In England and Wales, fire warden training is covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force on 1st October 2006. This Order replaced a wide range of existing legislation, including the Fire Precautions Act (1961), with the aim of making your fire safety rules and responsibilities clearer and simpler.
Different legislation applies in other parts of the United Kingdom, with Scottish fire safety covered by the Fire Scotland Act (2005) and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations (2006), and Northern Ireland covered by the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) (2010). In both cases, the rules and responsibilities are broadly similar regarding the appointment of fire wardens or fire marshals.
What are my fire safety responsibilities under the law?
The Order identifies the ‘responsible person’ in the workplace as the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under their control. If you are the responsible person, the Order states that you must ‘make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the size of your undertaking and the nature of its activities, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective (fire safety) measures.’
How do I know what is appropriate?
As the ‘responsible person’, you are obliged, under the Order, to carry out a fire risk assessment. This covers a wide range of proactive and reactive measures to identify the appropriate procedures required to reduce the risk of fire and the risk to your employees should fire break out. If you have five or more employees, the Order specifies that this risk assessment must be recorded in writing and available for inspection by the appropriate authorities on demand. You are also obliged to ‘appoint one or more competent persons to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures’ that you identify in your risk assessment.
How many fire wardens do I need?
The fire risk assessment will help you to decide how many fire wardens or fire marshals you need. The Order includes fire warden legislation that states that the responsible person must ‘nominate competent persons to implement those measures and ensure that the number of such persons, their training and the equipment available to them is adequate, taking into account the size of, and the specific hazards involved in, the premises concerned.’
Under the law, fire wardens must have ‘the time available for them to fulfil their functions and the means at their disposal adequate with regard to the size of the premises, the risks and the distribution of those risks throughout the premises. They should be formally trained to enable them to properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.
What happens if I contravene the order?
It is an offence for any responsible person to fail to comply with any requirement of the Order, especially where ‘that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire’. Premises may be inspected at any time and inspectors will require to see written evidence of your fire risk assessment, along with proof of the training of an appropriate number of fire wardens or fire marshals. Failure to produce these documents can lead to prosecution and penalties under Health and Safety law.