Post Covid-19 Lockdown Guidance: minimising risk in face to face data collection

18th May 20

Summary of Government Advice:

17.04.20

 

This guidance covers the following topics:

  • Research design and risk minimisation
  • Requirements for researchers, interviewers and moderators
  • Requirements when conducting recruitment of participants for face to face data collection
  • General requirements during face to face data collection of all types
  • Requirements for door to door data collection
  • Requirements for central location data collection
  • Requirements for venues used for face to face data collection, including group rooms
  • Links to websites – federal and state health related sites and general working safely with COVID-19 sites.

Introduction

As Australia moves to a new phase in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, Members may wish to consider the use of face to face data collection for future projects.

When doing so, Members are urged to consider very carefully their responsibilities towards the general public, researchers, interviewers and moderators working with them and their clients.

At a time when there remains a high level of concern about social contact, we still advise Members to minimise the use of face to face data collection. The necessity for face to face data collection, as opposed to any other data collection method, should be the key consideration when determining its use.

Risk minimisation is essential when considering face to face data collection. Members are advised to read this document in conjunction with government advice and conduct a risk assessment. They should discuss the assessment with their client and agree on any liability for identified risks before proceeding.

It is important that Members adhere to the Research Society Code of Professional Behaviour at all times, in particular the requirement to avoid harm of any kind to participants, such as physical harm from contracting COVID-19 or mental distress at being asked to come into contact with others.

It is also vital at this time that we continue to gain and retain the confidence of the public for our sector’s activities and do not appear to contravene any government regulations and advice on social contact and distancing.

The advice that follows is based on our current understanding of government guidance on COVID-19, which is subject to continuous development. We shall endeavour to update this advice in line with any changes, but it remains the responsibility of members to keep up to date with the regulations, which may differ by state and territory.

It should be noted that this guidance does not replace government advice; it is meant to supplement the official sources with the addition of some research considerations. Remember to continue to check the up-to-date guidance on the relevant website. Links to these are provided later.

Our sincere thanks to our strategic partner MRS in the UK who's guidance on this topic was of great assistance in the development of this advice.

Research design and risk minimisation

Researchers must undertake a risk assessment before beginning any face to face data collection.

Researchers must use and adhere to the appropriate government safe working guidance depending upon where they intend to conduct the face to face data collection.

When designing face to face data collection researchers must discuss with clients the outcome of any risk assessments and agree on any mitigations to be undertaken, including adapting the research design to reduce COVID-19 risks, exposure and infection.

As part of this discussion, researchers must determine whether face to face data collection is the most appropriate data collection and method.

When designing face to face data collection a key consideration will be the use of facial coverings and gloves by those undertaking the interviewing or moderating.

Researchers must discuss with clients the range of body coverings and equipment available and agree an approach, which will depend upon the outcomes of any initial risk assessment, including considerations such as:

  • The face to face methodology being applied
  • The environment where the research is to take place
  • The profile of participants e.g. age, health, demographics
  • The profile of interviewers and/or researchers involved

Once it has been agreed that a face to face data collection method will be undertaken the researchers must discuss and agree with clients’ liabilities for risks identified. These identified risks and liabilities must form part of the contract between research and client for the data collection.

The following sections cover requirements once the researcher and client have agreed that a method of face to face data collection is necessary.

Requirements for researchers, interviewers and moderators

Note; the term ‘researchers’ is used throughout to apply to researchers, interviewers and moderators who will undertake face to face data collection

Generally, if any researchers begin to feel unwell and/or have been in contact with anyone who has been unwell and/or is feeling unwell they must self-isolate and stop working on any face to faced data collection.

Researchers who are classified as vulnerable individuals are advised by the government to stay at home at all times and avoid any face to face contact. Therefore, vulnerable researchers must not undertake any face to face data collection activities. More information is available here:

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19

Before eligible researchers are selected for face to face data collection, COVID-19 screener questions must be asked to determine if they are infected and/or at risk of infection. Screeners must include appropriate considerations, which will depend on the outcome of any initial risk assessments, such as:

  • Current state of health of researchers and their immediate households
  • Whether researchers and/or members of their immediate household have been diagnosed and/or tested for Covid-19
  • Whether researchers and/or members of their immediate household have been exposed to individuals who have been unwell and/or diagnosed and/or tested for COVID-19
  • Whether researchers are shielding or caring for individuals vulnerable to COVID-19 within their household
  • Current emotional health and personal confidence of researchers to undertake face to face data collection
  • Any specific researchers’ concerns regarding face to face data collection.

Researchers who's responses to screener questions indicate a state of health and/or circumstances which are unsuitable for face to face data collection and/or a high risk of COVID-19 infection must not be selected for face to face data collection until such time as there is evidence that they are no longer infected with COVID-19 and/or in a state of health/circumstances which is suitable for such activity.

Before researchers undertake any face to face data collection activities, they must be trained on how to undertake such activity in post-lockdown conditions. Training must include appropriate considerations, which will depend on the outcome of any initial risk assessments, such as:

  • Understanding the government safe working requirements and following updates for any particular work environment where face to face data collection is being undertaken
  • When and where data collection can safely take place
  • Locations and circumstances to avoid when undertaking face to face data collection
  • Wearing of face coverings and gloves, how to ensure maximum effectiveness and when the use of face coverings and gloves may be appropriate
  • Avoiding physical contact and touching of own face particularly noses, eyes and mouths
  • Determining 1.5 metres as a safe distance
  • Asking participant health screener questions
  • Appropriate handling, cleaning and transfer of data collection tools e.g. laptops, showcards, stimulus materials
  • Appropriate handling of incentives including storage, cleaning and transfer
  • Removal and discarding of any cleansing materials e.g. sanitary wipes, tissues, etc used during data collection
  • Appropriate handling and transfer of assurance and/or consent processes e.g. thank you leaflets, recruitment documentation, etc.
  • Responding appropriately to any participant concerns about undertaking face to face data collection during post-lockdown
  • Understanding Research Society Code of Professional Behaviour responsibilities including the collecting of screener data which relates to sensitive information
  • Relaying relevant Covid-19 and specific research and/or corporate advice during data collection.

Researchers undertaking face to face data collection should be encouraged to download and use the COVIDSafe app. Note however, that employers are prohibited from acting adversely against, or taking disciplinary action against an employee for failing or choosing not to do so.

Employers should take care to ensure that any encouragement to an employee to download the COVIDSafe app does not amount to coercion, and any employees who choose not to download or use the app must not be treating unfavourably as a result.

Requirements when conducting recruitment of participants for face to face data collection

If individuals are being contacted face to face to participate in a data collection exercise – either at that time or later - researchers must

  • position themselves in a location where they are unlikely to get closer than 1.5 metres with any individuals
  • avoid people who look visibly unwell
  • stand at least 1.5 metres away from potential participants
  • carry tissues and sanitary wipes and throw away in a bin any which are used
  • avoid touching their nose, mouth or eyes
  • avoid any physical contact such as shaking a participant’s hand
  • be aware that asking individuals to participate in research may cause unnecessary stress and concern and to take steps to offer assurances to mitigate such concerns
  • consider the appropriateness of wearing of face masks and gloves.

In whateer way participants are being recruited – face to face, by phone or online, via a panel or so son - when researchers have determined participants are suitable and willing to participate in face to face data collection, they must administer screener questions to establish whether participants:

  • are experiencing any flu-like and/or COVID-19 symptoms
  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • have been in close contact with any individuals experiencing any flu-like and/or COVID-19 symptoms
  • been in close contact with any individuals diagnosed with COVID-19
  • are shielding or caring for individuals vulnerable to COVID-19
  • are themselves vulnerable to COVID-19
  • are content and confident to participate in face to face data collection, specifically any activities in which they may be asked to engage e.g. group activities with other participants in a central location
  • have any specific concerns regarding participating in face to face data collection.

Researchers must ensure that participants who respond to screener questions which indicate they have COVID-19, have a high risk of infection and/or are shielding or caring for individuals vulnerable to COVID-19 are not recruited for face to face data collection.

Researchers must inform participants that if their health situation changes between the time of recruitment and face to face data collection they can no longer participate. Participants must be given contact details - a telephone number, website, email, and contact address – that they can contact if they become infected with COVID-19 between recruitment and participating in any face to face data collection exercise.

This information should be provided digitally. If a physical document is given to participants, researchers must ensure that the information is transmitted in a manner which reduces the risk of infection.

Participants should be asked to consider the use of the COVIDSafe app when they attend the data collection exercise.

General requirements during face to face data collection of all types

There are some requirements that apply to all types of face to face data collection, whilst others are specific to the type of data collection activity – door to door, intercept, group discussions, individual in-depth interviews and so on.

This section gives general advice which applies irrespective of the type of face to face data collection.

When researchers undertake any face to face data collection they must:

  • position themselves in a location where they are unlikely to get closer than 1.5 metres with any individuals
  • avoid people who look visibly unwell
  • stand at least 1.5 metres away from potential participants
  • carry tissues and sanitary wipes and throw away in a bin any which are used
  • avoid touching their nose, mouth or eyes
  • avoid any physical contact such as shaking a participant’s hand
  • be aware that asking individuals to participate in research may cause unnecessary stress and concern and to take steps to offer assurances to mitigate such concerns
  • consider the appropriateness of wearing of face masks and gloves.

If there has been a time delay between recruitment and data collection, the screener questions to establish COVID-19 risk must be repeated before face to face data collection starts. Any participants whose screener responses raise concerns must be asked to withdraw from the data collection activity and/or re-directed to completing the activity via an alternative data collection method such as online or telephone.

Researchers must ensure that if participants are screened out immediately prior to the start of any face to face data collection, they are refunded for any direct costs incurred endeavouring to participate e.g. travel to a face to face qualitative research focus group.

If during face to face data collection researchers need to share data collection support materials with participants e.g. showcards, leaflets etc., this must only be undertaken in agreement with participants and with appropriate infection reduction methods being applied.

Researchers must consider appropriate COVID-19 risk and infection mitigation measures, which will depend upon the outcomes of any initial risk assessment, such as:

  • Supplying gloves to participants before sharing data collection support materials
  • Supplying sanitary cleansing wipes to clean data collection support materials
  • Cleaning data collection support materials before and after being handled by participants
  • Producing data collection support materials in durable material which is easy and effective to clean
  • Providing instructions for safely disposing of any used sanitary wipes after use
  • Providing instructions on how to handle and transfer materials to and from participants e.g. putting information on the table and stepping back 1.5 metres to allow participants to retrieve information.

If incentives are to be supplied as part of a face to face data collection activities researchers must ensure incentives are wrapped/sealed and cleaned before being transferred to participants. Researchers must provide instructions for handling and transferring incentives appropriately.

Researchers must provide participants with the telephone number, website, email, and contact address of the organisation conducting the project which they can contact if they become infected with Covid-19 following a face to face data collection exercise.

Researchers must remember that participation in any research project is voluntary and allow a participant to withdraw at any stage if they become uncomfortable or unhappy.

They are advised to offer appropriate help to participants who become concerned or disturbed about the nature of any questions or upset by being face to face with others. This help can take a number of forms, including making available the details of relevant helplines or websites that people can access if they are upset or worried about anything in the interview.

Requirements for door to door data collection

Researchers must ask for permission before entering a participant’s home and do so only if the participant is clearly happy to give permission. They must leave at any time if requested by the participant.

Researchers must only undertake in-home/door-to-door face to face data collection activity at least 1.5 metres apart from participants.

Researchers must design appropriate data collection activities, which will depend upon the outcomes of any initial risk assessment, including considerations such as:

  • Data collection length
  • Nature of the data collection topic
  • Use of stimulus and/or support materials
  • Use of self-completion tools
  • Collection of sensitive data
  • Collection of special category data

Requirements for central location or intercept data collection

Before commencing any central location or intercept face to face data collection researchers must ensure adherence (where appropriate) with all government guidance on working safely during COVID-19. These may vary by state and territory.

Researchers must ensure that central location face to face data collection is only undertaken outside premises e.g. in high streets, outside retail premises, outside shopping centres, inside shopping centres but outside individual retail premises.

Researchers must adhere to any additional safe working COVID-19 guidance which applies to any street or store environment, e.g. specific shopping centre guidance.

There must be enough space to undertake central location face to face data collection safely with participants. Participants and researchers must stand at least 1.5 metres apart and must not cause obstruction to other individuals in the vicinity and/or the possibility of contact of less than 1.5 metres with other individuals nearby.

Researchers should consider whether to conduct central location face to face data collection in cordoned off areas to ensure that participants and researchers have sufficient space between them, including extra space for sharing data collection support materials, and with sufficient space to avoid other individuals nearby.

It they decide to use cordoned areas, researchers must do so in agreement with appropriate organisations such as shopping centre owners, premises owners/managers, etc.

Requirements for venues used for face to face data collection, including group rooms

Before commencing any face to face data collection in any venue, researchers must ensure adherence (where appropriate) with the government’s guidance on opening venues and businesses and the rules regarding numbers and types of social gathering. These may vary by state and territory.

Researchers must adhere to any additional safe working Covid-19 guidance which applies to the venue’s environment e.g. specific venue owner’s guidance.

Researchers should ensure that any venues used for face to face data collection

  • are sufficient in size to ensure that participants, researchers and any support staff are all spaced 1.5 metres apart with a limit of no more than 1 person per 4 square metres.
  • contain clean and adequate washroom facilities including plenty of hot water, soap, sanitising gel and clean disposable towels.
  • are clearly displaying signage reminding participants about personal behaviour and hygiene e.g. how to safely wash your hands, dispose of tissues etc.

Researchers must wear appropriate PPE when undertaking face to face data collection in a venue if such equipment was worn before Covid-19 restrictions were in place e.g. when providing or serving food.

Researchers must ensure that any refreshments given to participants are served according to appropriate food and drink safety guidance.

Links to websites

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve and it is essential that practitioners follow government guidance about social contact and social distancing.

This section provides links to websites providing useful information and advice on requirements on working safely during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Health Related Advice

Federal Health Dept

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

Coronavirus Australia app

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/coronavirus-australia-app

COVIDsafe app

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/apps-and-tools/covidsafe-app

NSW:

https://www.nsw.gov.au/

NSW small business grant

https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/apply-small-business-covid-19-support-grant

VIC:

https://www.vic.gov.au/

QLD

https://www.qld.gov.au/

https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/government-actions/roadmap-to-easing-queenslands-restrictions

SA

https://www.sa.gov.au/

https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/195879/FINAL-DPC_RoadMap_FINAL.pdf

WA

https://www.wa.gov.au/

https://www.wa.gov.au/organisation/department-of-the-premier-and-cabinet/covid-19-coronavirus-wa-roadmap?a=

NT

https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/

https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/steps-to-restart/roadmap-new-normal

TAS

https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/

https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/business-and-employees/covid-19-safe-workplaces-framework

General Working Safely with COVID-19 Advice

Retail Association

https://www.nra.net.au/media-release/covid-19-retail-recovery-protocol/

Work Safe Australia

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/covid-19-information-workplaces/industry-information/office/about-covid-19

Business.com.au

https://www.business.gov.au/Risk-management/Emergency-management/Coronavirus-information-and-support-for-business/Restrictions-on-non-essential-services

Australian Institute of Food Safety:

https://resources.foodsafety.com.au/topic/covid-19