Environmental Health & Safety is open and continues to provide our critical services and assistance to the research community. Some non-essential services have been placed on hold or reduced. Our department is working with several other University units in response to the COVID-19 crisis. If you need assistance, please contact us at (352) 392-1591 or email@example.com.
Working From Home?
As a reminder, continued work on projects requiring physical experimentation at home is prohibited. No laboratory equipment, chemicals or biological agents may be transported off campus for use at home.
Please view the COVID-19 Work Resumption Training video for return-to-work guidelines and procedures.
EH&S COVID-19 Lab Research Resources
- Research Resumption Checklist
- How to Use a Face Mask (Video)
- How to Properly Remove Gloves
- Lab Operations During COVID-19
Remember to look for the current recommendations on the CDC and The Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity websites. This guide provides steps that should be taken by researchers working in UF laboratories to mitigate potential hazards. Additional information on the administrative impact of COVID-19 on research can be found on UF Research’s webpage.
With less people in the labs, there are less eyes and ears to catch a problem. Train yourself to come into the lab space and take a few moments to pause and observe the environment. Does it sound the same as always? Is all equipment functioning normally? Has anything changed? Take the time to walk around to make sure nothing is amiss.
Remember: Always remove your gloves & wash your hands before leaving the lab.
While working in the laboratory you should use the risk assessment--determined PPE for your processes.
MasksMasks or cloth face coverings are required in public areas or shared spaces. Specific laboratories may require higher levels of protection, based on planned activities, laboratory configuration, and/or biosafety level requirements. Researchers may use either a disposable mask or cloth face coverings in the lab setting. If using a disposable mask, EH&S recommends a 3-ply surgical mask that meets ASTM Barrier 1 protection. Proper use of a face mask is detailed in this video.
- Use alcohol-based sanitizer or wash your hands before donning a face mask.
- Inspect the mask for holes or tears. Do not wear damaged or soiled masks. The filtration efficiency and protective ability of a face mask is compromised when the mask becomes wet, torn or dislodged.
- For a disposable mask, ensure the colored side faces outward.
- Find the top part where the metal piece or stiff edge is. Place and tighten it over your nose.
- Pull the mask down to cover mouth, nose, and chin.
- Tighten the nose piece and ensure there are no gaps between the mask and your face.
- Do not wear a mask for more than 3 continuous hours to prevent it from getting damp*.
- Always be sure to pay attention to your own medical signs (dizziness, difficulty breathing, headache) that may indicate that the mask is having an adverse effect on you.
*There is no set rule for how long a mask should be worn as it depends on humidity levels, respiration rate, nasal discharge, talking, etc. There are various studies that investigate the effectiveness of surgical masks over time in a surgical setting by measuring bacterial contamination of the surgical surface. Based on these studies, EH&S recommends continuous use of no more than 3 hours as a best practice.
- Wearing gloves should be done as prescribed in the lab but may not be as effective for avoiding exposure to SARS-COV-2. A few reminders when working with gloves:
- Do not touch your face with contaminated hands.
- Gloves might possibly get your attention before scratching your nose, but they are just changing the contamination from your hands to the gloves. Always remove your gloves before leaving the lab.
- o Do not wear gloves outside of the lab. Handwashing is a more effective precaution to prevent the spread of disease than the use of gloves. As a standard lab practice, always wash your hands after removing gloves.
- Eye protection should always be worn in the laboratories for any procedures that could be hazardous to the eyes. In the case of COVID-19, eye protection is suggested as it may prevent you from touching your eyes with contaminated hands.
- Do not share PPE
If re-using disposable masks, follow these steps for safe mask storage:
- Before removing the mask, clean hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.
- Remove the mask from behind using the strings or ear loops. Do not touch the front of the mask.
- Place it in a ventilated container such as a paper bag. Do not use a Ziplock bag since it does not allow moisture to escape. Ensure the container is labeled with your name and date of last use.
- Clean hands with alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.
- Let the mask sit for at least 72 hours before re-using it. Never share masks with someone else.
- Discard the mask if it becomes soiled or wet. Place the mask in a plastic bag and dispose of it in a regular trash bin.
Information on cloth face coverings can be found on the CDC website. Cloth face covering should be washed each day after use. Gloves and other PPE should be discarded or replaced as needed per standard lab practices
In addition to traditional routines, Facilities Services’ crews have expanded their services with an increased focus on touch points such as light switches, handrails, water fountains, and other surfaces that receive heavy contact. TruShot Disinfectant Cleaner and Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide are being used throughout campus to sanitize and disinfect restrooms and touch points.
Departments/labs are encouraged to provide additional cleaning throughout the day:
- Establish when the cleaning will happen and who will conduct the cleaning activities. This will help conserve cleaning supplies. If multiple shifts are scheduled, cleaning should be conducted at the start and end of each shift.
- Disinfect/clean common touch point surfaces in the lab after use:
- Sinks, drawer/door handles, fume hood sash
- Minimize the use of shared tools or disinfect after each use.
- If you are making your own disinfectant, remember to:
- Appropriately label the bottle with the contents.
- Make it fresh so it is the most effective.
- Instructions for a bleach solution that will work on COVID-19 can be found here. Follow bleach disinfection with ethanol or water to remove any corrosive residue if needed.
- If you are using a ready-made disinfectant, be sure to follow the labeling instructions.
- For all disinfectants, allow the appropriate wetting contact time (for diluted bleach that is 5 minutes) and wear appropriate PPE while disinfecting (mask, gloves, eye protection).
- A list of approved disinfectant with corresponding contact time information can be found on the EPA website.
Your research is important, but so is the health of the research staff and the community at large. Exercising social distancing and keeping laboratory activities to a minimum can help us all get back to normal sooner.
Always remember to:
- Work in shifts to avoid agglomeration of people in labs/rooms. There should be no contact or overlap between the shifts to avoid potential cross contamination between groups.
- Keep at least a 6-foot distance between you and other people.
- Develop circular traffic patterns to prevent face-to-face contact between employees. Appropriately label flow direction with signs and arrows.
- Arranging seating to be forward facing instead of employees facing each other.
- Wash hands regularly following CDC guidelines. Wash hands when entering the lab, at regular intervals throughout the day, and before leaving the lab.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Stay home if you feel unwell or have any of the COVID-19 symptoms. Immediately report your symptoms to your supervisor and department so testing and contact tracing can begin.
A daily briefing of what activities are to be performed should be discussed with the PI.
- Utilize a rotating schedule to maintain social distancing requirements. Entry and expected departure times should be predetermined for each shift. Do not overlap shifts. Communication between shifts should be done via phone calls or Zoom meeting.
- Each group must clean/disinfect their space at the start and end of each shift.
- Supervisors (PI) should be notified of entry and expected departure time.
- UF ID must always be displayed when on campus by utilizing a lanyard or badge.
- Ensure that individuals performing critical tasks have been adequately trained, have access to all PPE and essential safety equipment, and understand whom to contact with technical or safety questions.
- Laboratory supervisors are strongly encouraged to prohibit their employees from working alone in areas where hazardous materials, conditions, or processes are present. Supervisors who permit employees to work alone could require them to choose one of the following risk mitigation methods:
- The lone employee shall arrange to call or text his/her supervisor on a periodic basis to check in and report their status. The supervisor must be located anywhere that is reliably reachable by phone.
- The lone employee can arrange for another person inside the same building to physically stop by for a periodic wellness check. This method is particularly effective in areas where cell phone coverage is unreliable or where laboratory noise is substantial.
- The lone employee can arrange to call or text a friend, colleague, or family member periodically to check in and report their status. The friend, colleague, or family member can be located anywhere that is reliably reachable by phone.
- Wellness checks, texts, and phone calls should be made at intervals not to exceed 2 hours for standard work.
- Report to University of Florida Police (352-392-1111) in the event of an emergency or inability to contact the lone worker.
- • Safety required supersede any occupancy limits. Employees must not attempt to perform any highly hazardous activities while working alone. Examples of highly hazardous activities include, but are not limited to the use of:
- Pyrophoric or water reactive chemicals
- Explosive or potentially explosive chemicals materials
- Acutely toxic materials
Address symptomatic employees by following these steps:
- Stay home if you have a fever or any of the COVID-19 symptoms..
- Contact your primary care provider for an evaluation.
- Stay home until results are received. Report results to your supervisor and your department’s HR liaison.
Address positive cases by following these steps:
- Report to your supervisor and to your department’s HR liaison.
- Inform department of building manager to restrict access to room. The room should be locked and a sign placed on the door stating that access is forbidden.
- The department or building manager must contact Facilities Services/Work Management for space cleaning. It is currently policy for UF Facilities Services to close off any lab that has a confirmed COVID-19 case for 72 hours and then decontaminate the area with a disinfectant sprayer.
- The department or building manager will reopen the space once cleaning has been conducted.
- Appropriate agencies may conduct contact tracing. Please visit the UF Health Screen, Test & Protect website for more information.
- Do not return to work until you have met the requirements of the quarantine and return-to-workplace protocols provided by HR and/or your supervisor
More information can be found on the UFHR website. Questions regarding a known or suspected contact with COVID-19 positive individual within the workplace environment can be directed to the UF Health COVID-19 Exposure Hotline at (352) 273-9790.
University COVID-19 Resources
- Main UF COVID-19 website
- UFHR Institutional Recovery and COVID-19 Return to Workplace
- UF Research Resumption Plan
- Impact of COVID-19 on Research and Sponsored Programs
- UFHR Guidance on COVID-19 Response for Employees
- UF Health COVID-19 Update
- Facilities Services Cleaning Protocols
- CDC Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Florida Department of Health 2019 Novel Coronavirus Response
- The Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity COVID-19 Toolbox
- EPA Approved Disinfectants
- Face Masks for the General Public
COVID-19 Guidelines for UF Essential Boating Safety
Please visit the EH&S Boating Safety page.