A fire can wipe out a business. It also puts lives at risk. If you are an employer or property manager in the UK, it’s your duty to protect people and your property from fire. Training staff members to act as fire wardens is an effective way of ensuring that your business complies with the law and stays fire safe.
How many fire wardens should there be in your workplace? In this article, we look at the legal requirements for fire wardens and how to find the answer to this question.
Is it a Legal Requirement to Have a Fire Warden?
UK health and safety legislation dictates that every employer has the responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their employees. These obligations are contained within the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
While this Act is the main piece of legislation governing health and safety in the workplace, other acts further clarify the duties of employers and employees. Fire safety in the workplace in England and Wales is covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Every place of business in England and Wales has a so-called ‘responsible person’ that must oversee fire safety measures, according to the legislation. This is usually the building owner, business owner or someone that has control over the premises.
Because the responsible person may not always be available, you may be required to also nominate a ‘competent person’ to manage fire safety at work. Although the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 makes no mention of titles, the competent person is often given the title of a fire warden or fire marshal.
But these duties may differ depending on the size of your organisation.
How Many Fire Wardens Should There Be in Your Workplace?
There are many factors to consider when you’re determining how many fire wardens are needed in your workplace.
The size and type of your business premises must be considered. Some workplaces are at a higher risk of fire than others.
General guidelines recommend that:
- Low-risk workplaces should have one trained fire warden for every 50 employees
- Medium-risk workplaces should have one trained fire warden for every 20 employees
- High-risk workplaces should have one trained fire warden for every 15 employees
If you’re the responsible person, you must perform an assessment to gauge whether the workplace is low, medium, or high risk.
Most workplaces in the UK are considered to be medium-risk environments.
Is Your Place of Work a High Fire Risk?
Your place of business could be considered at high risk of fire if:
- A large number of combustibles and flammable materials are on site – how they are stored is also a factor to consider
- Work activities involve working with sources of ignition such as naked flames or electricity
- Highly flammable material is present in the structure of the building, for example, wood rather than brick or concrete
- The nature of the work may impede an evacuation, e.g., machinery that must be turned off before leaving the building
- Evacuation is more difficult if there is a fire because the building is large and complex in design
How to Calculate How Many Fire Wardens Your Workplace Needs
When calculating how many fire wardens your business should have, you need to consider the following factors:
- Size of premises: How large is your site? how many floors are there? There should be one fire warden per floor at a minimum, although two or more is optimal
- Occupancy: How many people occupy the building? Consider also if you frequently have guests or clients on site.
- Vulnerability: Are the occupants vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, pregnant women or people with disabilities?
- Shift work: Does your business operate using rotating shifts or does it have a changing work schedule? Shifts and schedules should be arranged so there is always a fire warden present
- Holidays: Do you have enough fire wardens to cover for absences and staff holidays?
Fire wardens need to effectively organise an evacuation from the building if there is a fire. They must be able to search their area and reach a point of safety in two and a half minutes after a fire alarm has been activated. It should take one minute for all occupants to be evacuated and reach an exit route or safety staircase. There must be enough fire wardens in a workplace so that these goals can easily be accomplished.
What are the Responsibilities of Fire Wardens?
The exact responsibilities of fire wardens will vary from workplace to workplace. In general, the main duties of fire wardens are to:
- Perform risk assessments to identify fire hazards
- Report and record all fire hazards
- Ensure that all fire alarms and firefighting equipment are in good condition
- Organise fire drills
- Provide fire safety training for new employees
- Provide fire safety refresher training for existing employees
- Raise the alarm and alert authorities if a fire breaks out
- Keep all fire doors and doors to fireproof spaces closed
- Administer first aid to injured people
- If it is safe, use firefighting equipment to stop the spread of the fire
- Evacuate all people from the building
- Assist vulnerable people to evacuate the building
- Liaise with emergency responders
Download the free infographic from Human Focus to ensure your fire wardens know their duties
The Importance of Fire Wardens in the Workplace
Fire wardens play crucial roles in preventing fires by performing risk assessments. They must regularly inspect and test firefighting equipment. If a fire occurs, fire wardens are responsible for evacuating people from the building safely.
In this way, fire wardens protect your business and your people. If there are not enough fire wardens in your place of business, then your employees and customers are at greater risk of being injured or dying during a fire.
It is also a legal requirement to have fire wardens in a workplace (competent persons) as stipulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Failure to comply with this legislation can result in significant financial penalties or imprisonment.
How to Provide Fire Warden Training for Your Employees
It’s advisable that you have several employees complete accredited training so they can assume the responsibilities of fire wardens. You can find a range of online fire safety courses on the Human Focus website. They can be taken in segments and provide successful trainees with a certificate upon completion.
The Human Focus fire warden training course covers the duties and responsibilities of fire wardens. The course runs for approximately 25 minutes and is approved by the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM).
Enrol on the Human Focus Fire Warden training course today and learn how to protect your co-workers and your business.