The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005, and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 state that businesses are required to have a number of nominated and trained fire wardens on their staff. But what is a fire warden and how many does your building need?
What is a fire warden?
A fire warden is a member of staff who has been nominated and trained to carry out certain duties to prevent fires, to protect staff and visitors in the event of a fire and to report to the emergency services when they arrive.
Fire warden training covers both the day to day responsibilities of a fire warden, as well as emergency procedures. Day to day, a fire warden is responsible for:
- Checking fire doors and escape routes are clear of obstructions
- Checking fire extinguishers are properly stored and tested as required
- Testing fire alarms weekly and emergency lights monthly
- Holding fire drills at least once a year
- Encouraging fire-safe behaviour, such as waste paper management
The fire warden will also be required to take control in the event of a fire. This includes:
- Raising the alarm and calling the emergency services
- Fighting the fire if it is safe to do so
- Assisting people, especially the elderly and disabled, to exit the building safely
- Checking all rooms systematically, closing fire doors once confirmed empty
- Reporting key information to the emergency services on arrival
Assessing your building and your business
The number of fire wardens you require for your building and your business will depend your risk level, which in turn depends on a number of factors, including:
- The chances of fire occurring in your building in the first place
- How fast a fire would be likely to spread
- The risks that materials stored in your building would pose
- The level of fire safety measures provided
- The structure and layout of the building
- The number of people in the building
- The mobility / special needs of the people in your building
Setting the risk level
While there are no hard and fast rules for assessing the risk level of a building, they are usually classified into one of three groups: low risk, medium risk or high risk. The fire wardens will help to identify the risk level as part of the formal Fire Risk Assessment. Below is a rough guide to the three risk levels, although more detailed assessments are available should you need them.
- Low risk – this includes well maintained, traditional buildings with few potential ignition sources. There are few occupants, they have no special needs and could exit the building quickly and easily. Few buildings will fall into this risk category.
- Medium risk – this includes non-traditional building styles, or buildings that contain some ignition sources or combustible or flammable materials, but where fire would spread slowly or remain contained. There are many occupants, but they are mostly able to exit quickly with few requiring extra help. Most buildings will fall into this risk category.
- High risk – this includes buildings with significant ignition sources and large quantities of combustible or flammable materials, where a fire would spread rapidly. It also includes buildings with a significant number of occupants would require help in the event of a fire, or buildings with sleeping accommodation, such as hotels and guest houses, where people will take longer to evacuate.
As discussed above, there are a number of factors to consider when assessing fire risk, and no two premises will be entirely the same. However, as a general guide:
- Low risk premises include: small shops and offices with few staff
- Medium risk premises include: larger shops and offices, leisure facilities, light manufacturing and warehouses
- High risk premises include: restaurants, heavy manufacturing and industrial premises, along with schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities
How many fire wardens do you need?
Once you have assessed your building and your business, and set the risk level, the regulations will tell you on how many fire wardens you need to be fully compliant:
- 1 fire warden for up to 50 people
- 2 fire wardens for 50 -100 people
- 1 fire warden for every additional 100 people
- 1 fire warden for up to 20 people
- 2 fire wardens for 20 -75 people
- 1 fire warden for every additional 75 people
- 1 fire warden for up to 15 people
- 2 fire wardens for 15 – 50 people
- 1 fire warden for every additional 50 people
You must add 25-50% to the number of nominated fire wardens shown above to allow for holidays, sickness and other absences.
Larger premises will need extra fire wardens to ensure there is one for each floor or each distinct working area, including canteens, reception areas and stores. Businesses operating shift work will need to ensure there are enough fire wardens to cover every area during every shift.
Fire warden training
Fire warden training takes just half a day and leads to a formal qualification that is valid for three years. Not only is it a legal obligation to comply with current fire regulations, it is also crucial if you want to provide the best possible protection for your staff, customers and visitors, and reduce the risks and impact of fire at your premises.