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Strategies for Improving Safety at Toll Collection Facilities

IMPROVING ERGONOMICS FOR WORKERS

THE CHALLENGE

Another workplace injury commonly mentioned was strains to various body parts such as the wrist, back, or shoulder. 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.

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 a 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). 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 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 its collectors about their needs, it has found that foot rests are very important to collectors and, as a result, the agency has found that a chair with a foot rest surrounding the entire chair is preferable (as shown in Figure 14).

Photograph of chair with circular footrest.
Figure 14. Chair with Circular Foot Rest

  • A number of agencies spoke of the importance of keeping items off the floor in the booth to avoid tripping hazards and to maximize collector sight lines to outside their booths. To combat this many agencies do not allow collectors to bring any personal items into the booth when working. Others provide shelves and hooks in the booth to make certain that collectors have sufficient places to store items without introducing a tripping hazard.
  • Nearly all agencies visited have anti-fatigue mats in their booths (as shown in Figure 15). 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. 6

Photograph of anti-fatigue mat.
Figure 15. Anti-Fatigue Mat

  • Denver E-470 has found it helpful to add a convex mirror to the side of the booth as shown in Figure 16. 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.

Photograph of convex mirror mounted to toll booth.
Figure 16. Convex Mirrors Can Reduce Twisting and Turning for Collectors

  • Some agencies provide collectors with ergonomic training to reduce repetitive injuries.

Booth Design

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 17). 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).

Photograph of adjustable height terminal.
Figure 17. 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 18).

Photograph of bumped out dutch door.
Figure 18. 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 injuries, one agency has instructed collectors never to place their hands outside of the booth until after the vehicle has come to a complete stop. Another agency now instructs 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.

Strategy Rankings, Effectiveness, and Constraints

Table 3 lists each strategy identified for mitigating safety issues associated with ergonomics 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 3. Potential Strategies to Mitigate Safety Issues Associated with Ergonomics
Strategy Description Rankings from Workshop Participants and Comments on Effectiveness7 Concerns / Constraints
Equipment
Provide collectors with ergonomic stools. Nearly all agencies provide some sort of ergonomic stools to their collectors. Some have gone toward a "sit/stand" stool. Others have found that swivel chairs with surrounding foot rests are preferable to their collectors.
  • Eight of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Difficult to find stools that suit all collectors.
  • Avoid chairs with flexible backs as this encourages collectors to lean back and can result in serious injury.
Install shelving and hooks in the booths. Many agencies expressed the importance of keeping the booth floor free of all items that can pose a tripping hazard for workers. Having sufficient shelving and clothing hooks in the booth can facilitate this.
  • None of the 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy.
  • Most workshop participants commented that this was a low-cost, common sense strategy.
  • Important to avoid blocking collector's view out of the booth.
  • None.
Provide collectors with anti-fatigue mats in the booths. Anti-fatigue mats in the booths can reduce fatigue caused by standing for long periods on a hard surface.
  • Fourteen of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Five of those 14 participants selected it as the most effective solution.
  • Can present a tripping hazard – important to ensure that the mat is securely fastened to floor and that the chair legs cannot puncture the mat.
Install convex mirrors on the side of booths. A small convex mirror on the booth can allow collectors to monitor vehicles exiting the booth without turning.
  • Ten of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Six of those 10 participants selected it as the most effective solution.8
  • Most workshop participants commented that this was a low-cost strategy that made sense.
  • Could pose a problem with trucks and large vehicles hitting the mirror at facilities with narrow lanes.
Provide ergonomic training to collectors. Providing ergonomic training to collectors can reduce repetitive motion injuries.
  • Eight of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Four of those 8 participants selected it as the most effective solution.
  • Can be expensive.
Booth Design
Provide collectors with adjustable height terminals, cash drawers, and/or chairs.9 Providing collectors with adjustable height equipment can reduce workplace injuries associated with reaching. Especially helpful for tall or short employees.
  • Nine of 20 workshop participants selected an adjustable height terminal as a top three strategy.
  • One of 20 participants selected an adjustable height cash drawer as a top three strategy.
  • Can be expensive.
Use bumped-out Dutch doors on booths. Booths with a bumped-out door design can allow collectors to see oncoming traffic and to reach vehicles without having to lean quite so far out of the booth.
  • Ten of 20 workshop participants selected this solution as a top three strategy. Six of those 10 participants selected it as the most effective solution.10
  • Lane widths at older plazas may constrain the width of the booth.
Policies and Procedures
Implement policies to reduce injury due to vehicles pulling into or away from the booth. To reduce injuries due to pulled arms as vehicles pull away from the plaza, one agency has made it a policy that collectors perform validation as their last step in the transaction process so that the gate stays down until the transaction is complete. Another has implemented a policy that collectors are not allowed to place their hands outside of the booth until after the vehicle has come to a complete stop.
  • Three of 20 workshop participants selected the "validation" solution as a top three strategy and 7 of 20 rated the strategy of keeping hands inside the booth among the top 3.11
  • Practicality of the validation policy depends on treadle placement.



6 Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

7 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 ergonomics for workers.

8 During the workshop, the strategy of installing "convex mirrors" was presented to participants in conjunction with the strategy to use bumped-out "dutch" doors on booths.

9 During the workshop, the strategies of providing adjustable height terminals and adjustable height cash drawers were presented separately.

10 During the workshop, the strategy to use bumped-out "dutch" doors on booths was presented to participants in conjunction with the strategy of installing "convex mirrors."

11 During the workshop, these two strategies were presented separately.

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