IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Work-related road accidents - A literature review


In the industrialized world, traffic accidents are one if not the leading cause of work-related accidental deaths. Many different types of workers drive as part of their work, and having to be on the road puts these workers at risk. Despite this, relatively few studies have looked at the characteristics and risk factors of work-related traffic accidents.
This report is a scientific literature review, the first part of a study of work-related traffic accidents in Quebec sponsored by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST). The second and last part of the study is an analysis of statistics supplied by the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) and the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) on more than 8000 workers compensated by the CSST following a traffic accident between 2000 and 2009 (IRSST, report R-792).

In the summer of 2009, a dozen specialized electronic databases of documents published between 1995 and 2008 were searched for a literature review. From this search, together with an earlier Web search (Google), a total of 162 documents were identified, and these were analyzed in detail. The analysis looked mainly at risk factors identified and described in the documents. These risk factors were classified at five levels: 1) the driver of the vehicle and the passengers; 2) the immediate physical environment (the vehicle); 3) the external physical environment (the road); 4) the organizational work environment (the company); the political environment (laws and regulations). A last section was reserved for accidents that took place at road construction sites. Level 1 included the factors most often considered in the studies found. The characteristics of the driver (age, sex, education, etc.) and what he does (behaviour, alcohol/drug use, etc.) are elements to be taken into consideration in developing a prevention strategy, but factors at the other four levels must be considered as well.

Among the range of risk factors identified, driver fatigue was the one looked at most often. However, preventive strategies must not address this factor alone, as it is mainly specific to truck drivers. It is important to emphasize the crucial role of the company, which, due to its characteristics (safety policy, working conditions, etc.) can affect different aspects of driving (driving hours, work schedule, vehicle maintenance, etc.). In addition, factors at one level (fatigue, for example) can also be closely related to factors that depend, in whole or in part, on the organizational environment.

To a large extent, risk factors are interrelated, and acting on one or more of them can have an impact on the others.  In addition, many of the workers on the road are not working for a carrier and are not professional drivers. Preventive measures introduced to improve worker safety must cover all workers who drive as part of their work. The documents covered in our literature review include a number of proposals to reduce work-related traffic accidents.

Additional Information

Category: Research Report
  • Stéphane Messier
  • François Bellavance
  • Patrice Duguay
Research Project: 0099-4460
Research Field: Special Projects
Online since: September 11, 2013
Format: Text