Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?
Before we look at the role of a fire marshal or fire warden, it is important to understand what fire safety measures should be in place in a business to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, employers and business owners must:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment and check for fire hazards.
- Create a fire safety and emergency evacuation plan.
- Install any necessary fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, alarm systems, and fire safety signs.
- Provide adequate fire safety training to staff.
The responsibility to carry out the above falls on the employer, building owner, or anyone else who has control of the premises, not the fire marshal. However, a fire marshal can assist with these actions in several ways, which we will explore below.
What is a fire marshal's main responsibility?
The main responsibility of a fire marshal is to ensure that there is a safe evacuation in the event of a fire in the workplace. This begins by ensuring that the evacuation plan in place is effective, and that all staff are familiar with it.
In the event of an evacuation taking place, there are several actions that a fire marshal should take to ensure that it runs smoothly. These actions include:
- Raising the alarm, and directing everyone to leave the area using the safest route. People will often freeze or panic upon hearing a fire alarm, so this may involve assertively asking people and/or helping them to remain calm. They may also attempt to evacuate using a dangerous exit, such as a lift, that they need to be directed away from.
- Checking all accessible spaces in the area to ensure that everyone has been evacuated. This is important because people may be stuck in isolated areas, refuge areas or toilets, and be unable to evacuate quickly.
- Assisting with evacuations where required. This may be necessary for disabled or vulnerable people who are unable to evacuate safely by themselves.
- Taking steps to prevent fire and smoke from spreading, such as closing the doors to a room once it has been evacuated. This should only be done when it is safe to do so.
- Fighting the fire if it is safe to do so. Again, this should only be done in situations where it is safe to do so, such as where the fire is small and close to a fire extinguisher or other item of fire fighting equipment.
- Attending assembly points and taking roll calls. This will help to ensure that everyone has been evacuated, and that nobody re-enters the building before it is safe to do so.
- Coordinating with other fire marshals is important because it will help to identify any missing people more quickly, and ensure that the evacuation was successful.
- Liaising with the emergency services and passing on key information, such as the location and type of the fire, will allow them to find anyone who is unaccounted for and tackle the fire more easily.
The specific actions that a fire marshal will take during a fire will vary depending on several factors, such as the size of the building and the nature of the fire. However, in all instances, a fire marshal must remain calm, act with confidence, and avoid putting themselves or others in danger during an evacuation.
What are a fire marshal's other responsibilities?
Fire marshals are also responsible for the day-to-day monitoring and maintaining the fire safety measures in place, and promoting good fire safety practices. For example, the fire marshal role may involve:
- Regularly checking that emergency exits and fire doors are not obstructed and function correctly.
- Regularly checking any fire safety and fire fighting equipment (such as fire extinguishers, break glass call points and emergency lighting) to make sure that it is in good working order and can be used in the case of a fire.
- Monitoring the adequacy of the fire risk control measures that are in place.
- Testing the fire alarm and assisting with organising fire drills.
- Ensuring that any hazardous and flammable materials are stored correctly.
- Carrying out or assisting with staff training on fire safety.
- Ensuring that all fire safety activities are documented correctly.
At Commodious, we offer a range of health and safety training courses, including two fire safety awareness courses designed for both general staff and fire wardens/marshals: