IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Anchoring research in the needs and realities of the target workplaces and users


  • Ensure that the research projects are well-grounded in the needs and realities of the target workplaces
  • Promote a common understanding (between scientific and social partners) of the issues faced by the target workplaces and of research realities
  • Elicit a commitment from the target workplaces as stakeholders in the proposed research project
  • Give representatives of the target workplaces an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the aim of the research project

This first phase serves to provide researchers with practical information and increase their knowledge of the target workplaces, but mainly to ensure that the projects developed meet user needs. It involves two steps.

Step 1: Identifying needs and defining the research project

The purpose of this step is to:

  • gain a better understanding of the problems specific to workplaces and to OHS practitioners and professionals;
  • pinpoint, with them, the most significant needs and issues;
  • identify potential research topics.

to ensure that the research projects are:

  • relevant to the workplaces;
  • consistent with the IRSST’s priorities;
  • feasible in terms of the methods selected.

During this first step, the researchers also draw inspiration from the documentation and knowledge acquired through strategic watch activities, statistical surveillance and state-of-the-art reviews.


Strategic planning of its research activities

As part of the strategic planning of its research activities, the IRSST meets with many representatives of various industry sectors to learn about their OHS concerns and priorities.

The question of preventing slips and falls emerged as a major issue during one of these consultations. At subsequent meetings with researchers from the Mechanical and Physical Risk Prevention field, representatives of the public security sector expressed their concerns about falls on the same level in winter conditions. This consultation process led to the development of a research program and the formation of a network of Québec and other Canadian researchers to work on this issue.

Step 2: Verifying that the research project’s aim corresponds to the target workplaces’ needs

The second step consists of exchanges between the researchers and target user representatives to ensure that the research project’s aim corresponds to the needs and issues defined in Step 1. A researcher may also initiate this step to confirm the relevance of submitting a project for approval with the workplaces directly concerned. This process should better prepare stakeholders for the following steps, which include the adaptation of results and their uptake by the workplaces.


Wastewater treatment facilities: overview of the situation on worker exposure to bioaerosols

A wealth of information can be obtained from exchanges with the workplaces concerned by a research project. The conditions most conducive to project success can then be put in place and meaningful results obtained that will actually be used.

Here is an example of the important light shed by the follow-up committee―thanks to its practical knowledge of wastewater treatment facilities―on the methodological choices required to measure worker exposure to bioaerosols.

The environment in wastewater treatment facilities is complex in several respects. Different treatment sites present varying risks, depending on the nature and concentration of the bioaerosols present as well as the type of work done. The committee brought the researchers’ attention to the various types of wastewater treatment facilities that could be studied and the jobs found there.

Québec is a special case in itself because the seasons can have significant effects on various ventilation parameters in wastewater treatment facilities, as well as the volume and temperature of the water treated. The committee’s contribution was important, in particular because it highlighted the variability in some of these parameters. This information in turn led to a change in methodology. The proposed change also increased the statistical soundness of the study. The committee members further suggested measuring worker exposure to certain chemical substances (particularly hydrogen sulphide) found in these facilities and whose health effects are known. As one of the project aims was to document the incidence of certain illnesses in workers, the research team welcomed the suggestion.

During the process of identifying needs and developing a research project, researchers and stakeholders interact to ensure that the project corresponds to the realities experienced by the potential users. This anchoring in workplace realities right from the start of a project also helps create an environment that promotes the uptake and use of the research results by the various workplaces.

If this step confirms the merits of carrying out a given project, the stakeholders targeted by the research proposal will then be able to:

  • support the proposal submitted to the IRSST;
  • participate in the work of the follow-up committee, if there is one;
  • assist the researchers in carrying out the work planned for the second phase of the research and knowledge translation cycle.