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Strategies for Improving Safety at Toll Collection Facilities

IMPROVING WORKER SAFETY WHEN ACCESSING TOLL BOOTHS

THE CHALLENGE

When asked the one safety fear that kept them up at night, nearly every individual that the study team visited with or talked with gave the same response - a worker being struck by a vehicle. While such incidents are relatively rare, they have occurred, and the potential certainly exists for them to occur again. Among the factors that have contributed to such incidents in the past (or to more recent close calls) are the introduction of ETC lanes, the uncertainty of driver actions in mixed-use lanes, the inability of operators of large trucks to see someone crossing directly in front of them, the dangers in closing a lane, and worker complacency.

POTENTIAL MITIGATION STRATEGIES

Given the level of concern surrounding this particular safety issue, it is perhaps not surprising that a large and varied number of mitigation strategies have been implemented across the country that address this problem.

Providing Direct Access to Booths

The most aggressive mitigation strategy to protect workers from vehicular traffic is the use of physical by-passes of toll lanes, such as tunnels or bridges (example shown in Figure 1), to provide access to booths without requiring workers to cross active traffic. Approximately half of the agencies visited by the study team have built such structures for their larger plazas. However, these structures rarely prevent all incidents of workers being in the roadway. Most of the structures do not have entrances for each and every lane; consequently workers are still typically required to cross two to three lanes. Even if collectors can avoid crossing a lane by using the structure, they still sometimes find themselves in live traffic - whether to pick up dropped money, to assist customers having problems with their ETC transponders, or to close a lane. Further, the use of such structures by collectors is typically not mandated (even when present), and many of the agencies that have them report that their usage remains quite low. The reasons for this are varied - workers avoid bridges without elevators because of the need to climb stairs, tunnels are often dark and the entrances slippery, and the use of both structures can take more time than simply walking across a lane.

Photo of a tunnel that provides underground access to toll booths.
Figure 1. Tunnels Provide Access to Booths without Exposure to Traffic

Another strategy for minimizing the number of lanes that a worker must cross is to provide break areas on either side of the plaza. Some agencies with large numbers of plaza lanes or with staffed lanes on both outside lanes (with ETC in the middle) have placed break rooms on either side of the plaza to minimize the number of lanes that must be crossed. These are found to be very effective where they have been implemented, but can be costly and are often simply impractical given space limitations and lack of excess right-of-way.

Two additional design strategies for minimizing worker exposure include:

  • Locating all high-speed ETC lanes to the left of the facility (i.e., toward the middle of the roadway) and prohibiting employees from crossing these high-speed lanes.
  • Eliminating all mixed-mode lanes, relying instead on dedicated ETC and cash lanes.

Crossing Procedures

For those cases where workers must still cross traffic lanes (either because a tunnel or bridge does not have an entrance to every lane, or because such a structure is not present), agencies have implemented a variety of different crossing procedures (both formal and informal). Nearly all agencies require workers to make eye contact with vehicles before crossing. However, this is the only procedure that appeared to be common to all agencies visited and interviewed. Crossing procedures that are employed by one or more agencies visited or interviewed, but are not common to all, include the following:

  • Most agencies require safety vests to be worn by workers at all times. Others require them to be worn only when outside of the booth.
  • A number of agencies strictly prohibit workers from crossing any high-speed ETC lanes. Some agencies only allow supervisors to cross these lanes. Two agencies reported that employees are never allowed to cross active lanes of traffic - if an employee needs to cross a lane, it must first be shut down.
  • Owing to an earlier incident that resulted in a fatality, one agency has a policy that workers are not allowed to cross in front of any vehicle larger than a sport utility vehicle (SUV), fearing that operators of large trucks simply cannot see a person immediately in front of their vehicles.
  • Nearly all agencies require their workers to signal their intent to cross to drivers and to wait for confirmation from the driver.
  • A number of agencies do not allow their workers to cross behind vehicles for fear that the vehicle may back up.
  • Employees of one agency are issued a small personal "stop paddle" (as shown in Figure 2) that is utilized by both the employee crossing an active lane of traffic and by the collector working in the adjacent toll booth.
  • Some workers reported that they have taken to providing verbal cues to motorists (e.g., yelling "I'm crossing!").
  • Several agencies stress the importance of hands-free crossing. Having both hands free while crossing makes it easier for collectors to signal to oncoming traffic and to catch themselves if they fall. To facilitate hands-free crossing, a strategy that many agencies use is to issue collectors shoulder bags or backpacks - such as that shown in Figure 3 - in which they can carry their personal belongings to the booth (e.g., a sweater or a bottle of water). In some cases the bag provided was a high-visibility color, such as orange, to make the collector more visible to motorists. One agency has even replaced its collectors' cash drawers with cash bags that they can slip into a shoulder bag for completely hands-free crossing. Most collectors that the team talked with spoke favorably about using carry bags.
  • Workers at a number of agencies have adopted informal procedures of mutual support for lane crossing (i.e., the collector in the booth directs the motorist to stop for the crossing collector).
  • One agency suggested that it might be a good practice to employ a person to escort workers while crossing lanes, much like a school crossing guard. Another agency, which has a dedicated police force, reported that the police escort all toll collectors across toll lanes. This agency commented that in 42 years an employee has never been hit while crossing a lane.

Photo of a toll booth worker standing in front of a vehicle and holding a hand-held 'stop' sign.
Figure 2. Handheld Stop Sign Aids Collector in Crossing Travel Lanes

Photo of a clear plastic shoulder bag.
Figure 3. Clear Plastic Shoulder Bag for Collectors to Use when Crossing

Crosswalks

One interesting finding from the study was the diversity in the location, demarcation, and setup of collector crosswalks. For the most part, crosswalks are located just downstream of the booth - minimizing the exposure time of the employee in walking from the crosswalk to the booth. However, a few agencies have alternative approaches. One places its crosswalks upstream of the booth. This reduces the issue of vehicles not being able to see collectors crossing behind booths (and collectors not being able to see vehicles around booths as shown in Figure 4). However, it also forces collectors to cross traffic lanes in an area where vehicles do not typically stop.

Photo of a woman leaning out and around the side of a toll booth to see oncoming traffic.
Figure 4. Booths can Create a Visual Obstacle when Crossing

Another agency has its crosswalks positioned at a significant distance downstream of the booths. This provides collectors with somewhat better sight lines (e.g., so that they can see around the booth) and a greater distance between when the vehicle begins accelerating (at the booth) and the crossing point. However, it also means that collectors can have a more difficult time making eye contact with stopped vehicles and with fellow collectors in booths that might offer mutual support.

There was also significant diversity in the methods used to demark the locations where collectors should cross. Most agencies use crosswalks painted on the pavement (as shown in Figure 5) and safety-shape barriers or railings (with openings at the crosswalks) to encourage workers to use the crosswalk. However, a small number of agencies are not as restrictive as to where collectors could cross - while they may still use painted crosswalks, they do not physically channel collectors to openings with gates, etc., for fear that these barriers could present dangerous obstructions if a collector was outside of the crosswalk area and needed to quickly get out of the travel lanes.

Photo of a painted crosswalk crossing downstream of a toll booth.
Figure 5. Painted Crosswalk for Workers

Warnings to Employees

Related to crosswalks, many agencies have implemented some type of mitigation strategy to remind workers that they are crossing live lanes of traffic. At one end of the spectrum, some agencies make use of a device called a ManSaverTM Safety Bar. As shown in Figure 6, these are physical gates adopted from use on fire trucks that must be carefully opened to enter a travel lane (i.e., the worker must stop and pull the gate either upward or toward themselves), but that can be easily pushed through to get out of the travel lane on the other side. To ensure that collectors cross at the ManSaverTM bar, one agency that the study team visited has begun using chains at the sides of the crossing area in effect to channelize workers to a specific crossing area. At the other end of the spectrum, a number of agencies have simply stenciled or painted messages on the curbs abutting the travel lanes. These messages include LOOK' and WATCH FOR TRAFFIC (examples shown in Figure 8). Through conversations with collectors, the general consensus is that such messages tend to be effective for new employees or when first added, but that over time they become part of the background and are ignored.

Photograph of a ManSaver safety bar.
Figure 6. ManSaverTM Safety Bar

Two photographs, one of a warning sticker on the glass of a toll booth and one of a warning sign on the door to the booth.
Figure 7. Signs and Stickers in Plaza Building and Toll Booth Remind Workers about Safety

Collage of warning signs to toll workers, including a stenciled warning image, the word 'LOOK' painted on the curb with an arrow pointing in the direction of traffic, and a metal sign warning that traffic does not stop mounted before electronic tolling lanes.
Figure 8. Various Signs and Markings Remind Collectors of the Dangers of Crossing Lanes

Two agencies visited use signs at toll lane crossings to mark ETC lanes so that employees can easily identify lanes where traffic does not stop. One agency uses signs that read "E-Z LOOK," with eyes drawn into "LOOK" and an arrow pointing in the direction of oncoming traffic. The signs are metal and mounted on the side of the bullnose facing in toward the lane at crossing locations. The same agency also uses red on white signs that read "BE ALERT HIGH SPEED TRAFFIC." Another agency uses signs that are installed on the backs of booths and read "WARNING - EZ PASS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP."

Garments for Improved Worker Visibility

Vests are typical safety garments provided to toll plaza employees. Beginning in November of 2008, all workers within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway who are exposed to traffic or to construction equipment within the work area shall wear high-visibility safety apparel, defined as personal protective safety clothing that is intended to provide conspicuity during both daytime and nighttime usage, and that meets the Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of the ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 publication entitled "American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear." 2 3

In terms of variations on the standard vest, one agency has recently adopted a safety smock which is light-weight, has short arms, and is waist length. It is fluorescent yellow green with orange sections and retro-reflective strips (similar to that shown in Figure 9).

Photograph of a safety smock.
Figure 9. Safety Smock

Depending on the climate, some agencies issue collectors a retroreflective jacket (as shown in Figure 10). Another agency issues toll collectors a 3-in-1 coat. The coat is lined and fluorescent yellow-green. The sleeves can be unzipped and removed for spring and fall and the lining unzips so that it is more vest-like in the summer.

Photograph of a toll booth worker wearing a retroreflective jacket.
Figure 10. Retroreflective Jacket

Another agency has gone to using battery-powered flashing vests for employees who work in the toll lanes, and still another reported moving toward a high visibility safety vest with five-point breakaway. The vests were ordered in response to news reports that vests would get caught on passing vehicles and workers were being dragged several hundred feet. The vests are fluorescent yellow green, and are supplied to each employee and replaced as needed. The agency reported that the collectors provided input to management when the vests were being selected and the breakaway vest has received a positive response by employees.

Three agencies reported that they are considering development of new uniforms that will have safety features built in, thereby eliminating the need for safety vests.

Maintenance and Lane Closures

Other mitigation strategies related to worker safety in travel lanes included:

  • Requiring workers to look over their shoulder every few steps after closing barriers.
  • Using attenuator trucks for all maintenance activities that require a lane closure.
  • Placing "Your Speed Is" on the rear of attenuator trucks to slow down vehicles in the vicinity of maintenance activities.
  • Using side-fire cameras to allow for maintenance work without closing a lane (i.e., cameras are mounted by the roadside instead of overhead).
  • Requiring maintenance workers to use a "buddy" system, with one worker watching for unsafe traffic conditions.

Strategy Rankings, Effectiveness, and Constraints

Table 1 lists each strategy identified for mitigating safety issues associated with worker exposure to vehicles and provides comments from practitioners on strategy effectiveness and any concerns/constraints. The table also provides information on practitioner ranking results from the Toll Facility Safety Study Workshop.


Table 1. Potential Strategies to Mitigate Safety Issues Associated with Worker Exposure to Vehicles
Strategy Description Rankings from Workshop Participants and Comments on Effectiveness4 Concerns / Constraints
Providing Direct Access to Booths
Provide physical by-passes of toll lanes for collectors. Use tunnels or bridges to reduce the need for workers to cross lanes.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Effective if used properly.
  • Very expensive.
  • Tunnels present problems with flooding.
  • Even when available many workers do not use them.
Provide break areas on either side of large plazas. Some agencies with large numbers of plaza lanes or with staffed lanes on both outside lanes (with ETC in the middle) have placed break rooms on either side of the plaza to minimize the number of lanes that must be crossed.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered highly effective (though costly) where appropriate.
  • Expensive.
Locate all dedicated ETC lanes to the far left side of the plaza, eliminating the need for workers to cross ETC lanes. Locate all dedicated ETC lanes to the far left of the plaza so that collectors can avoid crossing these lanes.
  • Five of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Four of those 5 participants selected it as the most effective solution.
  • Highly effective where feasible
  • Won't work where ETC lanes are required on the right to facilitate exiting on down-stream ramps close to plaza.
Eliminate all mixed mode lanes to reduce uncertainty of driver behavior. Many toll collectors consider mixed-mode lanes (with both ETC and cash customers) to be more dangerous to cross than cash or ETC lanes because it is more difficult to predict driver behavior. Consequently, some agencies have given consideration to eliminating these lanes.
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Does increase worker safety, but may reduce throughput.
  • May not be feasible at certain plazas due to space constraints, traffic volumes, mix of ETC and cash traffic.
  • May cause increased weaving and lane changing behavior.
Crossing Procedures
Require workers to make eye contact with motorists in approaching vehicles. Require workers to make eye contact with drivers before crossing.
  • Twelve of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Eight of those 12 participants selected it as the most effective solution.
  • Considered very effective by agencies that have this rule.
  • None.
Require workers to wear safety vests at all times. A number of agencies require workers to wear safety vests at all times while on shift. This is thought to reduce incidences of workers failing to put their vest on when they exit a booth or break area.
  • Six of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Highly effective where enforced.
  • None.
Prohibit workers from crossing any high-speed ETC lanes. Many agencies prohibit workers from crossing any high-speed ETC lanes.
  • Four of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Effective, but may not always be practical.
  • There may be no other way for collectors to reach staffed lanes.
Prohibit workers from crossing in front of any vehicle larger than an SUV. After experiencing a fatality when a collector crossed in front of a large truck that was not able to see the worker, the agency now prohibits workers from crossing in front of any vehicle larger than an SUV.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Highly effective, where practical.
  • May not be practical in truck lanes.
Require workers to signal intention to cross. Require workers to signal their intention to cross to the approaching driver and to wait for acknowledgement from that driver.
  • Five of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered very effective.
  • None.
Prohibit workers from crossing BEHIND vehicles. A number of agencies instruct their employees not to cross behind vehicles in case the vehicle backs up.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Common practice with a number of agencies, but not all.
  • None.
Require toll collectors to use stop paddles when crossing. Issue handheld STOP sign paddles to workers to hold while crossing lanes.
  • One of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • A number of agencies that have tried this have not found it to be effective.
  • Gave a false sense of security.
  • Requires workers to be properly trained.
  • Difficult to hold paddle while also holding cash drawer.
Instruct workers to provide verbal cues to motorists when crossing. Instruct workers to give verbal cues to motorists when crossing (e.g., yell "I'm crossing!").
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered moderately effective, mitigated by noisy environment.
  • May be too noisy to practically implement.
Promote hands-free crossing for workers. Require workers to have at least one hand free during crossing so that they can signal to drivers if need be.
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered moderately effective.
  • None.
Issue shoulder bags to workers to use when crossing. Issue shoulder bags to collectors for hands-free crossing, and consider high-visibility color such as orange.
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Helps to keep hands free.
  • None.
Instruct workers to use mutual support when crossing. Instruct workers to use mutual support when crossing lanes (i.e., the collector in the booth directs motorists to stop for the crossing collector).
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered moderately effective.
  • Is simply done as a matter of course (without formal instruction) at a number of facilities.
  • None.
Escort employees across lanes. A small number of agencies have, or have considered, a police escort or crossing guard for crossing lanes.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Effective at reducing worker risk, but very cost prohibitive.
  • One agency that has implemented this strategy reports that in 42 years, no employee has been hit while crossing a lane.
  • Very cost prohibitive.
  • May simply expose another employee.
Crosswalks
Strategically locate crosswalks. Carefully consider the location of crosswalks to encourage workers to cross where most appropriate for the environment at that particular plaza (i.e., upstream of the booth to provide improved sight lines; downstream of the booth so that vehicles stop prior to crossing; or well downstream of the booth to provide for longer stopping distance).
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Effectiveness is somewhat dependent on plaza configuration.
  • May be constrained by physical layout of plaza.
Paint pedestrian crosswalks at the plaza. Designed to warn the public and to ensure that workers cross at the same dedicated location.
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Encourages collectors to cross at a consistent location.
  • Need to be re-painted periodically.
  • May give the collector a false sense of security.
Warnings to Employees
Use ManSaverTM Bars to slow collectors down while crossing the plaza, possibly with chains at the sides of the crossing area to channelize workers. These bars, patterned after those used on fire trucks, require a worker to stop and lift the bar to enter a lane but to easily push to exit.
  • Four of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Some concerns that they may be difficult to open when workers' hands are full.
  • Chains may hinder a quick escape in the event of an emergency.
  • Adding bar or chains may pose a hazard in that collectors' bags and/or clothing may snag as they are crossing.
Use visual cues to remind workers of the danger of crossing lanes.

Agencies use a variety of visual cues to remind workers of the danger of crossing lanes including:

  • Signs (e.g., BE ALERT HIGH SPEED TRAFFIC, red and white warning signs at crossing points).
  • Pavement markings (e.g., LOOK and WATCH FOR CARS) to remind collectors about the dangers of crossing lanes.
  • Warning stickers (e.g., on the ground outside the booth doors, or notes such as WEAR YOUR VEST on the booth door).
  • One of 20 workshop participants selected sign cues as a top three strategy.
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected pavement marking cues as a top three strategy.
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected warning sticker cues as a top three strategy.
  • Two of 20 workshop participants selected warning sticker cues as a top three strategy.
  • May be most effective for newer employees.
  • No real constraints except that workers may become complacent and ignore signs and markings over time.
Visually remind workers when they are entering ETC and mixed use lanes. Label ETC and mixed use lanes differently from cash only lanes to remind collectors that vehicles may not stop in these lanes (e.g., with purple lights).
  • One of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Concerns that this strategy may give workers a false sense of security when crossing the non-ETC lanes.
Garments for Improved Worker Visibility
Consider higher visibility vests. Use vests with battery-powered flashing lights.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Most plazas are well-lit, approach may not be cost-effective.
Consider 5-pt breakaway safety vests. Safety vests have a 5-point breakaway system designed to come off with minor or no injury if the vest becomes hooked on an object.
  • One of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Cumbersome to put on.
Maintenance and Lane Closures
Instruct workers to look back over their shoulder at traffic after manually closing a lane. Require workers to look back over their shoulder every few steps after manually closing a gate.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Mixed assessment of effectiveness, some concern about workers tripping.
  • Concerns about tripping.
Require attenuator trucks for all maintenance work requiring a lane closure. Some agencies require the use of attenuator trucks for all maintenance work requiring a lane closure.
  • Five of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. 4 of those 5 participants selected it as the third most effective solution.
  • Highly effective when implemented, but often not feasible.
  • Very expensive.
  • Time consuming to wait for attenuator truck.
"Your Speed" signs on attenuator trucks. Use digital "Your Speed is..." on the rear of attenuator trucks to protect maintenance workers.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Very expensive.
Require maintenance workers to use a "buddy" system. Require maintenance workers to use a "buddy" system (i.e., no maintenance work is performed alone) so that one worker can watch for traffic.
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered very effective, but may be cost prohibitive in certain situations.
  • Cost.



2 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 226 / Friday, November 24, 2006 / Rules and Regulations, Page 67792. http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/pdf/E6-19910.pdf

3 Revised American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear, ANSI/ISEA 107-2004. http://www.safetyequipment.org/hivisstd.htm

4 Within this group of strategies, workshop participants were asked to select and rank the top three strategies that they believed to have the greatest potential to improve safety for workers and customers at toll plazas.

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