Toll Facility Safety Study Report to Congress
Appendix F - Additional Strategies Identified
Through the survey, telephone interviews, site visits, and workshop, the team identified a number of strategies in use across the country that have the potential to improve safety at toll collection facilities. As the operating conditions, culture, etc., are different at each agency and even at each toll plaza in some cases, the strategies may not be applicable in all situations. The strategies are therefore presented here not as recommendations, but as ideas for agencies to consider when seeking ways to improve safety for workers and motorists at their toll collection facilities. It is also important to note that although each strategy was not necessarily implemented with the exclusive goal of safety in mind, and although every strategy will not work at every plaza, each of the strategies presented here does have the potential to improve safety under certain circumstances.
Many of these strategies were presented in the main body of the document (Section 4). Other strategies that were identified that are not high-way related are presented here as supplemental information.
The remaining strategies are organized according to the challenge that agencies face. The challenges are as follows:
- Reducing Worker Exposure to the Environment
- Improving Ergonomics for Workers
- Reducing Worker Risk of Assault
- Keeping Safety at the Forefront of an Agency's Focus
Within each of these categories, a brief discussion of the challenge is first presented, followed by a discussion of various strategies being used across the country that have the potential to address that particular challenge.
Information on workshop participants' thoughts on all of the strategies (both those presented here and those presented in Chapter 4) can be found in Appendix H.
Reducing Worker Exposure to the Environment
Toll collectors are exposed to a range of environmental hazards on the job, such as excessive noise and automotive emissions. Beyond this, the work environment can pose physical hazards that can result in injuries such as slips, trips, and falls, which were commonly mentioned by agencies as the most prevalent workplace injury occurring at the plaza. Slips, trips, and falls can be caused by icy or snowy conditions, from the presence of debris or other substances on the pavement, from uneven pavement, or simply from carelessness by workers when climbing stairs or curbs.
Potential Mitigation Strategies
Mitigating Air Quality Issues
Through the site visits the team found that many agencies typically perform some combination of the following mitigation strategies to lessen the impact of air quality hazards for collectors:
- CO and emissions testing - Some agencies have CO monitors in their booths while others perform periodic CO and/or emissions testing.
- Positive air pressure - Many agencies have positive air pressure in their booths, and all agencies retrofitting booths were adding positive air.
- Air conditioning - Agencies in warmer climates typically have air conditioning in their booths; some also provide collectors with individual controls in the booths.
Mitigating Excessive Noise Levels
Many agencies perform noise testing on a periodic basis and take measures to reduce noise if they find that it is at an unacceptable level. Some agencies limit the length of time that workers are permitted to work at booths with high volumes of truck traffic due to the excessive noise levels that can be associated with trucks.
In addition to this, some agencies provide ear plugs to collectors, although nearly all of the collectors that the team spoke with indicated that they do not wear ear plugs on the job since they can make it difficult to converse with customers.
Personal Protective Equipment
In terms of protective equipment to deal with environmental impacts, the most common equipment that the agencies issue to collectors for environmental reasons are gloves, although most collectors interviewed by the study team reported that they do not wear them very often on the job either due to the negative public perception or due to the fact that they make it difficult to quickly perform work tasks. In addition to this, some agencies provide slip-resistant safety shoes to protect workers' feet from injury.
Improving Ergonomics for Workers
Another workplace injury commonly mentioned was strains to various body parts such as the wrist, back, or shoulder. The data analysis showed that strains make up approximately 18 percent of workplace injuries among toll collectors. Strains are difficult to avoid given that the nature of the work requires the worker to stand for much of the time and that it requires a good deal of reaching and twisting, but there are some mitigation strategies that agencies have implemented to reduce these issues.
Potential Mitigation Strategies
Agencies have worked to improve ergonomics for collectors in a number of different ways, including through implementing new policies and procedures, through modifying their booth design, and through providing special equipment.
The team saw a variety of equipment in use to reduce workplace injuries including:
- Nearly all of the agencies that the team visited provide some sort of stool for collectors to use while in the booth. However, few collectors that the team spoke with indicated that they use the stool very often since they find it easier to perform their work while standing (this was particularly the case with those who work the busier shifts). As a result, many agencies have looked into different options for stools, but most indicated that they have had difficulty getting collectors to agree on the best design. One agency represented at the workshop warned of the danger of selecting chairs with a flexible back as this design encouraged their collectors to lean back resulting in some serious injuries. One agency that the team spoke with has gone toward a sit/stand stool that allows collectors the support of a chair without requiring them to sit. Another agency indicated that after having numerous discussions with their collectors about their needs, they have found that foot rests are very important to collectors and, as a result, they have found that a chair with a foot rest surrounding the entire chair is preferable (similar to that shown in Figure F-1).
- A number of agencies spoke of the importance of keeping items off the floor in the booth to avoid tripping hazards and also to maximize collector sight lines to outside their booths. To combat this, many agencies make it a policy of not allowing collectors to bring any personal items into the booth when working. Others have moved toward providing shelves and hooks in the booth to make certain that collectors have sufficient places to store their items without introducing a tripping hazard or blocking views.
- Nearly all agencies visited had anti-fatigue mats in their booths (similar that shown in Figure F-2). Anti-fatigue mats are designed to reduce fatigue that is caused by standing for long periods on a hard surface. Fatigue-reducing mats can be made of various materials including rubber, carpeting materials, vinyl, and wood, and are used to decrease foot weariness for workers who stand in one position for long periods of time.11
- Denver E-470 has found it helpful to add a convex mirror to the side of the booth as shown in Figure F-3. The position of the convex mirror allows collectors to see vehicles exiting the plaza while they are facing oncoming traffic. Collectors reported that the mirror reduces twisting motions as they often need to watch vehicles exiting to ensure that the gate has lifted properly.
- Some agencies provide collectors with ergonomic training to reduce repetitive injuries.
Figure F-1. Chair with Circular Foot Rest
Figure F-2. Anti-Fatigue Mat
Figure F-3. Convex Mirrors Can Reduce Twisting and Turning for Collectors
Some agencies have implemented adjustable-height terminals, chairs, and/or cash drawers in an effort to reduce workplace injuries associated with reaching (an example of an adjustable-height terminal is shown in Figure F-4). In many cases strains can be caused by leaning out of the booth to see oncoming or exiting traffic. Depending on the booth design, collectors sometimes noted that leaning was necessitated by advertisements or sunshades on the window making it difficult to see out, or simply by booth/plaza design (e.g., a pillar can sometimes block their view of oncoming traffic).
Figure F-4. Denver E-470's Adjustable Height Terminal
Some agencies have less of a problem with this as their booths have a bumped-out door design which allows the collector to see oncoming traffic and to reach vehicles more easily without having to lean quite as far (see Figure F-5).
Figure F-5. Bumped Out Dutch Doors Can Reduce Twisting and Turning for Collectors
Policies and Procedures
Nearly all agencies that the team spoke with indicated that they have experienced injuries resulting from collectors' arms being pulled by customers as they pass through the plaza. To reduce these kinds of injuries, one agency has made it a point to instruct collectors never to place their hands outside of the booth until after the vehicle has come to a complete stop. Another agency now instructs their collectors to validate payment as the last step in processing a transaction (which in most cases keeps the gate down) to reduce the chance that the vehicle will attempt to pull away before the transaction is complete.
Reducing Worker Risk of Assault
Another concern related to toll worker safety is the possibility of physical assault, either by irate customers or in connection with a robbery. At each site the study team visited, the agencies cited examples of workers being spit upon, having objects thrown at them, and - in extreme cases - being shot at. Fear of armed robbery was particularly pronounced in locations where a lone worker might be present - such as at an exit ramp plaza.
Potential Mitigation Strategies
While little can be done to entirely eliminate these occurrences, a number of mitigation strategies have been adopted. These include:
- Keeping doors locked while in the booth.
- Having periodic cash drops during shifts to minimize the amount of cash that a collector has on hand at any given time.
- Maintaining close relationships with local law enforcement.
- Having closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in and around the booths.
- Having bullet-resistant glass on the booths.
- Providing collectors with Kevlar vests.
Nearly all agencies that the team spoke with have a handset in the booth for collectors to communicate directly with other collectors at the plaza, with a supervisor at the plaza building or at a nearby plaza, or - in many cases - with a communications center that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition to this, most agencies that the team spoke with have covert panic alarms in their booths so that collectors can call for help in an emergency situation; some also issue cell phones to collectors as an additional means of being able to communicate during an emergency.
One agency has a "Toll Security Committee" that meets every few months to discuss any incidents that have occurred recently and to brainstorm ways to prevent these types of incidents in the future.
Keeping Safety at the Forefront of an Agency's Focus
This section provides examples of ways in which training and a strong safety culture have helped agencies improve safety at their facilities.
The use of training as a safety mitigation strategy varied widely from agency to agency. At one end of the scale were those agencies that offered short, on-the-job safety sessions taught as part of a general course focused primarily on revenue collection, with minimal to no re-training. At the other end of the scale were agencies that offered intensive safety training sessions upon hiring, used professional trainers and props such as safety videos, and undertook periodic refresher courses and annual "safety" or "toll training" days. One agency had undertaken a unique approach by offering Web-based training that workers could access from break rooms. Another agency required all maintenance staff to go through work zone safety classes and flagging classes. Yet another agency requires crossing training for all workers (even vendors who put out ads at plazas).
In terms of safety training topics, most covered safety procedures at toll plazas including lane crossing, lane closing, hazardous materials, emergency situations, and robbery. Some agencies determine their safety training topics based on injury statistics from the previous year.
The final set of mitigation strategies refer to something that was ever-present during the various site visits, but almost intangible to quantify: a culture of safety. Establishing a safety culture involves both setting an overall tone of safety (e.g., by featuring safety as the first topic in annual reports), and undertaking a series of small, often changing actions (e.g., posting rotating safety reminders in break rooms, displaying safety reminders around the workplace such as the floor mat shown in Figure F-6).
Figure F-6. Floor Mat in Plaza Building Reminds Employees to "Think Safety"
Focus on Safety for Maintenance Staff
One way that many agencies ensure that safety is a priority is that they place a higher priority on safety-related maintenance items than on other requests. For example, one agency records such safety-related requests on red paper versus the regular white paper used for other requests.
Most agencies that the team visited have some type of safety committee in place. Those that placed the greatest emphasis on these committees ensured representation from all spectrums of the workforce - from collectors to senior managers - and often established subcommittees at each plaza or for a small group of plazas.
Two agencies that the team visited made use of random safety audits, with one using internal staff to conduct the audits and one using an outside firm (since plaza personnel were able to identify the internal auditors). Both of these agencies also supplemented the formal audits with more frequent "self-inspections" by plaza managers and supervisors.
Employee Safety Meetings
Several agencies have regular employee safety meetings, typically held on a monthly or quarterly basis. Topics of safety meetings include reminders about safety procedures for lane crossing and lane closing; procedures for handling robberies; procedures for emergency situations; information on preventing slips, trips, and falls; and information on stretches to prevent repetitive stress injuries. Several agencies take the opportunity at scheduled meetings to review a recent incident and to review the proper steps employees should take to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.
Safety Award Programs
Many toll agencies use award programs as part of their overall strategy to reduce worker injuries at toll plazas. Most awards are presented annually. One agency presents an annual "Plaza Award" to any plaza where no one has been injured over the past year, and an annual "Turnpike Award" to any turnpike that had no employee injuries.
Another agency gives employees awards for preventing possible injuries. This same agency will also reprimand employees for not calling out safety concerns. For example, if one employee sees another employee crossing a lane without a vest, and does not try to correct it, not only does the employee not wearing the vest receive a reprimand, but so does the employee that witnessed the violation and did nothing to correct it.
Safety Incentive Programs
Safety incentive programs are also a fairly common technique for promoting a culture of safety. These types of programs reward employees for passing safety audits and maximizing days without injury either with cash bonuses or with points that employees can use to purchase items out of catalogues (examples of this are shown in Figure F-7 and Figure F-8). In some cases, the program works such that an entire plaza is rewarded as a group, thus introducing the factor of peer pressure to maintain good safety records. While successful, these programs are not without controversy. One concern is that they must be constantly re-invented to remain fresh and capture the imagination and interest of the staff. Another concern is that they may actually lead to under-reporting or treatment of legitimate injuries and/or safety violations and can present challenges to management-worker relations.12
Figure F-7. Tracking Employee Performance Publicly Can Be an Incentive for Employees to Follow Safety Procedures
Figure F-8. Sign in Plaza Office Reminds Employees about Safety Record
Safety Awareness Programs
One agency has a Toll Plaza Safety Awareness Program. This is a month-long program run twice a year by the agency together with their dedicated police force and the State Police. Police perform various operations at the toll plaza, including seatbelt checks and ETC speed enforcement. Additional signs, such as portable changeable message signs, are used as needed. The agency reported that toll operations are not negatively impacted and that the program seems to reduce unsafe driving behaviors in the vicinity of plazas, but that the benefit is only short-term.
11 Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. [Return to note 11. ]
12 Teamsters Safety & Health Facts: Distracted Driving, Cell Phone Use, and Motor Vehicle Crashes http://www.teamster.org/content/distracted-driving-cell-phone-use-and-motor-vehicle-crashes [Return to note 12. ]