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A business consultancy, based in London, England, John Sacks' JSA Consultancy Services provides expert, in-depth, information advice and guidance as to how to exploit successfully the office furniture and interiors markets in Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan.

Exploding chair kills PC boy

Monday 23 February 2009

A 14-year-old boy from Jiaozhou City in China died of blood loss after the gas lifting canister inside his chair sent shrapnel into his bottom.

The news report said that this month three other people had been injured by exploding chairs. This ITExaminer reporter sold ergonomic chairs to public safety dispatch centres and has never heard of this type of occurrence.

Office chairs standardly have the height adjustment regulated by a cylinder containing pressurized gas. Those gas lift adjustment cylinders are manufactured in many countries to various levels of quality.

The top view of the chair – seen at left – shows a hole in the seat bottom. We wondered how the gas cylinder could have become a projectile. We spoke with Rick Ringold, a nationally recognized consultant for The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). APCO International is the world\'s largest organization dedicated to public safety communications. A major focus of the organization is making the public safety workplace safer.

Ringold said his first impression after looking at the photos was that the chair might have been modified by the purchaser. Another possibility was that someone assembled the chair from components that were not compatible. He said that office chairs imported and sold in the US and Canada should meet minimum standards from BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer\'s Association). These standards apply to business and institutional furnishings such as desk chairs, desks, vertical files, lounge seating, panel systems, and storage units. Additionally, BIFMA provides ergonomic guidelines which also help to create a more comfortable and healthy working environment for employees.

According to the original story, the young boy weighed 80 kg (about 173 lbs.). Ringold said the boy’s weight was not nearly enough to cause the failure of a US or Canadian office chair.

Since Jiaozhou City is in the county around the Bay of Jiaozhou in the industrial area of Shandong Province, the manufacturer could have been a local company that also exports office furniture. Ringold said that high quality office chairs designed for the 24/7 environment of a public safety dispatch centre must meet a higher standard and some are even guaranteed for five years.

Ringold said one of those manufacturers is Concept Seating. Its specifications state that their chairs should support up to a 550 pound user for 24 hours a day, seven days per week, over the chair’s warranty period.

Ringold said the gas cylinder probably exploded because of a low-quality gas lift. He said that some of the highest quality lifts are manufactured in Italy and the US. Ringold said that it is sad to learn that someone died because they were sitting on a chair that may have been only a few dollars cheaper than a better model. He ended with the comment:, “You only get the quality you pay for”.

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