How many fire marshals?


How Many Fire Marshals Does a Business Need?

Fires in the workplace are a frequent occurrence in the UK, and can have a devastating impact on a business. It is crucial that all businesses take fire safety seriously in order to prevent unnecessary damages, injuries and fatalities.

Having nominated fire marshals among its staff is a key fire safety measure, and it helps businesses to meet the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006. In this article, we will look at how to calculate the number of fire marshals a business requires, and the factors that influence this.

What is a fire marshal?

A fire marshal has several responsibilities, the main one of which is to assist with emergency evacuations to ensure that they are carried out safely. This may involve raising the alarm in the event of a fire, and guiding people towards the designated assembly points.

They also have several day-to-day responsibilities, including checking fire safety measures, such as fire doors, fire safety signs, emergency lighting, and fire extinguishers, to ensure that they are in working order, and assisting with fire drills.

For more information on the role and responsibilities of a fire marshal, click here to view our dedicated article on the topic.

Determine the risk of fire

The first thing to consider when calculating how many fire marshals a business requires is the level of risk that a workplace poses. This should already have been determined as part of the fire risk assessment process.

There are three levels of fire risk: low, medium and high.

Workplaces with a low fire risk are those with:

  • Few highly flammable materials present.
  • Few or no heat sources that could ignite a fire.
  • No high risk groups present, such as elderly or disabled people.
  • Traditionally built and well maintained premises.
  • Clear and safe escape routes.
  • Well maintained and appropriate fire safety measures, such as fire doors and suitably placed fire fighting equipment.

It is important to note that only a small number of workplaces, such as small shops and offices, are likely to fall under this category.

Workplaces with a medium fire risk are those with:

  • Some highly flammable materials present, such as paper and cardboard.
  • Some heat sources that could ignite a fire.
  • Several high risk individuals present.
  • Suitable measures in place to confine or slow the spread of a fire and allow time to evacuate.
  • Well maintained and appropriate fire safety measures.

Most workplaces will fall under this category.

Workplaces with a high fire risk are those with:

  • Significant amounts of highly flammable materials present.
  • Multiple sources of heat that could ignite a fire, such as cooking or welding equipment.
  • A layout that will slow down the speed of an evacuation.
  • A construction that allows for fire to spread quickly.
  • Many high risk individuals present.

The workplaces that fall under this category are typically those that deal with fire and flammable materials (such as restaurants), or those that house vulnerable people (such as hospitals and care homes).

Other factors

Alongside the level of risk that a workplace poses, there are several additional factors that should be considered when determining the number of fire marshals a business requires. These include:

  • The number of floors in the building - there must be at least one fire marshal for each floor.
  • The number of people in the building - the level of risk will determine how many fire marshals are required. Typically, a low risk workplace requires 1 fire marshal per 50 people, a medium risk workplace requires 1 per 20, and a high risk workplace requires 1 per 15.
  • Holidays and sickness - additional fire marshals should be available to cover sickness, holidays and other absences.
  • The number of shifts that need to be covered - there must be enough fire marshals to fully cover each shift, if applicable.

Calculating the number of fire marshals required

Let's look at an example workplace to explore how to calculate the number of fire wardens/marshals a business requires: a small office over 2 floors. This office employs 40 people, one of whom is hard of hearing.

The level of risk posed by this workplace is medium. This is because there are highly flammable materials present such as cardboard boxes and paper documentation, but there are very few sources of heat that could ignite a fire, as there is only a small staff kitchen on the ground floor. The office also has a large amount of open space, which makes searches and evacuations easier, and a clear emergency evacuation plan.

In this example, the office should appoint at least five fire marshals:

  • Two to cover the number of people in the building (1 per 20), with one marshal on each floor.
  • One to help the high risk member of staff who is hard of hearing.
  • Two to cover holidays, sickness and other absences.

The specific number of fire marshals that a workplace requires will vary depending on a range of factors including, but not limited to, those discussed in this article. For complex workplaces, or those in which there is any doubt about the number of fire marshals required, we recommend contacting the local fire and rescue service for further advice.


At Commodious, we offer two fire safety awareness training courses: one designed for all staff, and one specifically for fire marshals. These courses are a great way of ensuring that a workforce is properly trained in fire safety and understands how to act in the event of an emergency. For more information on these courses, use the links below: