Should employees become ill or otherwise be unavailable to perform work, they are required to enter accrued time for absences from work duties during those times and notifying their supervisor.
Research and Libraries
Updated June 29, 2020
UMass Amherst is reopening research labs, onsite library services and access, and other facilities for research and creative activities based on the state plan and requirements for Reopening Massachusetts. This reopening is taking place in stages, as the university certifies that the Sector Specific Safety Standards for Laboratories and Office Spaces are met. Success requires the engagement of faculty, students, and staff in our shared efforts to protect health and safety while resuming our important research activities.
The university is informed by national best practices, and continues working on more detailed guidance to meet these standards. Reopening requires Research and Library Operating Plans proposed by faculty and approved by departments and deans, in coordination with the Office of Research and Engagement.
- Consistent with Reopening Massachusetts, activities should continue remotely as much as possible. Note that the state has issued a “Safer at Home Advisory” including guidance that “People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs.” Individuals who are at high risk can contact Human Resources if they are requested to work on campus and are unable to do so. Graduate students can also contact the designated person in their school or college dean’s office.
- We expect to provide some limited space on campus for researchers without adequate IT infrastructure at home.
- The Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials with restrictions.
- Activities currently approved under a Research Lab Continuity Plan (RLCP) may proceed according to those plans; please check to see that they continue to meet current Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) guidance. Continuity plans were put in place to enable the minimum level of activity necessary to avoid a catastrophic loss of research results, materials, or infrastructure. In contrast, the Research & Libraries Operating Plans (RLOP) will enable a higher level of activity and participation. The operating plans will replace continuity plans, and researchers are asked not to submit new or amended RLCPs unless there are significant extenuating circumstances so that resources can be devoted to the operating plans.
- Because faculty and other researchers have the best information on the facilities, the program, and the participants, they are best positioned to propose the RLOP. The RLOP must also be consistent with state and university health and safety requirements, so will require institutional review and approval.
- Requirements for social distancing, by both physical and temporal means, are critically important. In many cases, this will mean a lower occupancy in spaces and staggered shifts of personnel consistent with the safety standards.
- In addition to social distancing within individual laboratories, it is important to avoid overcrowding in public spaces such as restrooms, eating areas, elevators, etc. Therefore, information on the number and timing of personnel for each floor and in each building from the individual RLOPs must be aggregated and individual plans may require revision to avoid overcrowding.
- The vice chancellor for research and engagement will provide a Kuali form to submit the RLOP and will provide aggregated information from the proposed RLOPs to deans and departments.
- Once the RLOP is submitted, labs can begin operations by meeting the conditions in the COVID-19 Interim Operating Plan and with the approval of the department, dean and center/institute director (where applicable).
- Undergraduate students returning in fall 2020 should be aware that on-site laboratory and field work is subject to several conditions and limitations required to mitigate the health and safety risks of COVID-19. Research that can be conducted remotely is not subject to these limitations, and it is recommended that projects be adjusted to remote work if possible. Students planning to do research involving on-site laboratory or field work should be registered for academic credit (e.g., honors thesis, or an independent study course). These registrations will be placed on a wait list until students confirm with the instructor that their participation can be accommodated under an operating plan as required for all on-site laboratory and field work. These students will be accommodated as the space available in research laboratories and the availability of appropriate supervision permits. Priority will be given to graduating seniors who require the course to satisfy a graduation requirement, e.g., to complete an honors thesis.
Research and Libraries Operating Plans
Work on the RLOP can proceed, with all researchers intending to use laboratories completing the following:
- Complete the UMass Amherst Lab Restart Checklist. If necessary, one faculty member or their designee and a second person if needed for safety, are now approved to go to the lab for this purpose.
- Complete the COVID-19 Laboratory Training.
- Review the Returning Safely to UMass video and follow all of the health and safety guidance there, including the COVID-19 Daily Self Checklist.
- Review the Cleaning Procedures for Labs and Offices, and
- For more information visit this Environmental Health & Safety site on laboratories.
Faculty should use the following prompts in anticipation of the RLOP preparation.
- What activities cannot be done remotely; which are most-time sensitive, e.g., seasonal work, thesis or postdoctoral research close to completion; projects with a large impact on tenure and promotion; sponsored projects with upcoming deadlines; timely access to special library collections, studio space.
- Who must be in campus facilities to conduct the activities? Are the individuals able to do so at this stage and on what schedules?
- How will plans protect early career researchers, graduate students’ programs of study, and postdocs training and mentorship? Undergraduate researchers should not be included unless they have substantial prior training and experience. How will our campus values of diversity, equity, and inclusion be reflected? Note: Sponsorship of international visitors is currently suspended until at least September 2, 2020.
- Given your use of facilities, how will the health and safety of research teams be protected? For instance, how will physical distancing be accomplished within the research space? As a first estimate, 113 square feet per person (6-foot radius) is recommended to determine an occupancy that allows for appropriate social distancing (FEMA). However, this does not account for the details of fixtures, furnishing, and equipment or, most important, for the movement within the spaces. So, we expect that the operational maximum occupancy for a space will be significantly less than the maximal occupancy based on this first estimate. In a separate message, we will provide instructions on accessing data on square footage by building and room, as well as floor plans which may be used to make more detailed estimates of the operational maximum occupancy.
- If the space available cannot accommodate all researchers, what subgroups of people (teams) should access the facilities at different times? Separate teams without shared membership enhances social distancing and diminishes the chances that an entire lab group might need to self-isolate for an extended period. What sort of time blocks are required – several days a week for different shifts, or different blocks each day? Note that enhanced cleaning between time blocks and time to exit and enter buildings without overcrowding is necessary. Please consult with your team members on their views and home responsibilities (e.g., high risk, childcare, elder care).
- What kind of other shared spaces (besides restrooms, elevators, and eating areas) are needed, e.g., access to Library materials not available online (please visit the Libraries’ Remote Services page for updates), Core Facilities, shared cell culture rooms, autoclaves, etc.?
- Core Facilities operational status is variable, subject to staff availability. Access and level of service is at the discretion of the core director or the director of centralized core services.
- Will you need campus support services to operate successfully and safely (e.g., CEMS or package deliveries)?
- EH&S requests that if part of your research safety requirement includes personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves or N95 masks, please email email@example.com and include your name, laboratory location, and PPE needs. A limited supply is currently available, and EH&S will work on a centralized procurement of additional items if necessary.
- To ensure availability of cleaning supplies, Physical Plant Custodial will provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant, paper towels, soap, and tissues for your laboratory. When your plans are set, please email Pam Monn at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, contact information, and the location where you would like it dropped off. In the future to request additional supplies, please contact Pam Monn.
- Environmental Health & Safety lab checklist
- Reopening Massachusetts Full Report, May 18, 2020
- ACHA Guidelines: Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era, May 7, 2020
- University of Washington School of Medicine Guidelines for COVID-19 Prevention While Working in the Laboratory, May 7, 2020
- Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) Institutional and Agency Responses to COVID-19 and Additional Resources
- The Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity SARS-Cov-2/COVID-19Toolbox