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

Work-Related Traffic Accidents: What about Pedestrians?


Pedestrian workers (e.g., flaggers, crossing guards, letter carriers) hold jobs that are executed on foot on the road system. They may be on foot for short periods, for example to facilitate traffic or make repairs (e.g., construction workers, police officers, road workers), or they may frequently exit their vehicle in the street (e.g. delivery people, garbage collectors). As a group, these workers share the characteristic of interacting with many road users, when they are walking in the street, as well as with neighbouring residents and passers-by using various means of transport.

Pedestrian workers are a subgroup that is vulnerable to work-related traffic accidents (WRTAs), but their exposure is not well documented in the scientific literature. This study aims to better understand the determinants and circumstances of WRTAs involving pedestrian workers.

The methodology is based on the use of different methods to better understand past accidents (statistical and spatial analysis of accident reports); observe pedestrian workers (collection of physiological data from 19 traffic police officers and non-participant observation of their work); analyze work environments (collection of video data and surveys of the built environment at 39 worksites); and understand workers’ perceptions (post-collection semi-structured interviews with each of the participating police officers and three flaggers, by telephone or in person).

The results of our analysis of accident reports from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) and the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) showed that the main factors associated with WRTAs involving a pedestrian were inattention and distraction. These data are based on the judgment of the police officer responsible for the accident report in the case of a WRTA (i.e., the one who went to the scene). In most cases, at the time of the accident, the pedestrian was working on or crossing the road. Regarding pedestrian workers’ working conditions, we have shown that stress measurements taken in the field differed depending on the type of worksite in which traffic-related tasks were carried out: more complex sites are associated with higher stress levels. In relation to the safety indicators measured by video, multiple comparisons showed that the more complex workplaces were associated with worse safety levels (lower post-encroachment time [PET] and time to collision [TTC]), higher speed and distance covered by drivers near workers) and stress levels that varied according to the safety indicator. Finally, the pedestrian workers who were questioned considered that the risk is greater when the distances between vehicles are smaller and speed is higher. In their view, the risk of being involved in an accident is substantial, since they are not seen by drivers, who are often distracted (cellphone, other tasks while driving). The interviews revealed major differences between police officers and flaggers: the latter receive less consideration from employers and road users. According to our participants, risks of accidents are greater for flaggers or installers (of signage) than for police officers because of respect for the police uniform and of the different tasks they carry out: flaggers manage the construction site while police officers improve the flow of traffic around it. The in-depth analysis of pedestrian workers’ work conditions led to some proposals for enhancing these conditions, particularly concerning work organization (schedule, location, etc.). Thus, as a result of this study, employers and pedestrian workers will have data and results that can be used for training and prevention.

Additional Information

Category: Research Report
  • Marie-Soleil Cloutier
  • Sylvanie Godillon
  • Daniel Lafond
  • Alexandre Marois
  • Nicolas Saunier
  • François Vachon
Research Project: 2015-0067
Online since: January 18, 2022
Format: Text