Regardless of the size or type of your business, you need to have at least one designated fire marshal. The number of fire marshals you need will vary, according to the risk category of your working environment. And your fire risk assessment can help you to ascertain that. But irrespective of their numbers, all fire marshals will share the same responsibilities. So, what do fire marshals actually do?
The duties of a fire marshal vary from everyday fire prevention – assessing risk, managing fire safety training, ensuring fire equipment logbooks are kept up to date – to taking action in the event of a fire. But it’s important to understand the full remit of a fire marshal in order to safeguard your business and people as best you can.
A fire marshal’s responsibilities can be broadly split into five main categories as follows:
Fire Risk Assessments
Fire risk assessment doesn’t just mean working with the business owner or manager to ensure that there is an up-to-date fire risk assessment document in place. But the active monitoring of the premises ensures that risks are minimised. This will include:
Ensuring that emergency exits are free from obstruction, easily accessible, and easily opened at all times.
Regularly check fire doors to make sure that they are fully operational, unobstructed, and routinely kept closed.
Managing the fire logbook, fire risk assessment, and any related paperwork in line with current legislation.
Alarms and Equipment
Fire safety equipment can make the difference between a good and a bad outcome should a fire break out. That’s why it’s so important for fire marshals to:
Perform weekly fire alarm tests. According to British Standard BS 5839-6: 2019, all fire alarm systems in commercial premises need to be tested weekly. This does not necessarily have to be performed by a fire marshal, but many business managers do list it under the fire marshal’s responsibilities.
Check emergency lighting on a monthly basis. Again, this doesn’t have to be performed by the fire marshal. But the checking and reporting of emergency lighting is a sensible extension of their duties.
Inspecting fire extinguishers. Checking to see that the right extinguishers are in the right place, that the right signage has been provided, that the units are undamaged, and that any scheduled maintenance has been organised.
Check that all fire safety signage is in the right place, up to date, secured in place, and undamaged. If any signs are not easy to read, then the fire marshal should organise a replacement.
Make sure that all ‘break glass’ call points’ are intact and visible.
People – Including Visitors
If you run a business in the UK, you are legally obliged to ensure that all people who work on site know what to do in the event of a fire. This includes volunteers and other visitors. Your fire marshal is responsible for:
Ensuring that all new employees are provided with fire safety awareness training.
Making sure that everyone who works within your business receives annual fire safety refresher training.
Ensuring that all visitors are made aware of fire safety measures. Including fire escape routes and evacuation procedures.
Organising annual fire drills to ensure that all team members know what to do in the event of a fire. Including awareness of the fire assembly points.
The more cluttered a workplace is, the faster a fire will spread. That’s why general housekeeping also falls under the remit of the fire marshal. Their duties include:
Making sure that all combustible materials are appropriately stored.
Ensuring that escape routes remain clutter and obstruction-free.
Managing the storage of hazardous materials used on site.
Enforcing no smoking policies, and checking that any designated smoking areas are well maintained and hazard-free.
Checking that all electrical equipment used on site has been PAT tested. And ensuring that regular PAT testing is scheduled.
Taking Charge in the Event of a Fire
Hopefully, your fire marshals will never have to face this scenario. But if a fire does break out on your premises, your fire marshal has a range of responsibilities:
Raising the alarm. If a fire is detected and your smoke alarm is not already sounding, it is the job of your fire marshal to raise the alarm. They also need to alert the fire brigade if your fire alarm system isn’t already linked to the emergency services.
If a small fire that can be simply managed is detected, it is the role of the fire marshal to attempt to prevent its spread. So, fire marshals should be able to competently deploy in-house firefighting equipment. Including fires extinguishers, fire blankets, and if relevant, fire hoses.
If the building needs to be evacuated, the fire marshal is responsible for closing all doors and fire doors to help stop the fire spreading.
In the event of a fire evacuation, the role of the fire marshal is to direct building occupants to the nearest emergency exit, and to assist anyone who may be particularly vulnerable. This may include the less able-bodied, anyone who requires mobility aids, the hearing or visually impaired, and pregnant women.
Once a building has been evacuated, the fire marshal’s role is to conduct a floor sweep to ensure that no one has been left behind.
Lastly, the fire marshal should conduct a roll call at the fire assembly point, so that any absences can be accounted for, or reported to firefighters.
The fire marshal’s role is one of significant responsibility. And it requires bespoke training to meet your business’ needs. Are you confident that your fire marshals know everything they need to protect your business? Find out how 1st Class Fire Protection can help.
1st Class Fire Protection is an industry-leading fire protection company, serving customers throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire. If you are looking for fire safety training to ensure your fire marshal is aware of all their duties then get in touch today. We’d be more than happy to help and create a bespoke training package for your business.