Research Integrity: Concise

Safety and health

Introduction

Every research project poses some risks to safety and health. Therefore all researchers should give some consideration to safety and health when planning and conducting research

Research can expose researchers, research staff and others to risks.

  • A chemical explosion in a laboratory could injure anyone in the explosion area
  • The escape of a dangerous pathogen could endanger an entire community
  • Conducting research in dangerous settings, such as interviewing in high-crime areas, can put survey researchers at risk
  • Sitting too long at a computer or in the wrong position can have serious health consequences.

The responsibility for protecting the safety and health of the population as a whole and workers in particular is generally viewed as a government/societal responsibility.

Key government areas of responsibility

Although organised differently in different countries, the health and safety responsibilities researchers have generally fall into three areas. Click on each of the following tabs for more information.

Worker and occupational safety and health
Environmental safety and health
The health and welfare of the general population

Safety and health concerns, such as:

  • Workplace design
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Workplace conditions, such as noise, air quality and fire safety
  • Hazardous materials
  • Protective equipment
  • Electrical systems.

Safety and health concerns, such as:

  • The release of toxic substances into the air and water
  • The storage and disposal of toxic materials.

Safety and health concerns, such as:

  • The spread of diseases
  • The safety of drugs and medical devices
  • The safety of workers and participants in medical experiments
  • Biohazards.

What you need to know about your safety and health responsibilities depends on the research you conduct. For a quick check, determine where your research is best located on the Safety and Health Pathway below. Click on each pinpoint for further explanation.

All research

All research should be reviewed for safety and health issues. Could any of the following pose risks for staff or others:

  • Research location
  • Work hours
  • Work tasks
  • Equipment or materials used
  • Experiments conducted
  • Waste products?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then some further consideration of safety and health may be in order.

Workplace safety and health

Workplace safety and health issues are generally regulated by national and local government authorities. If your research raises workplace issues, you are responsible for following all applicable regulations.

Hazardous materials and equipment

Hazardous materials and equipment are usually subject to worker or occupational safety regulations but may be subject to other regulations as well. If your research falls into this area, you will probably need to take special precautions and most likely need special training.

Survey and field research

In addition to general safety and health regulations, survey and field research could raise issues about employment practices and compliance with international policies, such as travel restrictions. If you or a staff member conducts research in risk-prone areas or other countries, there may be some formal regulation of safety and health.

Biohazards and nucleic acid molecules

Biohazards and nucleic acid molecules research (DNA and related molecules) is separately regulated and requires special training.

This course provides a general introduction to workplace safety issues and the special issues raised by hazardous materials and equipment.

The course focuses on:

  • A common-sense approach to safety and health
  • Elements of a safety programme
  • What can go wrong?

You will then be provided with specific information about policies on safety and health in Australia. For more information on safety and health issues associated with field and survey research, consult the sources listed at the end of this course.