Minimizing the personal cost of involvement in research into traumatic death

T. R. Driscoll*, B. P. Hull, J. A. Mandryk, R. J. Mitchell, A. S. Howland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This study describes the methods used to minimize any work-based disruption to the lives of research officers investigating traumatic work- related deaths. Twenty two research officers from a variety of backgrounds were recruited to collect data for a study of work related traumatic death in Australia. The information was collected from coronial files, which often contain detailed information about the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident: graphic descriptions and photos of the injuries sustained; and intimate personal details of the deceased persons. Specific interventions to minimize problems included: discussing with potential research officers the possible difficulties that might arise from reading the file contents; arranging for a grief counsellor to attend the training and discuss specific techniques for dealing with any emotional problems that might arise during the work (this session included a tour of a morgue); arranging for the research officers to work in pairs, with the aim of providing personal support and encouragement whenever it might be needed; flexibility of working hours; and encouraging contact with members of the study team. The paired working approach appeared to provide effective emotional support. The majority of the research officers reported that they occasionally were upset by the information in the files but that this was easily managed by talking to their fellow researcher and/or spending a few hours away from the work. They also reported that their approach to life out of hours breathe more cautions. One of the research officers withdrew from the study after two weeks because of physical and psychological symptoms attributed to encountering the information in the files. Within a few weeks of withdrawing these problems had resolved. The possible personal impact on researchers of data collection should be considered in the planning stages of studies where the content has the potential to cause distress. Specific measures may then be implemented to minimize any disruption to the lives of the personnel involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalSafety Science
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1997
Externally publishedYes


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