Prioritising staff health and wellbeing at South Wales Fire and Rescue
With the support of partners across public, private and third sector organisations, the Move More Eat Well partnership plan has been developed to enable everyone, from individuals to organisations, to lead more active and healthier lives.

From an organisational perspective, introducing and encouraging healthier alternatives and activities can support members of staff to adopt healthier lifestyle choices, improving productivity and boosting morale.

As a strategic partner within the Move More Eat Well partnership plan, South Wales Fire and Rescue has fully embraced the Healthy Workplace Principles and has been enabling staff across the organisation to prioritise their physical and mental wellbeing through a series of organisational and station driven initiatives.

As an organisation…
Operationally, the role of a firefighter is physically demanding, and fitness is a top priority. However, with over 5,000 members of corporate and operational staff, South Wales Fire and Rescue has been instilling the benefits of moving more and eating well, supporting staff to be more physically active and healthier within their working day.

Small changes can have a big impact on enabling members of staff to adopt healthier behaviours. For example, the service provided all staff members with a re-useable, branded water bottle to encourage staff to have a regular intake of water and to raise awareness of the importance of healthy hydration. The water bottles have been introduced to drive forward the refill agenda, from a sustainability and a health perspective.

Beyond this, South Wales Fire and Rescue introduced a range of healthier food options for corporate members of staff; offering fresh, locally sourced healthier alternatives and fruit snacks to make it even easier for staff to eat well when in work.

Recognising the benefits that moving more and eating well can have on the health and wellbeing of staff, the service has introduced a range of physical initiatives to encourage members of staff to be more active within their working day. Targeted at corporate staff, the service hosts sessions such as yoga or circuits within the gyms, giving members of the team dedicated time to focus on their wellbeing.

As well as this, the service has been identifying opportunities for operational and corporate staff to work collaboratively to improve their health and wellbeing through away-days. Team members are given the opportunity to leave the office, meet other members of the service and have taster sessions of the physical aspect of the firefighter role under the advice and guidance of trained firefighters.

From an organisational perspective, South Wales Fire and Rescue’s ethos places huge emphasis on the health and wellbeing of its staff members. Recognising the importance of having dedicated time out of the working day to be more physically active, take a wellbeing break or to have fresh, healthy food that is easily accessible, the organisation has instilled these Move More Eat Well priorities from a corporate, through to operational level.

A Station Showcase…
Across the fire stations in South Wales, the majority have a suite of facilities that enable the team to work on their physical fitness when they are at work. As the role of a firefighter is physically demanding, they are encouraged to carry out physical sessions for 45 minutes per day to maintain fitness levels both independently or as a group.

South Wales Fire and Rescue wanted to ensure that across all its stations, staff had an environment that they felt comfortable in to practice mental and emotional wellbeing. With professional support accessible across the service to members of staff, the organisation felt it was important to also have a ‘safe haven’ at each station that acted as a dedicated wellbeing hub. The stations themselves were given the opportunity to develop spaces that they felt would benefit their community of firefighters.

At Cardiff Central Station, supported by the station manager, they chose to introduce an outdoor veranda as a wellbeing space to benefit the staff at a station level. Coming up with the ideas independently, the station then clubbed together to transform the area into a relaxing and comfortable environment.

As the COVID-19 pandemic placed more emphasis on the need for emotional and mental wellbeing support, the wellbeing hub was created to enable members of staff to take a break away from the station, to relax and refocus themselves. It has also been an opportunity for the team to socialise and meet in an informal space, giving the firefighters a place to unwind in the fresh air.

Station Manager, Roger Magan, commented: “With the nature of our jobs, being encouraged and supported to prioritise the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our colleagues is of paramount importance. Our wellbeing area at Cardiff Central has been very well received and our staff were involved in every step of the journey, from coming up with ideas to helping to renovate the space – it is a space we are very proud of and it is well utilised. Prioritising the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our members of staff is at the forefront of our organisation and we have created a community that is able to look out for each other, offer support and recognise when to take a break and that is very important.”

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