Every business that employs people is required by law to have a strategy in place for how to react appropriately in emergencies such as fires and other catastrophes.
You are not required to appoint a fire warden according to legislation. Does this, therefore, imply that your company does not require one? Consider it in this light: there is no such thing as an emergency plan worth the name that does not assign specific roles and responsibilities to designated individuals. Keep in mind if you need to evacuate your staff and ensure that everyone is accounted for and safe.
To summarise, here’s the situation: according to industry standards (as well as just plain old common sense), virtually every workplace in Australia ought to have at least one fire warden on staff. Failing to appoint a warden makes it highly likely that your emergency plan will be deemed inadequate if it is put to the test. This raises the possibility of legal action and penalties, in addition to creating enormous complications with your insurance provider. In addition to unnecessarily putting your employees in danger.
To ensure that you remain on the up and up with the law, your company, and the safety of everyone involved:
IN AUSTRALIA, WHAT ARE FIRE WARDENS SUPPOSED TO DO ACCORDING TO THE LAW?
The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations are a helpful starting point. These regulations are intended to provide the basis for nationally consistent work health and safety laws, so they serve as a helpful starting point. The states of New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and Tasmania converged on a single set of rules. Take note that Victoria has not joined the harmonised scheme; the state has kept and updated the Occupational Health, and Safety Act passed in 2004. You can learn more about particular responsibilities outlined in this Act by visiting the WorkSafe Victoria website.
A business owner “person conducting the business or undertaking” must maintain an emergency plan by section 43 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations.
There is no mention of fire wardens anywhere in the requirements associated with this plan. On the other hand, it does state that you are responsible for providing the following:
The procedures for evacuating. Notification of those responsible for emergency services. Medical treatment. Clear and concise communication. Experimentation with the protocols for an emergency.
Workers should be provided with information, training, and instructions regarding implementing emergency procedures. In other words, you need to have a strategy. To put that plan into action, you will need people, and those people will need to be trained. Without fire wardens, it is impossible to accomplish any of this practice and with any degree of success.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A FIRE WARDEN, AND WHAT ACTIVITIES DO THEY CONDUCT?
Fire emergency procedures and a more comprehensive fire prevention plan. Employees at a place of business are referred to as fire wardens if they have been entrusted with specific responsibilities. Their job requires them to be proactive (that is, to assist in preventing fires from starting. When broken down, the following is an example of what might be expected of them:
RESPONSIBILITIES THAT ARE PROACTIVE IN NATURE
Assisting you in developing your comprehensive fire risk and emergency plans. Arranging drills. Documentation management, including records of drill roll calls, risk assessments, and inspection check reports. Tests of the fire suppression and detection equipment are performed routinely. Inspection of the workplace’s available equipment. Prevention of potential dangers, including but not limited to the secure stowing away of combustible and hazardous materials. Keeping fire exits and evacuation routes clear of obstructions at all times.
Raising alarms. Notifying the appropriate emergency services. Put in place the firefighting equipment needed for the initial response (e.g. extinguishers). Having conversations with the staff. Providing assistance during the evacuation of people who have special requirements. Conducting spot checks throughout the premises at regular intervals. I am shutting all the doors and windows. Isolating potentially dangerous areas or pieces of machinery (where safe to do so). Providing initial care for injured patients. Monitoring the taking of roll at the location that has been designated as the assembly point. Keeping in touch with the various emergency response services. Notifying staff members when it is secure to re-enter the building and ensuring that any isolated areas continue to be off-limits are two essential steps in this process. Putting together reports following an incident.
DO YOU REQUIRE THE SERVICES OF A FIRE WARDEN FOR REASONS RELATING TO YOUR INSURANCE?
It should be no surprise that one of the primary dangers that commercial property insurance is intended to guard against is fire. It is standard practice for insurers to require that policyholders keep an adequate and current fire risk assessment on file. The lack of fire wardens may represent a glaring oversight regarding your efforts to reduce the risk. It can affect or even invalidate your policy, which could result in the insurer refusing to pay out.
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENT FOR THE SIZE OF MY WORKPLACE TO HAVE A FIRE WARDEN? HOW MANY DO I HAVE TO HAVE?
Even if only one person is working at your place of business. It is still highly recommended that at least one of you receive training to become a fire warden.
In a perfect world, there would be sufficient wardens to cover all building areas, with one typically assigned to each floor of the structure. The number of required wardens can be affected by various factors, including the intricacy of the layout of your business and the presence of potentially hazardous areas. In addition, you need to make sure that you account for any planned holidays. It is generally recommended that a particular area should have more than one warden assigned. Thus, to it, if it takes longer than three minutes to sweep the area in question.
WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED TO BECOME A FIRE WARDEN IN AUSTRALIA?
There are no rules that must be followed absolutely during training. The Australian Standard AS 3745 – 2010 is generally recognised as the standard to which all other procedures should be compared.
There are daylong classes available for the purpose of training your wardens. Make sure the programme you pick adheres to the Australian Standard AS 3745 – 2010 before enrolling. Your employees should, ideally, be able to obtain accreditation by the following nationally recognised competencies upon successful completion of the course:
UAWER005B – Function within the context of an emergency control organisation
HOW OFTEN SHOULD ONE REVISIT THE TRAINING REQUIRED TO BE A FIRE WARDEN?
The applicable Australian Standard should update fire wardens’ training at least once every two years.
SHOULD I PROVIDE MY FIRE WARDEN EMPLOYEE WITH A BONUS OR A PAY INCREASE?
It is necessary to consider the surroundings. As a general rule, an employer can only ask an employee to complete responsibilities outlined as part of the employee’s job description in the employment contract. Therefore, if you are planning ahead, you should consider drafting your contracts so that the duties clause is sufficiently broad. This will cover the possibility of an employee being required to carry out fire watch duties.
If, however, the duties of the fire warden go above and beyond what would typically be required, then some compensation would be suitable. Additionally, it is essential to remember that an effective fire warden is seldom a reluctant one!
Evacuation drill frequency?
The purpose of holding evacuation drills is to ensure that your fire wardens are ready to respond effectively in an emergency. At a minimum, they should be performed once a year.