A student at Universite Laval is completing a study on the occupational hazards faced by taxi drivers. Cedric Plante, a masters student in the department of community health at the Quebec university, has identified some of the common health and safety problems associated with driving a cab.
Obesity and backaches affected many of the interviewed taxi drivers. Stress brought on by the fear of being robbed, and marriage problems due, perhaps, to the 70-hour working week of the average cabbie in the region, also play a prominent role in their lives.
Mr Plante, who is putting the finishing touches to his thesis, interviewed 15 drivers last November, a traditionally quiet time for the business. Never riding with them, he preferred to get their thoughts during the all-too-common waiting periods - some of the cab drivers he interviewed spend up to 80 per cent of their days waiting for fares.
Many were preoccupied with the possibility of being hurt or held up. Some of those interviewed would have felt added stress if they had read the findings of a 1990 Canadian study on homicide in the workplace - taxi drivers were ranked fourth among people most likely to be murdered while working after policemen, security guards and gas station attendants.
But, violent crime is the least likely factor to affect the health of a taxi driver, according to the study. In this quiet region, three hours north-east of Montreal, the most common and perhaps pressing health and safety issue for the taxi driver, relates to their spending too much time sitting down.
Some of the findings of the study have led Mr Plante to conclude that city cab drivers need to improve scheduling, their diet, and investigate other factors that increase the rate of accidents and injuries.
The project was conducted with the participation of the occupational health and safety team at the Centre de Sante Publique de Quebec, the region's public health body. The findings will help it to understand better the needs of the transportation sector, a group long identified with a high rate of occupational accidents. Mr Plante has also taken his findings to the taxi industry."They were very open to our suggestions," said Mr Plante.