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The single market of the furniture sector

Furniture in a virtual house © NJ -

The Single Market is one of the EU's greatest achievements. It has a direct and growing impact on citizens and business in terms of enhanced employment and commercial opportunities, a wider choice of goods and services, lower prices, labour mobility and international competitiveness.

There is no specific EU legislation for furniture. However, horizontal pieces of Community legislation have an impact on the furniture sector, including competition, environment, chemicals, intellectual property, health and safety at work and trade.

A summary of the main environmental legislation of relevance for furniture manufacturers (IPPC Directive, VOCs Directive, Waste Directive) can be found in the "environment" section.

An important aspect in furniture manufacturing is ensuring good health and safety conditions in the work place. Provisions on the limits of workers' exposure to chemical agents (e.g. diverse volatile organic compounds) and to carcinogens and mutagens (e.g. wood dust) in the work place are envisaged in EU legislation. Furthermore, the directives on health and safety at work, on the use of work equipment and personal protective equipment and on the manual handling of loads are also relevant for furniture sector workers. Further information on health and safety legislation can be found on the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work website.

A project called "FIWEC", co-funded by the European Commission, has produced a booklet on best practices to improve the workplace environment and working conditions. It provides information on relevant EU and national legislation on health and safety as well as a selection of best practices in this field.

Another project co-funded by the European Commission called "FAR" has produced a booklet on best practices to reduce the number of accidents in the furniture industry.

Standards, which have a voluntary nature, are also an important aspect of the single market. Within the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) there is a Technical Committee on Furniture (CEN/TC 207) which develops standards on terminology issues, safety issues (e.g. test methods on flammability and fire behaviour), test methods and requirements for end products, parts, components, surfaces, surface finishes and furniture hardware as well as standards on dimensional coordination. Several subgroups have been created within the furniture technical committee (e.g. office furniture, seats, kitchen and bathroom furniture, etc). Over 70 EN standards have been published so far and there are a number of standards in development.

You will find more information about European legislation on the Europa website - Summaries of the legislation.

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