The contract market, that Cabas mainly turns to, has always focused its attention on the questions related to safety and reliability of furniture items and seating.
Law often directly regulates product safety but when it is not expressly ruled, it remains an essential characteristic that the single articles must respond to related to their use and, in particular, to the category of users that require special aid (i.e., children and the elderly). The European Union has always focused its attention on consumer safety and health protection. The directive n° 95 regarding the general safety of productsthus including furniture articles was issued in 2001 following a long series of directives regarding this subject. It defines a product as safe solely if it respects the dispositions of law and if these are not foreseen, the voluntary technical standards in force on a national or European basis must be taken into consideration. The same is true out of the European borders. Companies that operate conscientiously must place an accent on safety that is often taken for granted along with the reliability of their product especially in the contract market in which the articles undergo constant use of a wide range of users. A product is considered safe when in conditions of standard use or those that may reasonably foreseen, it does not present any sort of risk or a solely minimum exposure to risk that may be compatible with the use of the product and considered acceptable related to the observance of an elevated level of safety and health protection. Consequently, the tests foreseen regard safety from its constructive and mechanical viewpoint along with its stability and the possible emission of hazardous substances for human beings and the environment.
Reliability results in the capacity of the product to satisfy certain demands in certain conditions and for a certain period. Reliability should be verified during the prototype phase and subsequently during production. The most valid system is that of monitoring these characteristics in real working conditions with accelerated tests that are repeated according to the use foreseen in adequately equipped laboratories. These tests are often preceded by virtual computer simulations that are not always sufficient in representing reality due to the complexity of the material being examined. The testing range covers safety, resistance and life of the assembled product along with its components to predict the capacity of the furniture to satisfy its purpose of use in time and functionality in compliance with the obligations of law. There is a strong relation between the tests and technological research of the companies that are considered indispensable in defining the effective characteristics and limits of the material even in consideration of the way they are employed and assembled. A product that has not been adequately validated already present on the market but not suitable for its use can damage the image of the manufacturer; the extent of the damage related to this event is hard to quantify while the costs are extremely high to adapt it to the norms at this point.
A set of parameters approved by acknowledged national or international organizations that provide useful information regarding the performance of the products for products meant for common or repeated use along time. The latter represents the state of art of a certain field in an established period. The compliance with the standards represents a useful advantage to spend on the market. In some countries, it may be the indispensable condition that meets the commercial demands required for the product.
In the wide variety of products and destinations of use, the reference standards reflect all the aspects that regard structural characteristics and safety along with the adaptability of the furniture element and the way to improve its usability on behalf of the consumer. This viewpoint represents a starting point for the designer, an aid rather that a restraint to creativity. This is an indispensable instrument for the manufacturer in the choice of the right materials to determine the appropriateness of use of the finished product. Many are the official standards in the field of interior decorating, especially European that regards all furniture articles: chairs for home and contract; office chairs; outdoor chairs; tables and desks; cabinets for general use and for offices; kitchen furnishings; beds; cribs, just to mention a few. These standards define dimensions, ergonomics, minimum safety and performance requisites, the latter are generally classified according to use. In a market in which someone will always be able to offer products at minor costs, the respect of the standard must be documented and communicated thus representing an element of differentiation of the products objectively proving the better quality, reliability and safety. In particular, the design is a determining aspect in choice in the contract field, but the characteristics of safety and functionality cannot be ignored as may occur for home furniture.
An adequately equipped and independent laboratory is required to test, document and certify the characteristics of the furniture element. The most important Italian laboratory of this kind is Catas located in San Giovanni al Natisone, referred to constantly since its founding for the constructive and mechanical safety tests along with the resistance and life of the seats and the fire resistance tests and for the characterization of each individual material. Catas is a research/development center and a testing laboratory for the wood furnishing field founded in 1969. It has become a point of reference for the companies that want to guarantee the quality of their products through objective tests.
Catas now has two operative facilities located in Friuli and in Lombardia, with thirty-three collaborators, more than 1,100 habitual clients and more than 25,000 tests carried out yearly thus representing the highest ranking facility of its kind in the wood furnishing field even beyond the Italian borders.