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. 

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. 

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: 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.