Fire wardens (or fire marshals as they are sometimes called) must have a structure or frame work to follow within the organisation to allow their role to work in preventing fires.
This structure has to be regularly audited and managed to ensure it works and protects staff. Failure to take it serious could result in a significant fire incident.
A Fire Wardens roles and responsibilities fall broadly into 2 categories:
- Proactive day to day duties
- Reactive emergency duties
Proactive and day to day duties of a Fire Warden
While a workplace fire warden must not put themselves at risk while carrying out their duties, they are essentially there to carry out many elements of a fire risk assessment, to increase the chances of preventing a fire in the first place.
Actual finalised tasks will change from organisation to organisation, depending on number of staff, size of building, contents of building and so on but, as an example, Fire Warden duties in the work place might include:
- All fire exits and routes must remain free from obstruction and available at all times. It is crucial that final exits are opened to check they are not blocked from the outside.
- Break glass call points are visible and have a break glass point sign and emergency fire action notice adjacent to them.
- Ensuring Fire extinguishers are in their correct place, serviced, signed and stowed above floor level.
- General house-keeping is in good order i.e paper storage and waste controlled. No room with a fixed source of ignition or heat is to be used for the storage of combustible materials.
- Smoking areas are controlled i.e kept clean regularly and smoking receptacles emptied on a regular basis.
- Control of flammable liquids and hazardous materials.
- Electrical safety checks / pat testing.
- Rubbish and external security monitored.
- Emergency lighting tested monthly.
- Hot works management / issuing hot works permits and control of contractors.
- Fire alarm checks tested weekly.
- Staff fire inductions.
- Arranging fire drills at least once a year.
- Exit sign surveys.
- Fire door checks on a weekly basis.
- Working with the fire risk assessment.
- Managing all checks / paperwork / compliance documentation.
Reactive fire warden duties
While the main role of the Fire Warden is to try and prevent fires, there are often times where fire occurs, and the warden needs to react. In a reactive position, their responsibilities might include:
- Fighting fires / use of fire extinguishers.
- Raise the alarm / call the emergency services.
- Direct staff to safe available exit routes.
- Sweep all rooms where safe to do so ensuring toilets and places like walk in cupboards are checked.
- Assist disabled people.
- Close all windows in rooms and corridors.
- Close all doors and fire doors.
- Ensure final fire doors are closed.
- Ensure hazardous manufacturing processes and machinery has been isolated.
- Take part in the roll call at the assembly point.
- Report to the fire service on their arrival.
How many Fire Wardens for your organisation?
A good question, and the answer is largely depending on size of building, number of staff and so on. Looking at the duties and responsibilities above, it may be OK for 1 person to deal with all of it in a small office space. However, in a multi room or multi floored building with tens (or hundreds) of staff, it’s clearly too much responsibility for 1 person.
Added to the actual list of responsibilities needs to be consideration of staff going on training, staff going on holiday or staff being off sick. In those situations, having at least one other warden in place would make sense.