What standards must gaming chairs comply with?
A good gaming chair from a reputable manufacturer will comply with legislation and standards that govern both the safety and the quality of the product.
Making sure the chair you buy has the correct accreditations goes a long way to ensure you are purchasing a product that is safe to use, long-lasting, strong, and uses appropriate materials in its manufacture.
What safety certificates must gaming chairs comply with?
First, let’s make a very important distinction, there are two types of certification that gaming chairs should comply with: –
- Regulations – These are mandatory requirements that all furniture, including gaming chairs, must comply with to be legally sold in the U.S.
- Standards – These are mostly voluntary standards except in instances where they have been “incorporated by reference” in a regulation. This is where a standard set by a body such as the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA) has been directly incorporated as a regulatory standard.
What do the standards cover?
Gaming chair safety standards are set by a variety of different bodies including:
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS)
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
Whilst there are a few others, these are the primary ones game chair manufacturers that supply to the U.S. market will concentrate on while getting their chairs certified.
Amongst the areas that are covered in the certification process are:
- Strength and Durability
- Build Quality
- Energy efficiency
- Electrical components
- Chemical content
- Overall quality
- Environment considerations and recyclability
Eager gamers can spend hours in their chairs in a single gaming session. Buying a gaming chair that is certified by one or more of these bodies is a great way of ensuring you are buying a high-quality product that won’t leave you regretting that marathon session.
Before we have a look at the certification bodies and the role they play, there is a word of caution for the unwary buyer. This is to do with the way that some manufacturers label their product as – “Meets BIFMA standards,” and not “BIFMA Certified.”
- Meets BIFMA Standards – This simply applies that the manufacturer claims their product meets the standards necessary to receive BIFMA (or other organization) certification.
- BIFMA Certified – To achieve this the manufacturer must have had their gaming chair inspected by a third party to ensure it meets the required standards.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the certifying bodies involved, what their roles are and how the certification process works.
Consumer Product Safety Commission
The Consumer Product Safety Commission was founded in 1972. It is an independent federal regulatory agency that is directed by law to – “Protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products.”
It has jurisdiction over thousands of consumer products, which includes furniture, and under that umbrella, gaming chairs are covered. Amongst the responsibilities the commission was mandated with are:
- Partnering with private industry to develop voluntary standards for products.
- Banning unsafe products
- Producing mandatory standards and ensuring they are enforced
- Issuing product recalls and coordinating refunds, replacements, or repairs
- Researching potential merchandise hazards
- Educating consumers and dealing with consumer inquiries
As already touched on, the CPSC oversees both voluntary and regulatory standards. The voluntary standards that the CPSC develops are done so in collaboration with voluntary standard organizations including BIFMA and ANSI.
Mostly, developing these standards means working with numerous bodies including government agencies, industry groups, and consumer groups. It also uses consumer feedback to identify potential areas where standards are lacking.
In some instances, what has begun as a voluntary standard can become a regulation that is mandated by law.
These are the standards that all chair manufacturers are obliged by law to meet with their products. Regulations are mostly, although not exclusively, aimed at the safety of a product.
These will normally cover areas like:
- Materials used in construction
To administer and enforce these standards the CPSC works within the framework of several laws including:
- Consumer Product Safety Act
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
- Federal Hazardous Substances Act
- Flammable Fabrics Act
- Poison Prevention Packaging Act
By law, any gaming chair sold in the USA is subject to the legislation laid down by CPSC. However, in practice, unscrupulous manufacturers and retailers will often sell products that have not passed the mandatory regulatory passed. Cheaper chairs are often found on auction sites and other online retailers will often fit into this category, this is why buying a reputable brand from a trusted retailer and spending a few dollars more is always a good idea.
Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association
BIFMA is one of the main organizations that have a focus targeted specifically at the office furniture market. As the office chair and gaming chair niches often crossover, it is, therefore, one of the main institutions involved in setting standards for gaming chairs.
BIFMA is a non-profit trade association that was established in 1973 to provide a service to the industry and the consumer. BIFMA promotes and assists in the development and improvement of standards that are aimed at ensuring the safety, quality, ergonomics, and sustainability of office furniture.
Although not strictly classified as “office furniture” a good gaming chair can still qualify as “BIFMA Certified.”
BIFMA plays a major role in developing standards for all types of office furniture. For a product to then receive certification it must be tested by an approved certification body such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
An overall view of its standards mission includes:
- Participating in the creation of international furniture product standards
- Developing, publishing, and maintaining performance and safety standards for furniture, including gaming chairs
- Monitoring the application of national codes and pushing for amendments where appropriate
- Educating the consumer about the importance of standards and safety codes
These days we are all becoming increasingly aware of the impact of our activities on the planet. BIFMA works with manufacturers to minimize the environmental impact of their products. To this end, it has developed a certification program called Level®.
BIFMA describes Level® as a “Multiattribute, Sustainability Standard and third-party Certification Program for the furniture industry.
This program was developed to evaluate, and educate about, the environmental impacts of furniture. For a gaming chair to receive this certification, the certification body considers several factors including:
- Energy usage in the manufacturing process and within the company as a whole
- Material selection
- Ecosystem health
- Human health
Société Générale de Surveillance
The Société Générale de Surveillance is a long-established company that specializes in, amongst other things, the certification and inspection of a huge variety of goods and services. Out of all the organizations that this article covers, SGS stands out as having the longest pedigree and the most fascinating history.
SGS was founded in the town of Rouen in the 1870s. The town is located about 130km northwest of Paris and at the time of SGS’s founding, Rouen was a major river port with grain being one of the primary cargoes.
It was established as a grain inspection company and hasn’t stopped inspecting things since! Obviously, there is a world of difference between grain and gaming chairs, but in the near 150-years since its founding, SGS has grown to become one of the biggest certification bodies on the planet.
Now based in Switzerland, SGS has become a global organization that certifies a massive range of products to confirm that the products tested are compliant with national or international standards.
When it comes to gaming chairs SGS focuses on certifying that the furniture meets international and national standards. It bases its certification program on several aspects of the design and performance of gaming chairs including:
- Forward and rearward stability
- Sideways overturning
- Materials used in construction
- Strength and durability
Whilst BIFMA is an American-based organization that concentrates mostly on domestic safety standards and works closely on international standards. SGS is a global organization that has over 2,600 offices worldwide and employs nearly 90,000 staff.
American National Standards Institute – ANSI
The American National Standards Institute is an organization dedicated to establishing and maintaining American National Standards across a host of products, including gaming chairs.
ANSI tests on gaming chairs are similar to those carried out by BIFMA. These tests determine how sustainable, safe and functional a gaming chair is. The standards that the two organizations set are often combined. So frequently you may notice a gaming chair that has been ANSI/BIFMA certified.
One area where the two organizations differ is the scope of the products that they certify. BIFMA dedicates itself specifically to the certification of commercial furniture, hence some gaming chairs won’t qualify for BIFMA certification as they don’t fall within the correct category. ANSI certifies a larger range of industries and gaming chairs that aren’t covered by BIFMA standards can still be ANSI certified.
Amongst the criteria that ANSI test for when issuing certifications are:
- Toxicity of materials used in the manufacture of the chairs
- Sustainability of the manufacturing process and the materials used
- Flammability tests
- Durability and safety of the adjustment mechanisms
The standards that gaming chairs must meet are determined and developed by ANSI and once documented and established they are categorized as American National Standards (ANS). To qualify for ANSI certification, manufacturers must meet the set standards.
ANSI also looks to promote other aspects of safety and industry standardization including: –
- Consumer education
- International Standardization
- Standards co-ordination
What tests must a gaming chair pass to be certified?
Most of the tests that gaming chairs have to pass are aimed at ensuring the safety of the product first and foremost, any chair that is considered unsafe for any reason will certainly not be certified by any reputable body.
Amongst the safety tests that are applied to gaming chairs are:
- Materials – The materials used are tested extensively including the outer fabric, foam, frame, and armrests. Cheaper chairs that don’t pass these tests have been known to release toxic fumes that in the worst-case scenario have made users ill.
- Adjustment Mechanisms – These have to pass rigorous testing to ensure that they are completely safe. One example of where this is applied is the pressurized cylinders that power the height adjustment on many seats. Although rare, it has been known for these cylinders to explode, causing severe injury and in one documented case the death of a 14-year old boy.
- Flammability – Gaming chairs are subject to a barrage of tests to ensure that they pass flame-retardant tests.
- Stability – The stability of a gaming chair is crucial, in the eleven years between 1999 and 2010, nearly 2,000 Americans died after falling from chairs. Only a tiny percentage of these deaths were likely to be gamers, but it does show the inherent danger of an unstable seat.
- Ergonomics – Gaming for long periods on chairs that aren’t ergonomically certified can lead to many health problems. Primarily back problems, the certification process ensures that the chair you buy will support your body form in the best possible way.
Amongst the other tests that are carried out before a gaming chair is certified is for the overall strength and durability of the chair, including the adjustments mechanism and the longevity of the cushioning foam.
Cheap gaming chairs that seem like a bargain will use substandard materials that may look the part, but will quickly fail. All the gaming chairs that receive certification are tested for durability and longevity.
If you want to make sure that your hard-earned money is well spent on a gaming chair, then making sure it has the right accreditations is crucial. In the long run, that cheap chair which seemed like a bargain, at best will end up proving itself as a false economy, and at worst could be harmful to your health.
Standards are there for a reason, to protect the consumer and to make sure they are getting value for money and a product that will last for years.
My advice for happy gaming – don’t skimp on the chair, make sure it has been certified to the appropriate standards!
Sources and Info:
Consumer Product Safety Commission – CPSC
Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association – BIFMA
American National Standards Institute – ANSI
Société Générale de Surveillance – SGS