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Road accidents: what about those who work on the road?

January 18, 2022 | Julie Robert

Update : January 18, 2022

Quebec research provides solutions for training and prevention for pedestrian workers

A new study provides a better understanding of the determinants and circumstances of road accidents in the workplace, particularly among police officers who deal with foot traffic and road traffic controllers.

Highway construction workers, public works department workers, school crossing guards, delivery people… These professions constitute a subgroup vulnerable to road accidents in the workplace; yet there is little scientific research on them. A study led by Professor Marie-Soleil Cloutier of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) provides a better understanding of the determinants and circumstances of road accidents in the workplace, particularly among police officers who deal with foot traffic and road traffic controllers.

“The idea was to gain a better understanding of the causes of road accidents involving pedestrians workers as well as their experience in traffic; there is a lack of data, although they are often victims of serious accidents,” says Professor Cloutier, who is also the director of the INRS’s Laboratoire piétons et espace urbain (LAPS).


Predominant accident factors

This research funded by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) was carried out in collaboration with specialists from Université Laval, Polytechnique Montréal and Thales Canada‘s research and technology sector. It identified several factors associated with road accidents in the workplace.  

“We found that driver distraction, reckless driving, and excessive speed were almost always involved in a road accident involving a pedestrian worker.”

Marie-Soleil Cloutier

In addition, “almost half of these accidents occur on commercial streets and, not surprisingly, the greater Montreal area is where most accidents occur,” adds the road safety researcher. “However, most serious accidents tend to occur outside the city, on roads with higher speed limits.”

To reach these conclusions, the team undertook an extensive analysis of existing matched data from the SAAQ and CNESST, including nearly 900 accident reports that occurred between 2000 and 2016 involving at least one pedestrian worker.  


A poorly secured work environment  

The team also studied work environments through data collection on approximately 40 sites. They focused on the field experience of a cohort of 19 police officers who deal with traffic on foot by conducting in-person and video observations. The team also conducted additional interviews with three road traffic controllers.

One of the measures evaluated by the scientists is the level of stress reported and experienced by police officers when they are in traffic. For this purpose, sensors measuring their respiratory rate were used.    

The data collected revealed that it is higher when they work in a dense urban environment, with more traffic and a diversity of road users (pedestrians, cyclists, motorists).

These same sites that were considered “complex” were also associated with lower levels of safety based on traffic safety indicators from the video analyses. These sites were generally characterized by more dangerous interactions between pedestrian workers and vehicles, shorter distances between them, and higher speeds by vehicles passing near workers.    

“It would be interesting, for example, to offer specific training in the management of complex sites, i.e. sites with several types of road users and a lot of traffic. Sites where all the safety and stress indicators were higher in our study.”

Marie-Soleil Cloutier

The research team hopes that their research will provide employers with data and solutions for training and prevention for pedestrian workers in Quebec.  

The report Accident de la route au travail : qu’en est-il des travailleurs piétons ? is part of a call for proposals launched by the IRSST, in 2015, to its network of researchers to stimulate research within the framework of its thematic program on road accidents at work (ART).