The National Academies

TCRP F-25 [Final]

Improving the Safety, Health, and Productivity of Transit Operators Through Adequate Restroom Access

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Research Agency: Research Foundation of CUNY
Principal Investigator: Robin M. Gillespie
Effective Date: 2/2/2017
Completion Date: 3/30/2020
Comments: Completed. Published as TCRP Research Report 216.

Inadequate restroom access has been an issue for transit operators for many years. This issue not only impacts the transit professionals’ well-being, but threatens their ability to perform essential job functions safely. Despite increasing attention, the relevant sanitation standards are not consistently applied to the mobile workforce or to public transit employees. The safety impact of restricted urination is a persistent concern given recent evidence of its cognitive impact. The lack of effective policies and procedures for ensuring restroom access has contributed to transit operator stress in favor of short-term productivity. Practical, simple approaches have been adopted but are not in use at all transit agencies. Even when the policies and procedures are in place, operational demands can override the safety and health directives. Despite the long-standing problems, the actual financial, operational, and organizational costs to employers, the worker health burden, and the public safety impact have not yet been quantified or addressed.
The objective of this research is to develop resources that include implementable strategies that address how to improve restroom access for transit operators. This research will identify the safety, health, and financial impacts to transit agencies, operators, and the public arising from transit operators’ inadequate restroom access. At a minimum, the resources should include: 
  1. Metrics (qualitative or quantitative) to assess the potential impacts of inadequate restroom access on transit operators’ safety, health, dignity, and productivity;
  2. Tools to educate the transit agency staff about the need for adequate restroom access when developing routes and schedules; and
  3. Recommended strategies transit agencies can use to implement solutions for adequate restroom access.
In order to develop these resources, the researcher will provide: (a) an annotated bibliography of research that describes the health and safety effects of inadequate restroom access on worker performance; (b) a description of appropriate data needed to understand the impacts of inadequate restroom access on transit operators’ safety, health, and productivity; (c) a description of data gaps that preclude determining the comprehensive safety and health effects of inadequate restroom access; (d) five to 10 in-depth applicable case studies that  focus on the effects of inadequate restroom access in a range of transit agencies (e.g., small, medium, large, urban, suburban, rural) and an assessment of what works, what does not work, and why; (e) innovative approaches for assessing and mitigating impact to transit operators; and (f) best practices for providing adequate restroom access for transit operators.

The research should answer questions such as, but not limited to, the following:
  1. How prevalent is inadequate restroom access for transit operators?
  2. How does inadequate restroom access affect treatment of medical conditions (e.g., hypertension, urinary tract infections, renal disorders)?
  3. Are there differences in restroom access for transit operators based on location (e.g., rural, suburban, urban), season, agency size, or other characteristics?
  4. What characterizes the problem (e.g., safety, personal security, work rules, practice and customs, limited time, limited facilities, sanitation concerns, knowledge of facilities, community relations)?
  5. Does current transit route scheduling practice account for feasible access to restrooms, based on data from scheduling, tracking technology and other sources?
  6. What are the costs that arise from a lack of inadequate restroom access (e.g., crashes, health care, worker’s compensation, absenteeism, operating delays)?
  7. What is the range of capital and operating costs of providing transit operator adequate access to restrooms?
  8. What steps have transit agencies taken to improve access?
  9. What are examples of best practices?
  10. What are current policies regarding restroom breaks?
 The case studies, at a minimum, will address the following questions:
Transit Agencies
  • How do you deal with restroom access for transit operators?
  • What are the specific challenges to or lessons learned from providing adequate restroom access?
  • What is the volume and context of feedback you get from transit operators?
  • What is your response to transit operator feedback?
  • Have your policies and procedures been effective in addressing the safety, health, and productivity issues related to restroom access?
 Transit Operators
  • How satisfied are you with respect to your current system for providing adequate restroom access?
  • Does your current system meet your restroom access needs? 
  • Are the current policies and procedures effective in addressing the issues related to restroom access?
STATUS: Completed. Published as TCRP Research Report 216.

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