Health & Safety

Health and Safety Guidance during COVID-19

Laurentian University’s Commitment – The University is committed to provide and maintain healthy and safe working and learning environments for all workers, students, volunteers visitors and stakeholders. This is achieved by observing best practices which meet or exceed the standards to comply with legislative requirements. Our workers’ commitment to the University community is integral to the success of the institution. Laurentian continues to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of the campus community.

 

COVID-19 is a new hazard in the workplace. Hazard mitigation should always focus on implementing measures to eliminate or reduce the risk – which, in this case, is contact with COVID-19. For this purpose, the hierarchy of measures to control the hazard must be considered, as outlined below (modified to apply to the current circumstances).

 

 

 

A. Eliminating the Hazard  

Working from Home

Continuing to have employees work from home wherever possible is the most effective way to remove the hazard of Covid-19 from their workplace. During Phase 1, all employees are to continue working at home unless they are expressly authorized to work on campus.

Phase 1 does not signal a return for any reason other than to perform approved functions that are impossible to perform in a remote manner. No individual will come to campus to take part in activities that include (but are not limited to) group or individual meetings, regular office work, literature review, paper writing, grant preparation, thesis defense, comprehensive exams, etc.

When employees receive authorization to work on campus, a plan will be required to ensure adherence to physical distancing and hand hygiene practices to the extent possible.

 

B:  Adjusting the Workspace

Practice Physical Distancing

In order to decrease transmission of COVID-19, Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) Sudbury and District Public Health (SDPH) are now recommending that  everyone practice physical distancing

 

Physical distancing must be the primary consideration as supervisors prepare for the return of employees to campus, once they are authorized to do so.

Physical distancing (2 metres) is the recommended work practice for all campus work locations. Solutions may differ depending on how many individuals are expected to be present in the work area as well as the operational requirements of the work tasks.

 

Use of Office Space

Recognizing that offices for researchers  may be necessary to use during Phase 1, due to the restrictions on storage of food and personal belongings in lab spaces.  Written approval from the Vice-President Research Office, in-line with Research Resumption Procedures will be required for researchers to request access to an office, or other University space and the approved use of the space(s) will be articulated. 

The regular use of offices should be limited during Phase 1 until further progression through the phases of returning to campus, at which point additional guidelines will be provided.

 

Preparing for Subsequent Phases

In order to enable physical distancing once we move into subsequent phases of recovery, changes to the design or configuration of the workplace may be required.  For employees whose duties make it difficult to engage in physical distancing while on campus, proactively consider re-design or modification of their workstations and workplace configuration in order to reduce the potential for contact with other people.

Examples of workplace adjustments may include:

 

Physical Layout or Utilization of Workstations

  • Separate individual workstations (desks, lab benches) by at least 2 metres.

  • Where workstations cannot be separated by at least 2 metres, use alternate strategies to ensure employees are at least 2 metres apart – for example:

    • use only every other desk, seat or workstation (checkerboard)

    • add workstations to spaces previously used as meeting rooms

    • identify where barriers may need to be installed between workstations (e.g. plexiglass shields or panels between desks)

    • consider temporary “office hoteling” space – no office belongs to any one person but is used temporarily each day by a different person.  This will maximize office space; however, good house cleaning practices are extremely important – wipe down surfaces before you leave.

  • The physical restructuring of research labs may be necessary to ensure physical distancing.  Move balances to opposite ends of the lab.  Move centrifuges or other equipment away from fume hoods or areas where others work regularly to avoid close proximity of students and staff

    • For example: 15’ of linear bench space = 2 people working at the bench.  If the bench is an island, 2 people on one side, one person on the other side, in a triangular arrangement, is acceptable.

    • One 6’ hood is now the space for one researcher; however, they should only use the space normally occupied in a hood so that additional researchers can use the hood during their scheduled times.

    • Ensure the proper sanitization of all surfaces prior to and after completing work.

 

Control Traffic-Flow

  • Limit the number of individuals (employees, customers, students) permitted to be present in the workspace. Consider using a scheduling program such as Google Calendar so that all group members know when and how many people are in the lab at all times.

  • Designate the direction of foot-traffic in main circulation paths such as corridors and entryways (use signage or other markings). University signage will be available for supervisors to use in their specific departments and workspaces.

  • Use floor decals to mark 2 metres spacing for physical distancing where queues could form. These will also be available through Media Production Services.

 

Restricting Access to Shared Spaces

  • Close smaller shared spaces (e.g. marking kitchenettes, lounges, break rooms, and meeting spaces as being closed) to minimize transmission during eating/breaks.

  • Stagger lunch/break times to minimize opportunity to gather together.

  • Individuals should not be gathering for lunch/break times and must continue to maintain physical distancing.

  • Advise employees they will need to bring food and beverage items from home and to manage them individually (e.g. ice packs and coolers, rather than accessing shared refrigerators).

  • Remove shared appliances such as kettles, coffee makers and toaster ovens.

 

C. Adjust Work Processes

In combination with physical distancing, appropriate hygiene practices are a critical prevention measure for COVID-19.

Advise and enable employees to practice the following:

 

Self Assessment Tool

  • Instruct individuals to utilize the Return to Campus Screening Tool

  • If sick, individuals must stay home and contact their Physician, Public Health or Telehealth Ontario for further instructions. Report illnesses to your supervisor (add link)

 

Hand Hygiene

  • Wash hands regularly, following proper handwashing hygiene techniques.

  • Encourage individuals to practice hand hygiene directly after contact with high touch areas.

  • In areas with no proximity to a sink, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ensure hand sanitizer is available in the work area).

 

Respiratory Etiquette

  • Cover coughs and sneezes (cough/sneeze into upper sleeve or elbow instead of hands).

  • Turn away from others when coughing or sneezing.

 

Avoid Touching the Face

  • Avoid touching their face, eyes, nose,  and mouth.

 

Cleaning/Disinfection

  • Provide disinfectant wipes so that common touchpoints (door handles, light switches, desks, etc.) can be disinfected by individuals before each use.

  • Establish routine cleaning of high touch surfaces within the work area.

  • Avoid sharing of work tools and equipment. If necessary, develop procedures for doing so, which should include sanitization.

  • Assess the need for additional sanitization of work surfaces prior to beginning work in high traffic/high touch areas.

Laurentian University will be providing disinfectant to all departments and units.  Please refer to the Disinfecting Guidance Document for procedure to use and to refill disinfectant bottles.

 

Lab Hygiene

  • Hand washing or sanitizing, where handwashing is not possible, is extremely important – washing hands at least 20 seconds with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Advise employees to wash their hands when entering and before leaving the lab.

  • Custodial staff will be increasing the frequency of cleaning highly touched surfaces such as door handles, elevators and washrooms.

  • Cleaning within the labs is the responsibility of the occupants. Wipe down benches and equipment, sashes, knobs, etc. before leaving for the day.

  • Place signs or label shared equipment with reminders to wipe down prior to and after using.

 

D.  Provide PPE

If employees are observing physical distancing and hand washing as per the Public Health guidelines, no PPE is necessary.  If physical distancing is not possible under normal operations, work should be scheduled accordingly to accommodate this practice with people continuing to work from home wherever possible.

If other controls have been properly applied, there should be no circumstances where face masks or gloves are necessary while working in offices. Individuals can choose to wear a mask if they wish.

Consult with the Occupational Health and Safety Office if you have determined that PPE is required after having evaluated the other hazard control measures.  

REQUEST FOR PPE

Occupational Health and Safety Office will assist supervisors with establishing appropriate Standard Operating Procedures in line with evidence-based guidance from Public Health officials. In the event that PPE is required, the following considerations will be required.

Working in Labs

Regular PPE necessary for the lab environment should be provided as usual by the PI or supervisor. Ensure an adequate supply is available before starting experiments. PPE that is shared, such as laser safety eye-wear, must be disinfected after each use.  Develop a system to indicate this – label the pouches ‘sanitized’ for example.  Do not share lab coats – assign/label and provide to individuals.  Lab gloves should not be worn outside the lab.  Use a pen or elbow to activate door openers and elevator buttons.

If lab occupants are observing physical distancing and hand washing/sanitizing as per the Public Health guidelines, no further PPE is necessary, and it will not be provided by the University. If physically distancing is not possible within the lab under normal operations, work should be scheduled to accommodate this practice. 

Masks

N95 Masks

An N95 mask or N95 respirator is a particulate-filtering facepiece respirator that meets the NIOSH N95 classification of air filtration, meaning that it filters at least 95% of airborne particles. All employees who are required to wear an N95 mask must first have specific training and respirator/mask fit testing.

N95 masks must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.

 

Medical Masks (Surgical Masks)

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment.

Surgical masks are regulated. If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria), keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose.

Under certain circumstances due to the nature of the work or workplace where physical distancing 2m (6ft) is not possible, surgical masks will be provided by the supervisor in order to continue to work safely.

  • When using masks, only use medical masks and do not use N95 respirators (unless required for a specific task unrelated to COVID-19).

  • Only instruct individuals to wear a medical mask if physical distancing cannot be achieved through other means or if there is a hazard present due to the nature of the work that requires the use of a mask.

  • If implementing the use of medical masks, ensure that adequate supplies are available.

  • Ensure that individuals receive instruction on proper donning and doffing of masks and ensure they perform hand hygiene.

 

 

Cloth Mouth and Nose Coverings

  • Cloth mouth and nose coverings are not PPE and are not an appropriate substitute for work tasks where medical masks or respirators are required to protect the worker.

  • Individuals who voluntarily choose to wear non-medical masks (cloth mouth and nose coverings) due to COVID-19 concerns should not be discouraged.

  • If using a cloth face covering, individuals should practice hand hygiene before and after use.

  • Reusable cloth face coverings must be cleaned and decontaminated after each use.

Eye Protection

  • Only required where workers may come into contact (less than 2m) with individuals who are known or suspected to be COVID-19 positive.

  • Individuals who are known or suspected to be COVID-19 positive should not be on campus and therefore only medical masks will be required in circumstances where physical distancing cannot be achieved.

  • If individuals are required to wear eye protection in circumstances related to their role where they may come into contact with individuals who are known or suspected to be COVID-19 positive, safety goggles or a face shield are the recommended practice in order to achieve an appropriate seal

  • If you are required to implement the use of eye protection, ensure that adequate supplies (face shields or safety goggles) are available.

  • Eye protection must be cleaned and decontaminated after each use.

Gloves

  • Gloves should be worn if in their role the employee is expected to have contact with blood and body fluids and/or contact with equipment, materials or surfaces that could potentially be contaminated where hand hygiene is not possible.

  • Wearing gloves does not replace the need to perform hand hygiene and would not be required if hand hygiene is possible.

  • Individuals should avoid touching their eyes, face and mouth even if wearing gloves.

  • Hand hygiene should be performed both before and after wearing gloves.

  • If implementing the use of gloves, ensure that adequate supplies are available.

  • Ensure that individuals receive instruction on procedures for proper donning and doffing of gloves.

References

Resources to Prevent COVID-19 in the Workplace, https://www.ontario.ca/page/resources-prevent-covid-19-workplace

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

Coronavirus (PHSD): https://www.phsd.ca/health-topics-programs/diseases-infections/coronavirus