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Strategies for Improving Safety at Toll Collection Facilities

REDUCING WORKER EXPOSURE TO THE ENVIRONMENT

THE CHALLENGE

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 carbon monoxide (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.

Reducing Slips, Trips, and Falls

In terms of strategies to mitigate slips, an obvious solution that most agencies reported is simply making it a priority to keep the crossing areas clear of debris and oil. Beyond this, many agencies use grooved or textured pavement in the crossing area to provide better traction (for example, Golden Gate Bridge staff have recently begun using a material called FlexCrete , a fiber-reinforced aerated concrete, in place of standard concrete at its crossing areas).

For colder climates, ice and snow can present a challenge. One agency has made a point to position drain grates below the curb at all crossing areas to avoid ponding water, which can lead to icy conditions. Another agency ensures that all of its walkways are covered to help reduce snow and ice on the walkways. Denver E-470 has recently begun issuing collectors crampons (shown in Figure 11) which can be worn on the outside of their shoes to provide better traction on snow and ice.

Photograph of rack of crampons.
Figure 11. Crampons Can Help Collectors Avoid Slips in Snowy and Icy Conditions

Finally, as previously mentioned, several agencies focus on hands-free crossing with the use of shoulder bags to carry belongings (with the idea that having both hands free will make it easier for collectors to catch themselves if they fall). One agency now issues collector cash bags instead of cash drawers to facilitate hands-free crossing (as shown in Figure 12).

Photograph of a cash bag.
Figure 12. Cash Bags Can Facilitate Hands-Free Crossing

In an attempt to mitigate trips, some of the agencies use brightly colored striping on the edges of stairs and curbs (as shown in Figure 13) to improve visibility and depth perception. For those agencies with tunnels or overhead access to booths, many stressed the importance of having handrails on both sides of any stairways.

Photograph of curb and crossing area painted in bright colors.
Figure 13. Brightly Colored Curbing in the Crossing Area Can Reduce Trips

Strategy Rankings, Effectiveness, and Constraints

Table 2 lists the strategies for mitigating safety issues associated with the worker environment, with information on effectiveness, concerns, constraints, and ranking.

Table 2. Potential Strategies to Mitigate Safety Issues Associated with the Worker Environment
Strategy Description Rankings from Workshop Participants and Comments on Effectiveness5 Concerns / Constraints
Mitigating Air Quality Issues
Install carbon monoxide (CO) monitors in booths or test for CO periodically. A few agencies now have CO monitors in their booths.
  • Four of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Must be maintained and tested periodically.
Install positive air in all booths. Positive air systems are designed to extract fresh air from outside of the immediate vicinity of the booth (e.g., above the toll booth structure) where the air is not contaminated with vehicle emissions or particulate matter such as dust and delivering it to the booth at a pressure which allows for positive pressure within the booth, thereby ensuring that air is forced out of the toll booth window. Cold/heat stress can also be controlled by these systems.
  • Fifteen of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Seven of those 15 participants selected it as the most effective solution.
  • Expensive.
Install air conditioning in booths. Install air conditioning in booths in warmer climates and consider having individual controls inside booths.
  • Six of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Four of those 6 participants selected it as the second most effective solution.
  • Adds costs for installation and maintenance. Without individual controls it is difficult to calibrate the systems to individual preferences.
Mitigating Excessive Noise Levels
Periodically conduct noise testing in the booths. Toll plazas are often very noisy environments, especially at facilities with high levels of truck traffic. Consequently, a number of agencies undertake periodic noise monitoring to identify problems and develop remediation strategies (such as earplugs, banning air brakes, and rotating employees from truck-only lanes).
  • Nine of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Five of those 9 participants selected it as the second most effective solution.
  • None.
Limit exposure time of workers at booths with high truck traffic. Some agencies periodically rotate employees out of booths in truck lanes to reduce noise impacts.
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • None.
Personal Protective Equipment
Provide ear plugs to collectors.

Toll plazas tend to be very noisy environments. In fact a number of workers interviewed during the site visits reported having difficulty hearing for some time after their shift (similar to attending a concert).

Consequently, a number of agencies offer the use of ear plugs to their employees.

  • One of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • The use of ear plugs offers mixed benefits. Some workers do like them and use them; however, most find it difficult to communicate with the customers while they are in place.
  • Limits ability for collectors to interact with the public.
Provide gloves to collectors. Given the nature of the cash transactions and fears about disease, etc., gloves can help to protect collectors' hands. This issue became particularly relevant during the concerns over anthrax.
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Many collectors choose not to wear gloves even when they are readily available.
  • Need to be sensitive to latex allergies.
Reducing Slips, Trips, and Falls
Issue safety shoes to toll collectors. Many agencies issue collectors safety shoes (slip-resistant, steel-toe) to reduce slips and to reduce workplace injuries.
  • Five of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Low-cost.
Use grooved or textured pavement in the crossing areas to reduce slips. Some agencies reported using some sort of skid-resistant surface (e.g., FlexCreteTM) at their collector crossing areas to reduce slips.
  • Four of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Can be costly to retro-fit existing plazas.
  • Does require maintenance.
Install drain grates at the curb at crossing areas to avoid ponding water and icy conditions. Some agencies reported problems with ponding water in crossing areas
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Considered very effective and necessary in areas where icing can occur.
  • Costly.
Ensure that all walkways are covered. Covering walkways can protect workers from the elements and can reduce incidents of trips and falls from ice and slippery conditions
  • None of the workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Costly.
Provide crampons to collectors to reduce slips on ice. Denver E-470 has begun providing crampons to collectors to reduce slips on ice. Crampons are outdoor footwear that are made from spikes and are worn on boots or shoes to provide traction on snow and ice.
  • One of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Relatively small number of workers use the available crampons; however, those that do swear by them.
  • Low-cost.
  • Requires some instruction in use and advertising of availability.
Switch from cash drawers to cash bags. Providing collectors with cash bags instead of cash drawers can facilitate hands-free crossing.
  • Five of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Three of those 5 participants selected it as the third most effective solution.
  • May add time for employees to transfer cash from drawers to bags. May be loss prevention concerns.
Add brightly-colored striping to the edges of stairs and curbs. One way to reduce trips is to paint the edges of stairs and curbs to improve visibility and depth perception.
  • Four of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Must be maintained.
Install handrails on both sides of tunnel stairways to reduce falls. New toll plazas are now consistently constructed with hand-rails on either side of any stairwell. Many existing facilities are being retrofitted to also meet this goal.
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Consistently reported as a significant improvement during site visits.
  • Additional cost if retro-fitted.



5 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 mitigate worker exposure to the environment.

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