Many business owners struggle to know where they stand when it comes to the law and fire safety. No matter how big or small your business is, you are legally required to have at least two people trained as a fire marshal to guide other staff members in the event of a fire.
You can be trained as either an appointed person (or ‘deputy’), fire warden or fire marshal. Depending on how large your place of work is, the role of a fire warden and marshal may be given to two people or split across multiple people. The difference in roles between a fire warden and fire marshal are:
When a fire alarm goes off, the first thing that needs to happen is an evacuation. Depending on the size of the building and staff force, there will be a person or persons responsible for searching the entire building, ensuring everyone has evacuated the building. As they are required to be the last to leave the building, they are assuming the most risk in the event of a fire.
Whilst a building is being evacuated, fire marshals will be stationed at designated fire assembly points to keep the evacuation on track once staff are outside the building. Fire marshals must take a headcount to ensure all employees are accounted for and if any aren’t they must inform emergency services.
You must consider a variety of factors when calculating how many fire marshals or wardens your business needs and this number is often identified through fire risk assessments (which are also a requirement by law). Factors influencing the decision can include:
- Location – the location of your building will contribute to the level of fire risk warranted. If your building is in a heavily populated area, you’re more likely to receive a higher fire risk rating than somewhere that is less populated.
- Nature of work – working as a teacher compared to steelworker brings about different levels of risk. Depending on the job you are carrying out at your workplace, you may need more fire wardens and marshals than other workplaces.
- The number of employees – the more people working in a building means the more fire wardens and marshals are needed to ensure everyone will be evacuated to the right assembly points.
- Cover and shifts – depending on how many shifts there are throughout the day and fire wardens on holiday, it must be organised so the minimum amount of fire wardens are in every day the workplace is open.
- The complexity of the building – large rooms and complex layouts can take longer to evacuate, therefore they’ll need more people to cover the area. In simpler layouts, fire may spread quicker making it more difficult to see or access exit points.
The usual rule is that fire wardens must be able to search their area in 2-3 minutes and staff must be able to reach an exit point within 1 minute. Your fire risk assessment provides the information needed to have a suitable number of staff trained in fire safety, keeping you and your employees safe at all times.
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