adjusting the number of cycles a product undergoes will better represent the end goal of the test.

Using the 95th or 99th percentile of adult male weight (275 and 400 pounds, respectively in 2017), testing is conducted to indicate how the furniture will stand up to use and abuse over time. Modifications can be made for the intended weight of the user. BIFMA also continues to update and create new standard, so it is important to keep informed of any changes.

BIFMA has been the voice of commercial furnishings since 1973. As a member of BIFMA, Intertek plays an active role in helping develop their standards. For more information about Intertek's furniture testing services, including additional insights on BIFMA, please visit http://www.intertek.com/furniture/.

Brian Kneibel has spent more than 6 years at Intertek where he has been involved in multiple aspects of standards development across the furnishings industry, authoring various articles and technical papers focused on the testing and certification of furniture. Brian is currently involved with the Standards Development Committee of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA), Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) for the mattress and bedding industry, and recently joined the Solutions Partner Board for American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), where he will play an active role in identifying issues and developing solutions in efforts to further advance the furniture industry within the global marketplace.