Environmental Health & Safety continues to provide our critical services and assistance to the research community. Our department is working with several other University units in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This page supplements information found at coronavirus.ufl.edu. If you need assistance, please contact us at (352) 392-1591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an effort to protect the community, faculty, staff and students located at UF’s Gainesville campus will be invited to complete a weekly COVID-19 screening questionnaire and request testing through UF Health Screen, Test & Protect. Survey links will be emailed at the beginning of each week. More information can be on the UF at Work announcement.
Information provided by UF Health regarding COVID-19 vaccine availability, safety, and science can be found here: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/vaccinations/
Please visit the UF Health Screen, Test and Protect "What should I do If...?" website for complete information.
COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls
The Hierarchy of Controls is a system used to deploy effective controls within an organization, workplace, or community to identify the most effective ways to control a hazard. Usually categorized as: Elimination, Substitution, Engineering controls, Protocol/Practices, and Personal Protective Equipment, the hierarchy below has been adjusted for COVID-19 to include Community Protective Equipment (face coverings). Please refer to the graphic and guidance below for details.
Click on image to enlarge
Completely eliminating exposure to the hazard is the most effective control.
- Stay home, work remotely if possible, and avoid public areas.
- Avoid use of shared equipment and spaces.
- Conduct virtual appointments, meetings, site visits, and training through the use of web conferencing and video call applications such as Zoom or Skype.
- Consider if in-person contact is required. Examples where it is/may be necessary include front-line service and healthcare workers.
- Disinfectants to use against SARS-CoV-2 can be found using the List N Tool: COVID 19 Disinfectants See PREVENTION CONTROL FAQs “What if social distancing can’t be maintained?” for more information”.
- EH&S does not recommend UV sterilization. Please contact EH&S at email@example.com for more information.
- Use barriers, partitions and ropes to separate employees from public or building occupants, e.g. plexiglass screens, sneeze guards, theater ropes and stanchions, hazard warning tape, etc.
- Use biosafety cabinets when performing research.
- Utilize drive-thru style partitions and windows.
- Use hands-free equipment including trash receptacles, soap and towel dispensers, door openers and more.
- Create isolated spaces/workstations for employees or students when possible.
The HVAC systems in University of Florida buildings are expected to provide air exchange rates and filtration efficiencies as recommended by nationally recognized expert agencies such as the CDC and ASHRAE.
When buildings fall short of meeting these guidelines and where there is a perceived need for extra protective measures, portable air cleaning devices can be used to supplement the building’s HVAC system.
The Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Division does request that purchase requests for portable air cleaning devices be reviewed and approved by EH&S.
When considering the purchase of a portable air cleaning device, please note the following guidelines which will be used by EH&S when reviewing a request.
Other factors to consider when purchasing an air cleaner include:
Additional University Policies include:
- Campus Events and Gatherings in Response to COVID-19
- Masking and Physical Distancing
- Student Behavioral Expectations in Response to COVID-19
- Vulnerable Persons
Protocol guidance and examples to ensure a safe work environment can be found on the Safe Campus Guideline & Protocols website.
These include but are not limited to:
- Wearing face coverings
- Practicing physical distancing
- Practicing proper hand hygiene
- Monitoring indoor air quality
- Monitoring density/security of building spaces
- Ensuring contractors, vendors and suppliers adhere to University COVID-19 guidelines
- Working in shifts to avoid clusters of people in labs/rooms.There should be no contact or overlap between the shifts unless occupancy limits can be met.
Ready made Signs for many COVID-19 related issues are located on the UF Health “Ready to Go Assets” website. Signs include:
- Traffic flow
- Entry and Exit
- Elevator Occupancy
- COVID-19 Symptoms
- Physical Distancing
Provide Employee Training through the following videos:
PPE is encouraged within the scope of specific job duties (such as working in healthcare, conducting research, custodial services, etc.).
Always follow PPE Donning and Doffing order of operations.
Do not share PPE.Gloves and other PPE should be discarded or replaced as needed
- N95 respirators are best utilized in settings when working with known/presumed positive COVID-19 patients and/or when performing aerosol-generating procedures.
- The UF Respiratory Protection Program Requirements apply to all employees who wish to wear a respirator.
- If you elect to wear an N95 for general personal protection it is considered “Voluntary filtering facepiece (N95) respirator use” and requires submission of a Voluntary Use of Respirator form. This form should be held by your department and does not need to be submitted to EH&S. Completed forms should be held with a designated departmental supervisor. They do not get submitted to EH&S. The voluntary use exemption does not apply to other types of respirators.
- For reuse of respirators, place the respirator in a breathable bag (paper) so that it can dry out. Allow 72 hours before reuse.
- Use instructions for the specific respirators being provided to faculty during COVID can be found here : Kimberly Clark duckbill N95 donning and doffing
- Refer to this video for instructions Putting on and Taking off a Mask - YouTube
- If you are required as part of your job to wear an N95, all aspects of the UF respiratory protection plan including medical clearance and fit testing must be followed.
- Always follow facial hair guidance to ensure proper seal of mask.
Wearing gloves has minimal benefits for avoiding exposure to SARS-COV-2. Handwashing is a more effective precaution to prevent the spread of disease than the use of gloves. As a standard practice, always wash your hands after removing gloves.
Eye protection should always be worn for any procedures that could be hazardous to the eyes (according to a risk assessment). Regarding COVID-19, eye protection may prevent you from touching your eyes with contaminated hands. Follow your jobs risk assessed duties to determine if eye protection is appropriate.
Community protective equipment (face coverings and masks), social distancing and proper hand hygiene are key measures in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Visit UF HR policy on Masks and Social Distancing for additional information.
EH&S recommends a 3-ply surgical mask that meets ASTM Barrier 1 protection or a cloth masks made of at least 2 layers of fabric.
- 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.
- 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.
- Discard disposable mask. If re-using a disposable 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.
- Proper use of a face mask is detailed in this video.
- Be vigilant to not touch your mask.
- Do not wear a wet mask.
Cloth face coverings and masks shall:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
- Be washed each day after use, disposed, or retired for 72 hours
- Be constructed with multiple layers of fabric
Some masks do not provide adequate community droplet protection
- Masks made from fleece or single layer cloth (bandanas or gaiters)
- Masks with exhalation valves
- Face Shields
- View List N Tool:COVID-19 Disinfectants, a searchable list of products for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel human coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Certain suitable products are not included in List N. If the product label specifies efficacy against a human coronavirus, it is also acceptable to use.
- Quaternary ammonium products (such as Cavicide, Coverage TB, Lysol IC, etc.) or hydrogen peroxide based disinfectants (such as Accel TB, Oxivir, Rescue, etc.) have high material compatibility and are recommended for sensitive equipment.
- Bleach is very efficacious but isn't compatible with all surfaces. Be sure to inactivate any residual bleach with either ethanol/isopropanol or water.
- Ethanol is discouraged as a disinfectant since it often evaporates before contact time is met.
- Ensure you are following the product guidelines for dilution and contact time.
If it is not reasonable to travel to a handwashing sink, use a hand sanitizer. Both hand sanitizer and hand washing are effective means of diminishing the spread of COVID.
If you don't have hand sanitizer:
- Don't touch your face
- Use paper-towels to open doors and touch surfaces
- Wash your hands as soon as possible
If you find yourself regularly not having access to hand sanitizer or handwashing sinks, bring hand sanitizer with you.
Unless a person with known or suspected COVID-19 has been in an area, routine cleaning of these areas is all that is necessary. UF Facilities Services is taking a pro-active approach and expanding their cleaning efforts. Additional guidelines for cleaning can be found on the CDC website.
Contact your building manager for specifics to your area.
Certain job activities require close contact, which if not executed in this manner, may hinder workplace safety or impede instruction. Under these unique circumstances, additional measures must be used in order to protect people working in close contact.
- Identify activities where close contact cannot be avoided (confocal microscopes, animal surgeries, human subject research, etc.). Separate out the specific step or steps within the process (stations) and train staff or students how to safely breach distancing requirements using the guidance below.
- Don a ASTM level 1 rated medical face masks as opposed to a conventional polyester community protective masks. The ASTM level 1 masks afford a much higher degree of droplet mitigation.
- It is recommended that personnel don a face shield in additional to the ASTM level 1 rated mask.
- Dedicated face shields are recommended.
- If face shields will be reused, they must be disinfected before and after use.
- See PREVENTION CONTROLS FAQs “What disinfectants should I use in my work area” for more information.
- Ensure the disinfectant is compatible with the face shield.
- If face shields will be reused, they must be disinfected before and after use.
- Limit close interaction to under 15 minutes if possible. The less time spent in close contact the better.
- Limit close interactions to between 2 people (no grouping)
- Plexiglas or other flexible shielding should be considered when distance requirements can’t be maintained
- Personnel must don any other job-specific personal protective equipment (PPE) as necessary for the work environment.
It may be more appropriate to implement other physical or operational control measures. Contact UF EH&S (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance with risk assessment and mitigation.
EH&S recommends a disposable 3-ply surgical mask that meets ASTM Barrier 1 protection or a reusable cloth mask constructed of at least 2 layers of fabric
A cloth or paper mask containing a clear plastic field may be used in certain circumstances. A large plastic field close to your face may cause difficulties breathing and discomfort. Try to choose as small a plastic field as possible and always pay attention to any medical signs (headache, shortness of breath, etc.) that your mask may be causing. If these symptoms occur, change the model of your mask.
Visit the CDC Use of Masks site for more information and mask considerations.
Visit the Procurement Services website for information and resources for obtaining assorted supplies.
The following masks do not provide the necessary protection from droplets
- Masks made from fleece or single layer cloth, ( i.e bandannas or neck gaiters).
- Masks with exhalation valves.
- Plastic Face Shields alone .
Please visit the following sites for more guidance:
- KN95s cannot be successfully fit tested. Therefore, they cannot be considered to have the protection of a filtering face piece respirator. KN95s are appropriate, however, as community protective masks
- Community Protective Masks must be used while sharing equipment.
- The sharing of laptops, notebooks, telephones, touchscreens, and writing utensils is discouraged
- Disinfectants and hand sanitizer will be placed in close proximity to shared equipment.
- Workers will wash/disinfect hands before and after handling shared items.
- High touch surfaces on the equipment shall be disinfected before or after each use.
- For guidance on disinfectants, see Prevention Controls FAQs “What disinfectants should I use in my work area”
- Guidance on tool cleaning can be found here
- If equipment must be shared between multiple people before being disinfected, take care to avoid cross contamination of clothing, face, and hands.
- Social distancing shall still be maintained when using shared equipment. If for some reason it cannot be maintained (two people using the equipment at once in addition to sharing the equipment between people) then refer to “What if social distancing can’t be maintained” in PREVENTION CONTROLS FAQs.
EH&S COVID-19 Lab Research Resources
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 Resumption Plan webpage.
Remember: Always remove your gloves & wash your hands before leaving the lab.
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.
- 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.
• 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 requirements 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
- 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 unless occupancy limits can be met. Communication between shifts should be done via phone calls or Zoom meeting as much as possible.
Any scope of research which involves the isolation, concentration, propagation, or in vivo inoculation with viable SARS-CoV-2 must be performed in accordance with BSL-3/ABSL-3 containment and practices.
Please visit the SARS-CoV-2 Research page for additional information on controls and work practices. For more information, please contact the EH&S Biological Safety Office (BSO@ehs.ufl.edu or 352-392-1591)
Consistent with standard operations, PPE for laboratory activities is dependent upon a lab specific risk assessment.
If a respiratory hazard is identified by the risk assessment, employees need to be enrolled in the UF Respiratory Protection Program. Per the Respiratory Protection Policy, if the use of an N95 respirator is required, individuals must complete a Medical Evaluation and annual respirator fit test.
Voluntary respirator use requires completion of an N95 Voluntary Use of Filtering Facepiece Respirators Form. Completed forms should be held with a designated departmental supervisor. They do not get submitted to EH&S.
As a reminder, PPE needs to be removed and hands must be washed before exiting the lab.
EH&S recommends that each laboratory identify what activities would allow for wearing a Community Protective mask within the lab and outside the research environment. Care should be taken to identify possible opportunities for contamination of the mask with any laboratory infectious or recombinant agents (BSL1 or BSL2). In the event of presumed facemask contamination, the mask must be discarded in accordance with standard biological waste procedures before exiting the lab. Potential exposures or near misses are to be reported to the EH&S Biological Safety Office (email@example.com or 352-392-1591)
Symptomatic employees, including yourself, should stay home if any of the COVID-19 symptoms are present. UF Faculty, Staff, or Students can follow the expanded guidance on who to call is symptoms are present, have come into close contact with a COVID-19 person, or test positive.
For confirmed positive cases:
- Inform department or 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 should go here for assistance with COVID-19 cleaning in a UF Facility.
- 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 UF HR Guidance on COVID-19 response for employees.
Facilities will not disinfect laboratory equipment or benches. Laboratorians will have to perform the rest of the decontamination themselves if a 72 hour inactive period cannot be accomplished in the space.
- Adhere to BSL-2 practices
- Don appropriate PPE (community protective mask, disposable gloves, lab coat, and eye protection)
- Prepare disinfectants. See Prevention Controls FAQs “what disinfectants can I use in my work area”
- Disinfect an open work surface which will serve as your “clean area”.
- Gradually decontaminate items/equipment. After disinfecting items, transfer them to the clean area. As you clear more bench space, you can gradually expand the clean zone.
- For sensitive equipment, do not douse it with disinfectant. Use pre-made wipes or spray disinfectant on an absorbent towel to decontaminate exposed surfaces.
- Upon completion of work, doff PPE accordingly: Surface disinfect disposable gloves. Doff and disinfect eye protection. Doff the gown. Doff and discard gloves using the beak method. Wash hands before exiting the lab.
- See PREVENTION CONTROLS “What is the guidance for shared equipment?
Facilities Guidance during COVID-19
This section provides guidance/mitigations for EH&S risk assessed facilities related COVID-19 issues. The department or building manager should go here for assistance with COVID-19 cleaning in a UF Facility.
In accordance with the published guidelines found on the EH&S Emergencies website
- Follow the building plan which is available by contacting the Building Administrator or Environment, Health and Safety.
- When the building is in alarm all occupants must leave immediately. If you are only part-way in the building turn around and go back outside. At this point, you will be wearing your mask. Continue to do so once outside.
- If you are in the building, you should already be following the face covering and distancing policy. If you are in an area where face coverings are not required, put it on and leave via the nearest safe exit.
- During an emergency evacuation, ALL EXITS are available regardless of any established one-way travel through the building. Try to keep 6 feet apart.
- Once Outside:
- Maintain Social Distancing.
- Go to the primary gathering area and maintain 6 feet distance from others if possible.
- Be aware and keep clear of incoming response vehicles.
- Keep your mask or face covering on if it is NOT feasible to maintain physical/social distancing measures (i.e., at least 6 feet of separation between others).
- See “Ready to Go Assets” website for a printable “Vehicle Use Policy” to place in UF vehicles
- Wear a face covering
- Limit vehicle occupancy, when possible, to one person.
- If multiple occupants:
- All should wear face masks.
- Turn AC to non-recirculating.
- Open windows if possible.
For UF vehicles transporting more than two people:
All occupants should wear Surgical Masks (ASTM1)
The capacity of the vehicle will be no more than half the available seats
- Clean the vehicle after use
- Remove dirt and debris first so disinfectant will be effective.
- Use disinfectant wipes or spray and disposable towels to disinfect high touch points (steering wheels, door handle, etc.)
- Sanitize all keys and key rings prior to return
- Guidance for cubicles can be found here: HR cubicle guidelines.
- See “Ready to Go Assets” for printable Distance Seating, Door Signage, Floor Traffic, Physical Distancing, Elevator signs, etc.
- When separation cannot be maintained:
- See PREVENTION CONTROL FAQs “What if social distancing can’t be maintained?” for more information.
EH&S has received requests from faculty and staff asking whether sealed windows in various buildings on campus can be opened to increase the ventilation within a classroom or office. There are several guidelines from various agencies that list opening windows as one method of reducing chances of COVID-19 exposure. All these guidelines regarding window opening come with a warning that it should be done only when possible. Little detail is provided regarding why it may not be prudent to open windows.
In the case of the University of Florida, the opening of windows is discouraged. A vast majority of University buildings have central air conditioning systems which are designed to recirculate a certain percentage of conditioned air while refreshing this air with a certain percentage of outside air before redistributing to the building.
Opening windows will disrupt this air mixture balance with possible negative consequences:
- Introducing uncontrolled amounts of outside air can reduce the ability of the air conditioning to maintain relative humidity levels within comfortable ranges. If the relative humidity cannot be controlled, the chance of mold growth will increase.
- The outside air entering a space via a window is not filtered and may contain biological or other contaminants from the outside (mold, pollen, exhaust fumes). Outside air entry via the air conditioning system is filtered prior to distribution to the building.
- Temperature control within an occupied area becomes more difficult when unconditioned outside air enters a space.
- In many cases, windows have been sealed due to mechanical deficiencies which make normal operation of the window unlikely. Windows may have also been sealed due to the reasons given above and unsealing them would be detrimental to the overall indoor air quality in a space.
Adhering to the current requirements of wearing a mask, maintaining adequate social distancing, and practicing frequent handwashing provide effective risk mitigation for COVID-19.
Please see the Guidelines for the Purchase of a Portable Air Cleaner Located in COVID 19 Hierarchy of Controls > Control Measures > Engineering Controls above
Please visit the following resources for more information:
- Guidelines for Routine Cleaning and Disinfection of Community Areas at UF
- See PREVENTION CONTROL FAQ’s “What disinfectants can I use in my work area?” for further information.
- See PREVENTION CONTROLS “What is the guidance for shared equipment?
A service request can be submitted on the Facilities Services website.
Contact them directly for any other questions concerning the cleaning of building spaces and/or repairs.
Academics and Covid-19 at UF
Guidance provided here is directed towards addressing COVID-19 related issues in the academic environment, which includes in-person classes and experiential labs.
- Guidelines for Faculty in the Classroom
- Delivery of Instruction
- Safe Campus Guidelines & Protocols
- Faculty are being given respirators that they may choose to use during instruction. This falls under the Voluntary Use of Respirators guidance. For information on this guidance and for instructions on how to use a respirator see above in the Control Methods / Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) / Respirators (N95 section)
- Students should always maintain 6 ft of separation.
- See Distance Seating in “Ready to Go Assets” for printable signs for classroom seats.
- When separation cannot be maintained:
- See PREVENTION CONTROL FAQs “What if social distancing can’t be maintained?” for more information.
- See PREVENTION CONTROLS FAQs “what is the guidance on equipment sharing”
- For disinfectant to be effective, gross contaminants must first be removed. Clean away gross contamination (soil, grease, etc) from high touch points with soap and water
- Additional information for disinfectants can be found on the EPA List N Tool site.
- If your equipment is sensitive to disinfectants or difficult to disinfect – contact COVID@ehs.ufl.edu for assistance with risk assessment and mitigation.
For the complete list of UF Health Student related COVID-19 FAQs, please see the following resource: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/screen-test-protect-2/frequently-asked-questions/#students
- See “Routine Testing is required for” here: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/screen-test-protect-2/information-for/students/
- See “Are there any exclusions?” FAQ for students here: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/screen-test-protect-2/frequently-asked-questions/#students_exclusions
Ask the student to put on a mask. If the student declines, ask the student to leave the room. If the student declines to leave, it is within your discretion to adjourn the class for the day on health grounds. You must report the student to the Student Affairs COVID-19 Education Office by filling out the COVID 19 Behavioral Report Form. A student who refuses to leave class is not permitted to return to class without Student Affairs COVID-19 Education Office permission. Faculty will receive documentation that the student is permitted to return to class.
Please refer to the Faculty Guidance resource file for more information.
COVID-19 Guidelines for UF Essential Boating Safety
Please visit the EH&S Boating Safety page.