Fires happen. That’s a fact. Thankfully they are fairly rare occurrences, but when they do happen, the results can be catastrophic.
Hopefully, you won’t ever face a fire emergency, but if you do, being prepared is key to a good outcome. Fire wardens play a vital role in this preparation. They are appointed members of staff who have undergone fire warden training and will play a key role in fire emergency situation. While it is the employer’s role to implement safety measures such as fire alarms, signs and fire fighting equipment, a fire warden should ensure these arrangements are properly in place. A fire warden also plays a crucial role if fire breaks out. In the event of a fire emergency, fire wardens must keep employers and visitors safe and ensuring a safe evacuation.
Fire Warden Duties
On a Day-To-Day Basis
The duties of a fire warden may differ depending on the size, layout, structure size of the workforce but some standard duties could include:
- Checking fire alarms – Are alarms in working order and easily visible? Weekly fire alarms should take place to ensure all are in good working order.
- Checking emergency exits – Check they are free from obstructions and able to be opened easily in the event of a fire.
- Fire extinguishers – Are they available and easily visible? Are they regularly serviced?
- Fire doors – Check the fire doors are in good working order and are kept closed.
- Emergency lighting – The lights must be checked each month to ensure they are in good working order.
- Fire safety signs – Is there adequate signage? Is the signage securely fixed to the wall?
- General housekeeping – Are sources of heat kept apart from sources of fuel? Are hazardous/flammable/combustible materials stored securely?
- Electrical equipment – Ensure it is all PAT tested because faulty electrical devices are a common cause of fire in the workplace.
- Staff induction – All staff must have fire safety training. This should be part of a new staff member’s inductions and something repeated to all staff on an annual basis.
- Fire drills – Carry out a fire drill annually at least. This provides a good opportunity to ensure everyone knows the drill in an emergency situation.
- Maintaining records – All fire safety activities should be recorded. Make a note of any hazards and any action taken to reduce or eliminate risk. This is important for compliance as well as being essential to ensure all safety procedures are being adhered to.
In the Event of a Fire
The top priority is to make sure everyone is safely evacuated from the building. To do so, fire wardens need to be able to:
- Raise the alarm.
- Close fire doors to prevent the fire from spreading.
- Ensure vulnerable persons are being assisted (this should be clearly explained in a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan or PEEP).
- Ensure everyone has exited the premises. This must include restrooms, storage areas.
- Use firefighting equipment such as extinguishers only if it is safe to do so.
- Help with roll call. Every person needs to be accounted for.
- Liaise with emergency services.
What is the Legal Requirement for Having Fire Wardens?
UK legislation requires every business to appoint fire wardens. The number of fire wardens your organisation needs depends on a range of factors. The general rule of thumb is that a fire warden should be able to perform their ‘sweep’ and reach a place of safety within 2 ½ minutes of hearing an alarm. At least two fire wardens are needed to cover a floor which is large or complex.
Other factors in determining how many fire wardens you need are mainly to do with the size of the premises, number of staff and type of business you operate. Furthermore, you must consider:
- If any occupants are high-risk, I.E. young, elderly, disabled, then you need to increase the number of fire wardens.
- Shift workers. Fire wardens need to be on site whenever there are people present. You need to consider this when shifts are organised.
- Staff absence i.e. sick leave and staff holidays. When a fire warden is sick or on leave, an alternative warden needs to be present.
- Are there flammable materials? Does your workplace have flammable materials such as stationery or flat pack boxes present? This could present a higher fire risk.
- Are there sources of ignition? A kitchenette is a source of ignition and increases the risk of fire.
Once you have appointed your fire wardens, make sure they are properly trained. They must be competent and able to carry out all the tasks required of them.
As well as trained fire wardens, your entire workforce should know what to do in the event of a fire and new employees must be shown what to do as soon as they start working with you. Find out more about your responsibilities as defined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2015.
The good news is there is a downward trend in fire-related emergencies at work. However, given that many fires are completely avoidable, it is still too frequent an occurrence. Good practice includes having a fire risk assessment, competent fire evacuation plans and well-trained fire wardens are your protection against fire and its associated catastrophe.
In England, 2017- 2018, the Fire and Rescue Service attended 12,068 fires in non-domestic buildings.
Don’t Be A Statistic