Small Steps

Small steps can make a big difference to the well-being of all who are involved in the Trust’s work. Find out more about some of the suggestions put forward for Sue’s Safety Challenge.

What: Safe and comfortable outdoor working.

Why? On hot, sunny days it can be very tempting to make the most of the good weather and decamp to the garden. At the Trust we’re lucky enough to have access to a very nice outdoor area that’s got patio furniture and parasols. This is great if you’re relaxing with a drink or your lunch, but not so good for prolonged periods – the traditional desk space and office chair may be a functional arrangement, but they have also been set up for safe and comfortable working, something even the nicest of patio sets cannot compete with. Adopting your environment to ensure your body has proper support, you can comfortably reach the keyboard of your computer and you are protected from the sun are vital if you’re to not pay the price of outdoor working with a bad back or other work-related injury.

Implemented? Yes. We’re determined to make the most of our garden so two complementary items have been purchased – as demonstrated by Operations Manager Andrew.

The Cushion Set includes a foam seat cushion and a lumbar support back rest. These should help to ensure a comfortable seating position is maintained, preventing pressure on coccyx, spine, hips and thighs, while supporting the natural curve of the lower back more thoroughly than a garden chair is able to do.

Once seated, Andrew next set up the laptop stand. This is important because – as with an office screen – the keyboard and laptop should be at a comfortable height and distance. Using an adjustable stand means it’s easy to find the correct position to suit individual needs, ensuring safe and comfortable working away from the office desk.

The final item of safety was already in place: Andrew is sat under a large parasol, which is sheltering him from the direct sunlight.

What: Restart a Heart Day Whose idea? Claire Saunders, Education Officer Why? One of our trained first aiders, Claire recently found herself on the scene when a person in the street needed medical help. Her training kicked in and she immediately did what was needed until the emergency services arrived. Afterwards, her first comments to the rest of us were about how important it is to know what to do to help: we’ve all seen first aid on television, but how many of us really know what to do in an emergency? Implemented? Yes. We are ensuring that help is at hand by reminding all our staff of their First Aid Training and spreading awareness of the basics of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). On Wednesday, 16th October, 2019, we will be taking part in Restart a Heart Day, as will the lead contractor for the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project, FM Conway. Posters have been put up around St Andrew’s House and the site offices, which remind everyone of the key steps to effective CPR and everyone is being encouraged to watch a short training video to refresh their knowledge. This may seem like a small thing, but such knowledge could make all the difference before the first aiders and emergency services arrive at the scene.

What: Bringing nature into the office

Whose idea? Aileen White, Education Officer

Why? Many of us spend a considerable part of our time inside offices, and plants can be a simple and cost-effective way of improving our surroundings and reducing stress. 

Being near an element of nature can boost wellbeing, as opposed to working in a bare, streamlined environment. Studies have shown there are benefits to incorporating greenery into the workspace, as people crave nature – this is known as ‘biophilia’. 

A trend in office space has seen an almost clinical, bare desk movement take place. In a study from the University of Exeter such ‘lean’ staff environments are compared to that of a bare gorilla enclosure, stating that ‘sometimes – less is just less’. The study goes on to suggest having plants in the office can even improve memory and retention.

At the Trust, we want to encourage anything that makes our colleagues happier, with no negative impact on those who have no particular opinion about greenery. 

Implemented? Yes. We were keen to ensure the nature we brought into the office was resilient and appropriate, as – should the worst happen – we are doubtful a room full of limp and wilting plants would improve anyone’s mood. 

We now have a selection of cacti scattered liberally around the office, as they need little to no maintenance and serve the intended purpose. They will also bring a little extra joy when they flower.

Aileen was the second person selected to win one of 12 silver hard hat keyrings. She’s pictured here with her prize.

What: Brushless lavatory cleaners

Whose idea? Andrew Freeman, Operations Manager


It’s important to answer a call of nature, but no-one likes to leave a dirty lavatory for their colleagues, so out of courtesy we reach for the brush and give the bowl a clean if needed. However traditional toilet brushes are actually quite unhygienic and not particularly efficient. The bristles hold on to solid materials as well as water which can drip on the floor as the brush is moved from the toilet bowl to its holder.

The solution is a brushless toilet brush – or spatula – coated with an anti-bacterial, anti-stick material that is drip-resistant. The flexible silicon head allows for efficient cleaning under the rim of the toilet bowl as well as the awkward-to-reach areas below the water line.

The overall result is an much cleaner and more hygienic office restroom.

Implemented? Yes. Old brushes have been removed and the office lavatories are now equipped with one of the new devices. The feedback from staff is the spatulas are less unpleasant to use and do a better job of keeping the toilets clean.

What? Cup carriers

Whose idea? Mary Burling, Office Administrator.

Why? Teas and coffees are an important part of office life, they refresh and revive us, provide an opportunity to pause and can even be a way of developing relationships within the office as tea rounds bring people together. But they can also be a stressful experience when carrying a heavy tray full of mugs sliding around.

Implemented? Yes. Four-mug cup holders have proved a good investment, taking the stress out of carrying a tray and enabling us to concentrate on where we are walking, rather than what we’re trying not to spill.

As one of the first people to submit an idea to Sue’s Safety Challenge, Mary was selected to win one of 12 silver hard hat keyrings. She’s pictured here receiving her prize from Bridge Clerk Sue Threader.

What? Free fruit for all employees

Whose idea? Jim Booth, Service Manager (TMC)

Why? A varied diet which includes a variety of fruit and vegetables is important for staying healthy but when it comes to snacking we can all be guilty of reaching for a biscuit or a packet of crisps. They’re convenient, easy, and the sugar and/or salt is appealing.

By making fruit freely available we can make it easier for people to consider a healthy option. We don’t expect anyone to give up their treats, but this way they might consume fewer of them as they balance out their diet with healthy fruit.

Implemented? Yes. Every Tuesday a basket of fruit is delivered to both the canteen area of the refurbishment site office and the kitchen of the Trust’s offices. The basket generally includes apples, bananas and oranges, with a little variety thrown in to keep people interested. It is supplied by Austen’s of Rochester, an award-winning local farm shop.

Jim Booth was presented with a silver hard hat keyring for his suggestion of providing fruit to all who work for the Trust in Rochester.

What: A hard hat colour coding system

Why? At times the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project can be quite a busy work site. A combination of client (the Rochester Bridge Trust), Bridge Engineer (Arcadis), supervisors, site operatives and sub-contractors, not forgetting the potential for other visitors, means there is also the possibility of people who are not all known to each other. 

Colour coding is a quick, easy way to identify levels of authority and experience to ensure a safe hierarchy is maintained and appropriate levels of supervision can be applied.

Implemented? Yes. The majority of site operatives wear white, meaning it is easy to identify the supervisors in black and white. Banksmen and lifting operatives are responsible for co-ordinating the movement of large or heavy items of equipment around the site and it is important that these workers are easily recognisable to everyone on site, so they wear orange hard hats.

Trust staff wear red, and the Bridge Engineer blue, making both easy to identify when carrying out a site visit. Grey is reserved for visitors. These are people who may have little or no experience of a work site and should therefore be accompanied and closely supervised for the safety of all.

View the poster

What: In and out board

Why? Working in different rooms and on different floors, it can be easy for staff to lose track of who is or isn’t in the building. This isn’t an issue if it’s an ordinary working day and everyone is at their desks, but it could be a problem at the end of the day or if there’s an emergency, when there’s a danger of someone being left behind.

Implemented? Yes. Having a simple board near the door for people to mark themselves as in or out makes it easier to keep track of who is in the building, meaning no one is unexpectedly left on their own. This also means that in case of a fire or other emergency it is easier for us to know when the building has been safely evacuated.

What: Regular Buddy Talk

Why? Many people are used to occasionally working from home on agreed days, at times to suit them, but the coronavirus crisis suddenly threw everyone into working from home, whether they wanted to or not. And while some organisations are reopening, the advice continues to be ‘if you can work from home, do so’. Emails, phone calls and team meetings by video are all very well, but they cannot replace one-to-one contact or opportunities to talk over work tasks – or even just to talk.

The Regular Buddy Talk (RBT!) is a way of giving everyone that opportunity to talk, to have a ‘coffee break’ away from work and an opportunity to speak and to be listened to. It is also a chance to get to know your work colleagues a little better and the conversation can include anything from what you’re having for dinner, the latest book you read, to items you’d take to a desert island.

Implemented? Yes. Each Thursday the Chief Executive’s Secretary pairs participants up – no one’s forced to take part – for a call the following week. The pairs are changed each week to ensure as much variety as possible.

Remote working is not easy, particularly when it is a new way of working, and the buddy approach is helping to keep us all connected and to eliminate any feelings of being isolated.

What: Reusable water bottles

Whose idea? Sue Threader, Bridge Clerk

Why? The human body is two thirds water, which means staying hydrated is important for our health. An internet search on the benefits of regularly drinking water reveals anything from increased energy levels to better concentration, with further suggested benefits including preventing headaches, constipation and dizziness.

Reusable water bottles are important for all of us in the battle against single-use plastics. On an engineering site such as the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project, reusable water bottles are also important from a health and safety point of view.

When a person is fully kitted-out in PPE, opening a bottle of water is not the easiest of tasks. Gloves can make it difficult to twist the cap, and dust on the gloves can clog up the mouthpiece. You can’t leave the lid off the bottle because then dust can settle in the water too. 

Implemented? Yes. The Rochester Bridge Trust has recently purchased a box of branded reusable water bottles for use by FM Conway on the Rochester Bridge Refurbishment Project. As well as being made of 35% recycled material, the bottles have sealed caps that release water when squeezed, so there’s no need to fight with a bottle cap or pull at an opening with your teeth.

Not having a lid means there’s less chance of small parts falling into the river and causing damage to wildlife.

They also all have a space to write your name – meaning there’s no danger of mixing your water bottle up with anyone else’s.