Fires are a serious risk in every building, whether domestic, industrial, or organisational. For businesses in particular, fire safety is a major health and safety consideration that needs to be taken very seriously.
Given an average of 423 fires take place every week in workplaces annually across the UK, it’s imperative that businesses have the necessary fire safety precautionary measures, and execute the necessary fire safety risk assessments, to keep their workforces safe. There are multiple individuals within a business that can undertake roles to assist in the implementation of fire safety arrangements and to act in the event of a fire to keep everyone safe. Two individuals who can do this are known as fire marshals and fire wardens.
But, what are the roles of these two designated individuals and how do they differ from one another? In this article, we reveal the responsibilities of both a fire marshal and fire warden, what they are, and why their roles are so important in any business in order to ensure safety in the workplace is maintained.
The first thing that needs to happen in the event of a fire is evacuation and this is where a fire warden comes in. A fire warden is a nominated person who ensures that workplace premises are cleared of every last individual so that no employees, or workplace visitors, are harmed in the event of a fire.
They will be the person responsible for searching the premises and ensuring that the whole building has been successfully evacuated. As they will be the last ones to leave the building, they will be assuming the most risk in a fire.
It is the responsibility of fire wardens to be clued up on fire safety evacuation procedures, knowing everything that is necessary for this aspect of competent fire safety. This includes knowing the best and safest evacuation routes for employees and being able to ensure that all members of a team are out of a workplace environment should a fire take place.
Fire warden roles and responsibilities also include:
A fire marshall plays a very important role in the workplace when considering fire safety and its procedures. The role of fire marshals is to ensure that employees know exactly what to do if and when a fire is to take place in order to follow fire safety protocols for everyone’s safety.
Becoming a fire marshal is not a difficult feat for any member of the team, but there are requirements that need to be met in order for them to be competent enough to carry out their responsibilities and duties within a company. For example, a fire safety awareness course is necessary for any fire marshal, or fire warden for that matter, allowing them to understand the basics of fire safety and acquire the skill set needed to be a competent and reliable fire safety person.
Practical assessments are also a necessary procedure to pass in many cases which allows fire marshals and fire wardens to practise what they’ve learnt so that they know that they can react effectively in the event of a fire.
The fire marshal role involves going to a designated fire assembly point to handle the evacuation outside of the building, including taking a head count to ensure all employees are accounted for. They will keep employees at the fire assembly points until the evacuation has been completed and all employees have left the building, including the safety of all fire wardens.
Fire marshalls must educate employees and keep them up to date on:
Their second main duty is to react quickly and effectively in the event of a fire by knowing evacuation procedures that should be in place to protect all of the workforce, and being aware of standard fire safety procedures is crucial to this. Conducting regular fire drills is also a responsibility of fire marshals, alongside looking out for any hazards that could cause a fire and ensuring that these are controlled accordingly.
When comparing the roles of a fire marshal and fire warden, as well as their duties, both share the same primary goal - to protect the health and safety of those in the workplace by implementing good fire safety measures and procedures.
The roles may be interpreted as having some slight variations in responsibilities, however, these do largely overlap meaning that there isn’t much of a difference between fire marshals and fire wardens’ roles. Both a fire warden and a fire marshal are considered to be a ‘responsible person’ who, subject to paragraphs 6 and 7 in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, businesses should appoint one or more to assist in undertaking preventative and protective measures.
Thus, both competent persons, whether having the title of a fire marshal or a fire warden, have the shared responsibility of fire safety and will receive fire safety training to help with their duties.
When a fire alarm goes off in the workplace, it’s important to get out quickly and efficiently. Without fire wardens and fire marshals, companies will not have competent members of the team to ensure that a workforce is evacuated in a safe way.
Having competent members of the team to take on the role of fire marshal and fire warden is crucial to ensure that your company has effective fire safety procedures in place in the event of a fire. Every workplace should have at least one individual who is responsible for this in the event of a fire for the protection of all team members.
In the case of both fire marshals and fire wardens, businesses must remember that the staff fulfilling these roles must be competently trained, which includes understanding the UK fire law Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This lays out how businesses must comply with the law when it comes to fire safety, including requiring them to carry out risk assessments and putting adequate fire precautions in place.
In some cases, companies may appoint both fire marshals and fire wardens in their workplaces, with each responsible person having their own set of duties and predefined responsibilities to ensure that fire safety procedures are properly implemented. This is at the discretion of the business entirely and may make more sense in larger organisations with more employees and that may be more complex.
Alternatively, many companies have the roles combined, which is normally the case if they have a smaller site, with a ‘Deputy’ who acts on behalf of the Fire Safety Manager taking overall charge of the situations. This ‘Deputy’ combines the responsibilities of both Fire Marshal and Fire Warden as the site is small enough that they can act as both roles. They will ensure that the building is evacuated promptly without putting themselves at risk.
Within a working environment, whoever controls the premises is responsible for fire safety in the workplace. This may be a landlord, should a property or facility be let to a company, or a managing agent or freeholder.
These individuals would then be responsible for ensuring the fire safety standards, requirements, and legislations are met in order to protect the health and safety of anyone operating or visiting this environment.
Everyone has a duty to ensure that fire safety in the workplace is maintained. From employers to managers and employees, everyone has a responsibility to follow fire safety procedures and to be conscious of fire hazards so that they can react appropriately in the event of a fire.
Once training has been completed, fire marshal certificates will last for roughly 3 years in length, and upon ending these must be renewed. Regardless of this, fire marshals need to be re-assessed regularly to make sure that they still have the up-to-date knowledge and developed skill sets to react in the event of a fire.
There’s no set number of fire wardens that should be within a workplace. As touched upon earlier in this article, the size of your business will determine whether or not you have a designated fire warden who is responsible for carrying out set fire safety duties.
As a rough guide, workplaces that have a low risk of fire could have one trained fire warden per 50 employees, with medium-risk or high-risk workplaces having a fire warden for every 15 or 20 people respectively.
Given the roles and responsibilities of fire marshals and fire wardens are one and the same, the number of fire marshals that should be appointed in the workplace is the same as that of fire wardens. One fire marshal should be responsible for a certain number of employees based on the ‘risk’ of a particular workplace.
Fire safety is a critical aspect of workplace health and safety, with employees and managers needing to always keep their procedures up to date and carry out risk assessments regularly to prioritise the safety of their employers. Both fire marshals and fire wardens are just one of the ways that companies can ensure that their fire safety procedures are up to standard for the benefit of their team and customer base.
Training is a critical aspect of fire safety at work, with fire wardens and fire marshals needing to be kept up to date on their training to execute their roles effectively. If you do need internal fire safety training for your business and employees, our online Fire Marshal and Fire Warden is a comprehensive introduction to the roles.