Research-related OH&S procedures

Status


Approved

General description of procedures for minimising risk during research.

Public
visibility
Approved on: 28 Aug 2015
Review cycle: 1 Year
Owned by

Academic Standards and Risk Committee

Approved by

Academic Standards and Risk Committee

Category: 
Policy Contact: 
Director of Research
Definitions: 

The term research activity is considered to mean any act of research conducted under the auspices of Eastern College Australia.  The Research Framework Policy describes research as “A God honouring creative, but logical, process in which an established body of knowledge is engaged with and enlarged.” That undergraduate activities are not designed to enlarge the body of knowledge they are not subject to this policy.   Therefore a research activity may be as large as a multi-year research project or as limited as a single unit post-graduate social enquiry.
 
The term Chief Investigator will be used throughout to refer to the individual in charge of the research activity.  Depending upon context the term Chief Investigator may be considered synonymous with Research Supervisor, Academic-in-Charge or other similar title. The Chief Investigator will always be a paid employee of the college.  In the context of some Masters-level research activities a Chief Investigator will provide oversight but students will typically engage a suitably qualified Academic-in-Charge who will manage the activities.  The term worker will be used to denote any other person working under the direction of the Chief Investigator to bring about the aims of the research activity.  Such people may include - but not be limited to - employees of the college, a member of the community including researchers employed by other institutions, or students.
 
The term Safety Action Plan (SAP) is the key document required to demonstrate compliance with OH&S legislation.

Background: 

OH&S is a legislative requirement with significant penalties for breaches.  Given that the college already has an OH&S policy and a number of relevant procedures this document only seeks to augment what is already in place.  It describes key procedures necessary for college-based research to occur in a legally defensible and socially responsible way.

Purpose: 

General description of procedures for minimising risk during research.

Scope: 

All researchers

Statement: 

Four procedures characterise a research activity.  They are: (1) the creation and use of a SAP; (2) training workers and recording this; (3) monitoring workers’ health and recording this; and (4) reporting health and safety incidents including near misses.  All procedures are led by the Chief Investigator but require workers to be active participants. 
Specific procedures related to stand-alone research activities
For those research activities which require individual ethics applications the following OH&S procedures are to be followed.
 
Creating a Safety Action Plan (SAP)
It is an obligation in law to create, maintain, act upon and revise a SAP. Creating a SAP is to occur prior to data collection.  The SAP is a public document which will be up-dated from time-to-time.  That this is so, the college recommends that a SAP be created within a Moodle site dedicated to the research project.  A SAP is simply a table with columns and rows.  Column headers should be utilised which are consistent with the following aspects of the SAP: (1) hazards; (2) risk assessment of each hazard (including priority); (3) action required to fix the problem; (4) person responsible to undertake the action; (5) once fixed, the signature and date of the person who has undertaken the action; and (6) any comments by the person who undertook the action as well as the date when a review is required.  Each row of the table on which the SAP is set-out represents one hazard.
 
 An example of a SAP:

Hazards Risk assessment of each hazard (including priority) Action required to fix the problem Person responsible to undertake action Signature and date once action taken Comments and review date
Hazard 1 Low risk (low priority) Elimination of risk possible. Done using… Joe Bloggs J. Bloggs 1/3/2014 Review on…
Hazard 2 High risk (high priority) Elimination of risk not possible so the following measures were implemented to reduce harm: (1) …; (2)… Joe Bloggs J. Bloggs 17/1/2014 Several issues present: (1)…; (2)…; and (3)…
 
Review on…
Hazard 3 Low risk (low priority) Elimination of risk not possible so…was done to reduce harm Joe Bloggs J. Bloggs 23/3/2014 Review on…

 
Creation of a SAP is a three step process:
(1) hazard identification. In the process of hazard identification every task of the research activity is to be evaluated. Potential emergencies also need to be recognised as hazards.
(2) risk assessment.   A judgement needs to be made about how serious each hazard is.  This is the level of risk attributed to the hazard. Hazards noted as high priority, with respect to the risk they pose, are to be dealt with first. 
(3) risk elimination (if possible) or reduction. Having prioritised the risks in a research activity seek to eliminate them by using safe alternatives.  If this is not possible seek to reduce the harm posed by the risk as much as possible.  Action(s) to reduce harm should be recorded in the SAP.
 
 
From above, an example of how to complete a SAP:
 
 

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Now act on the SAP;
Hazards Risk assessment of each hazard (including priority) Action required to fix the problem Person responsible to undertake action Signature and date once action taken Comments and review date
Hazard 1 Low risk (low priority) Elimination of risk possible. Done using… Joe Bloggs J. Bloggs 1/3/2014 Review on…
Hazard 2 High risk (high priority) Elimination of risk not possible so the following measures were implemented to reduce harm: (1) …; (2)… Joe Bloggs J. Bloggs 17/1/2014 Several issues present: (1)…; (2)…; and (3)…
 
Review on…
Hazard 3 Low risk (low priority) Elimination of risk not possible so…was done to reduce harm Joe Bloggs J. Bloggs 23/3/2014 Review on…

 
 
In creating a SAP the Chief Investigator is to consult all other workers employed on the research activity.  The college’s OH&S committee should be consulted as appropriate.
 
Training
After creating a SAP, and having eliminated risks where possible, it then becomes necessary to manage the other risks.  This will typically require a Chief Investigator to provide training to staff.  The Chief Investigator is to keep a record of all training provided.  The college recommends that a training log be created within the research activity’s Moodle site.  This is simply a table in the following format:
 
 
An example of a training log:

Type of training Trainer’s signature noting successful completion Trainee’s signature noting successful completion Date
Personal safety training
 
 
 
 
J. Bloggs H. Smith
J. Waterford
W. Kaye
12/2/2014
Equipment safety training
 
 
 
 
J. Bloggs H. Smith
J. Waterford
W. Kaye
12/2/2014
Cultural safety training
 
 
 
B. Lovell H. Smith
J. Waterford
W. Kaye
18/2/2014

 
 

 
NB external expert (B Lovell) used in this instance

 
 
 
 
 As part of safety training equipment may have to be purchased.  For example, the use of a panic button in the context of counselling.  Safety equipment must be available to workers as needed.  Safety-related documentation may also have to be collected and stored.  Such documentation should be scanned onto the Moodle site to make it readily available to all workers.  Both the use of safety equipment and familiarity with safety documentation may reasonably form part of training.  As new hazards are identified or as new tasks form part of the research activity additional training will have to be provided.
 
Worker health
During the research activity the Chief Investigator is responsible for monitoring the health of workers.  This is different to reporting ‘incidents’. This should be done periodically as appropriate to the tasks being performed.  The college recommends that the research activity’s Moodle site be used to contact workers about their health status and record their replies.  This record is not a public document given that medical information is collected.  However, privacy can be broken to protect the health and safety of the worker or others. 
 
Reporting incidents
Health and Safety incidents, including near misses, are to be dealt with using the college’s current OH&S policy and procedures.
 
Specific procedures related to unit-based research activities
For those research activities which are conducted within a unit of study the following procedures apply.  These truncated procedures are consistent with those above but acknowledge the fact that each research activity is both brief in duration and has been vetted by at least one faculty member who has declared it ‘low risk’.  In addition, the students conducting the research are post-graduate and operating in a manner consistent with their professional work context.  As such, these individuals demonstrate good situational awareness and have undergone training by their employer. 
 
Process
 

In creating the Unit Guide the Academic-in-Charge constructs the unit’s schedule and assessments. 

As part of the assessment titled ‘Research Proposal’ students are to: (1) identify any research-related hazards; (2) prioritise them as being high/medium/low risk; (3) formulate a plan of action to either eliminate the hazard or to reduce its impact; (4) nominate when the student will carry-out this action; (5) and nominate any training the student may require to adequately deal with the hazards identified.  Students should be advised that their responses will be made public to their cohort through Moodle.

The Academic-in-Charge is to include within the Unit Guide the following statement: “If you become distressed or unwell as a direct consequence of the research you are to conduct in this unit of study please email __________ immediately.”

The unit’s Moodle site becomes ‘live’ as the semester begins.  Students can now see the Unit Guide.
Students are placed into cohorts and decide upon a research topic.  They now commence their research proposal.  Once completed it is up-loaded to Moodle.
The marking of the research proposal provides the Academic-in-Charge with an opportunity to assist students further with respect to their OH&S research needs. 
As necessary, the Academic-in-Charge is to up-load to Moodle  other documents related to hazards, training, equipment, health, safety, etc to accompany the research proposals.

 
Reporting incidents
Health and Safety incidents, including near misses, are to be dealt with using the college’s current OH&S policy and procedures.