Extension and application of cognitive work analysis to improve pedestrian safety at rail level crossings

2019-02-20T22:47:01Z (GMT) by Read, Gemma Jennie Megan
Pedestrian safety at rail level crossings (RLXs) is a concern for government, the transport industry and the community. Collisions between trains and pedestrians are traditionally viewed as the result of errors or violations committed by pedestrians. However, as RLXs are complex sociotechnical systems, collisions are better understood as emergent properties of interactions amongst and between human and technical components within the system. Cognitive work analysis (CWA) is a powerful analytical framework that offers a sophisticated understanding of the functioning of RLXs as relevant to pedestrian safety, through identifying the constraints on pedestrian behaviour in this context. It does not, however, provide its users with guidance about how the findings of the analysis can be used to improve sociotechnical system functioning. Accordingly, the aim of this research was the development and evaluation of a CWA-based approach to support the design of complex sociotechnical systems, and the application of this approach to provide recommendations for RLX design to improve pedestrian safety. A secondary aim of the research was to investigate pedestrian behaviour within the RLX system using CWA. Drawing on systems theory, and more specifically, sociotechnical systems theory, the outcome of this research is a CWA design toolkit (the CWA-DT). The development and refinement of the CWA-DT is illustrated through a proof of concept application in the domain of public transport ticketing. Positive evaluation results were obtained and necessary refinements to the toolkit were implemented in the second version. A full evaluation of the toolkit was then undertaken within the complex, safety critical domain of RLXs. This evaluation found that while the CWA-DT could be considered a useful method, its application did not lead to the creation of design concepts that fully aligned with sociotechnical systems theory. The application did, however, lead to designs that were rated by human factors experts as more effective than the existing system design. These findings suggest that the sociotechnical systems theory approach may not provide an appropriate design philosophy in a public safety context. However, merging ideas and concepts from sociotechnical systems theory with existing paradigms such as safety management can lead to innovation and has the potential to improve safety performance. 

Awards: Winner of the Mollie Holman Doctoral Medal for Excellence, Monash Injury Research Institute, 2015.