What is a fire marshal?

A fire marshal is a responsible person who has been appointed to oversee the fire safety, fire prevention and fire evacuation procedure at the workplace. Fire marshals need to undergo special fire marshal training. Upon completion of their training, they receive special fire marshal certification which verifies that they are qualified to carry out their fire safety duties.  

The role of the fire marshal is, first and foremost, to prevent fires at the workplace. Then, in the event of a fire, they should lead their colleagues to safety and make sure the evacuation procedure is followed and that the premises are evacuated in a quick, calm and orderly fashion. 

Fire Marshal: Duties and Responsibilities 

The fire marshal’s duties and responsibilities can be broadly split into two types: daily duties and duties in the event of an emergency. The first type is designed to prevent fires in the first place, whereas the second type involves the fire marshal taking charge to ensure the safety of their colleagues in the event of an emergency. So let’s take a look at some of them in more detail below. 

Daily fire marshal duties

  • Check the fire exits: Ensure fire doors are all closed and that there are no obstructions blocking the fire exits from being used in case of an emergency. 
  • Inspect the fire extinguishers: Check if they are all in place and if they are sealed.
  • Report issues with the fire safety equipment: Misplaced fire safety signs, obstructed fire alarms and faulty emergency lighting or manual call points are all serious issues that must be reported immediately.
  • Lead fire alarm drills: The fire marshal is in charge of organising the evacuation during a fire drill. They must ensure that everyone leaves safely and that people with disabilities are facilitated in the completion of the evacuation drill. 

Fire marshal duties in case of a fire

In the event of a fire, upon hearing the fire alarm, the fire marshal must step in and take charge of the evacuation procedure.

  • Start the evacuation process: Open their Fire Marshal Kit, put on their fire marshal jacket and start directing co-workers to the fire exits. 
  • Ensure everyone is out of the building: The fire marshal must ensure everyone has left the premises before exiting the building.
  • Offer help where needed: Ensure that the necessary assistance is provided to anyone who may be struggling to leave the premises.
  • Get to the assembly area: Join everyone in the fire assembly area.
  • Check if everyone is present: Take a register of their colleagues.
  • Gather information: Try to find out about the origin of the fire, the current state of the fire and if anyone is missing (potentially still in the building).
  • Report to the fire officer in charge: Any information that may be helpful should be shared with the fire officers who attend on-site. 

Fire Marshal vs Fire Warden: The Difference

According to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 there is no clearly defined difference between a fire marshal and a fire warden. In fact, in the UK, the two are often used interchangeably. 

However, as an employer, it is up to you whether you want to have a fire warden, a fire marshal or both. If you do assign both, then it’s your choice as to how you would like the fire safety duties to be split between the two. You can assign evacuation of people to one, for example, and coordination with the authorities – to the other. 

The Legal Responsibilities Of The Employer 

The business owner or the employer carries the legal responsibility for the safety in the workplace. This includes:

  • Ensuring a fire risk assessment is carried out regularly – as part of the fire risk assessment, you will be given a fire risk rating (low, medium or high) and all identified risk hazards will be listed along with suggested control measures 
  • Put fire safety signs in place – those include instructions on what to do in case of a fire emergency, explanatory labels on fire extinguishers, as well as signs pointing towards the fire exits and the fire alarm
  • Provide adequate fire safety equipment – this may include fire extinguishers, fire alarms, smoke detectors, water sprinklers, fire blankets and more 
  • Install and maintain emergency lighting to ensure safe evacuation in an emergency 

When you enlist the services of a fire safety expert to conduct your fire risk assessment, they will be able to provide you with further advice on how to manage risks and achieve regulatory compliance. 

Do you legally need a fire marshal?

According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, all employers are responsible for the safety of their employees. Even though having a fire marshal is not explicitly stated in the law as a requirement, appointing a person (or persons) who have the skills and the competence to ensure fire safety best practices are followed may be necessary for you to stay compliant with the fire safety regulations. 

In order to stay compliant with the law, you should also provide access to the relevant fire safety training your appointed fire marshal needs. This will require initial training, followed by refresher training on a regular basis. 

3 Reasons to Have a Fire Marshal

Even though the law doesn’t state explicitly that you need a fire marshal at your workplace, having an appointed fire marshal comes with its benefits. Here are the top three reasons why you should have a fire marshal:

  1. Better Fire Prevention 

Having a designated employee to carry out daily fire safety checks ensures that any obvious fire safety hazards are identified and removed before a fire breaks out. It’s a form of active fire prevention that can save lives and protect you from losing money in fire damage to your property. 

  1. Improved Engagement in Fire Safety 

Although the fire marshal is not legally obliged to provide safety training or oversee the implementation of safety procedures by others, they can work with their colleagues to make them aware of how they can help prevent a fire by highlighting any behaviours that can be a hazard. Engaging the collective workforce in maintaining better fire safety can significantly improve the overall safety standard in your workplace. 

  1. Social Approval 

Taking care of your employees is a certain way to improve your company’s reputation and gain social approval. Making the effort to appoint and properly train a fire marshal puts you one step closer to being a responsible employer. 

How Many Fire Marshals Do I Need?

The number of fire marshals required per site varies depending on a list of factors including:

  • The size of the premises
  • Number of floors in the building
  • Number of people working on the premises at one time
  • Who will be on the premises 
  • Accessibility 

You will not be expected as a responsible person to calculate how many marshals you need yourself. You will have to have a fire risk assessment carried out by a specialist. In their fire risk assessment report, they will outline the fire risks in the building, as well as recommendations as to how to address those, including the number of fire marshals needed to fit the risk.

Fire Marshal Training: What Does It Involve?

Every appointed fire marshal must undergo appropriate fire marshal training to enable them to perform their duties. It teaches the marshals both practical and theoretical skills, including:

  • What the role of a fire marshal entails
  • What the current fire safety regulations are 
  • What are the different types of fire detection equipment are
  • What makes a good evacuation route
  • How to identify fire hazards
  • What to do in the event of a fire
  • How to use a fire extinguisher and other fire safety equipment
  • How to provide first aid in case of an emergency

Fire marshal training should be delivered by a fire safety expert specialising in training or by an active firefighter. It’s the employer’s responsibility to send their fire marshal to a training course so they can obtain and maintain a fire marshal certificate. 

Fire marshal training: how often do you need it?

Along with the number of fire marshals required, your fire safety risk assessment should also indicate the level of training they need to manage the risk level adequately. In any case, a fire marshal will always need to undergo initial training, followed by subsequent refresher training. 

The fire marshal training certificates acquired by completing a training course expires after 3 years. However, it is best practice to have refreshment training more often than that, ideally every year. 

There are several factors that can affect the frequency of fire marshal training, including:

  • Staff turnover: Your fire marshal has left and you need to appoint a new one.
  • Changes to the building: If the premises have been subject to changes this may affect your fire risk level.
  • Working with people: In some cases, a  fire marshal will have to ensure the safe evacuation not only of staff but also of guests, patients or residents.
  • Hazardous work environment: If you work in a high-risk environment, fire safety training may be required more often. 

When selecting a fire marshal, you should take into their personal characteristics. The role requires someone who is organised and collected and who will be able to handle a sudden emergency situation in a calm manner. The right person for the job will also be responsible and will have a keen eye for detail, as part of the fire marshal’s responsibilities is to collect information and report to the fire authorities.


Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?

Fire safety in the workplace should be everyone’s shared responsibility. While the employer is usually considered the legally responsible person for the premises and is required to ensure fire safety in the building by providing adequate fire equipment, fire evacuation procedures and fire safety training, it is the employees’ responsibility to avoid creating fire hazards and, in the event of a fire, to take the necessary steps detailed in the fire safety procedure as per their fire safety training. 

What are the fire marshal’s main responsibilities?

The fire marshal has a number of responsibilities carried out daily, as well as duties they have to perform in the event of a fire. Those can be generalised in the following six main responsibilities:

  1. Conduct daily fire safety checks
  2. Assess the potential fire risks in the building 
  3. Identify and report any potential fire hazards
  4. Ensure the evacuation plan is implemented in case of a fire
  5. Provide first aid if necessary 
  6. Attempt to extinguish the fire if it’s safe to do so 

What are the fire marshal’s fire prevention responsibilities?

A fire marshal’s daily responsibilities include taking preventive measures against fire, such as:

  • Ensuring fire escape routes are unobstructed
  • Carrying out check to see that fire hazard materials are stored away safely
  • Ensuring, evacuation signs, fire safety signs and firefighting equipment are present and show no visible signs of damages 
  • Conduct regular fire drills to ensure the equipment is in good working condition and that the fire evacuation procedure is observed
  • Providing fire safety training to new employees
  • Assigning deputies where needed 
  • Keeping a fire safety record 

What are the duties of a fire marshal in a fire emergency?

In the event of a fire, the fire marshal is responsible for: 

  • Sounding the fire alarm (if it hasn’t already been raised)
  • Conduct a roll call to make sure evacuates safely
  • Offer assistance to anyone who may need it to evacuate 
  • Communicate information to the emergency services 
  • Use the fire safety equipment to fight the fire (if they can do so safely)

What is the fire marshal not responsible for?

The fire marshal has limited responsibilities which DO NOT include:

  • Making the area where the fire occurred safe
  • Locking fireproof safes in the event of a fire 
  • Ensuring that fire safety procedures are implemented by all staff
  • Providing fire safety training to coworkers
  • Conducting fire risk assessments

What is the difference between a marshal and a warden?

A fire marshal and a fire warden are one and the same in most cases. If an employer decides to employ both a fire warden and a fire marshal, it is up to the employer to define the roles and responsibilities of each.