Mike Livingston, Site Safety Supervisor, Mlivingston1@unl.edu
TJ McAndrew, Farm Services and Facilities/Site Safety Supervisor, Tmcandrew2@unl.edu
The “key principle” used in developing campus-level guidance is to provide “for localized decision making to best meet university policies and guidelines.” The chancellor intent is to set the high-level guidance on a minimum number of key elements, and to allow local decision makers the flexibility to operate within those key elements. There is the expectation that faculty, staff, and students will conduct their work within this framework, however, there may be decision the department leadership needs to make based on the many different situations of Agronomy and Horticulture with primary goal for the decision to ensure the health and safety of our team and of the community.
A critical point to remember is that if one member of a group tests positive for COVID-19, and/or comes into contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19, the entire group that has had contact with the person(s) will be required to self-quarantine – putting the entire group out of action. The group that will be expected to quarantine themselves will be much larger if there is not good information about who came into contact with whom, and when – thus the need to develop a work plan by faculty and staff supervisors.
- The health and safety of our UNL community.
- The health and safety of visitors to our campus.
- The health and safety of our broader community.
- Continuing our land-grant missions of education, research and creative activity, and engagement.
- Setting clear overall university policies and guidelines based on state and local public health guidance and known best practices.
- Providing for localized decision making to best meet university policies and guidelines.
- Every employee able to effectively work remotely should continue to do so.
- Local public health guidance in Lincoln continues to limit any gathering to groups of 8 or less, with social distancing of at least six feet. University sites around Nebraska must follow local health guidelines.
- If some employees within a unit do return to work in the office, unit leaders need to ensure that no more than one-third of workplace personnel are present at any time. This is being done to help reduce the density of our worksites.
- Consistent with local public health guidance, employees are expected to wear face coverings when in buildings or when outside when unable to maintain 6 feet distance.
- In-person meetings should be avoided whenever possible. Employees are encouraged to continue to utilize Zoom for meetings.
Appropriate notification procedure must be followed if you learn that an employee or student has tested positive for COVID-19, or has been exposed to the infection. It is important that you notify the department head as quickly as possible when this information comes to your attention. Please call or send a generic email without any information identifying the specific employee(s) involved.
Since exposures involve medical information, we are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. It is very important that we follow these guidelines related to employee confidentiality.
If you are ill, symptomatic or had close contacts of Covid-19 case(s) you are to stay or go home.
A&H is a large department with 300+ personnel. As such, it will be important that we minimize people density in our buildings. Those with offices in suite (279 PSH, 202 PSH, 379 PSH) or staff and graduate students with shared offices need to communicate campus presence plans to minimize density and/or be present in rotation.Covid-19 Principles & Guidelines for Alternative work arrangements
- Disinfect and practice proper hygiene – hand washing with soap should be a consistent and common practice
- Maintain 6-ft distance
- 1-gal sanitizing alcohol has been placed in all labs
- Sanitizing stations are placed at all entrances to buildings.
- Face covering can be obtained from the site supervisor. Please wear it while inside the building and outside when you are unable to maintain 6 feet of social distance.
- Custodian will disinfect common areas more frequently, but please do your part and clean and sanitize your personal work and lab areas.
Travel authorization will still be required so we can know and control the “load” of people at our facilities for common area use such as bathroom facilities, lunch areas, etc. However, even more important, if someone tested positive, we would have the ability to track potential exposure of other employees. Effective, June 1st, we will use the travel guidance and Travel Request Form (June 1, 2020).
There will be signage in all equipment and social common areas. Custodians will disinfect common social areas but we expect that everyone will be responsible and clean to ensure health and safety of A&H members and visitors. Use appropriate disinfectant in touch points before and after use. Appropriate disinfecting wipes will be available in common use equipment areas.
Following the key principles and UNL guidance, we expect that supervisors have an approved written plan. Supervisors need to ensure that each member in their team has reviewed and understands the plan. See links for training, disinfecting, scheduling shared equipment.
Research teams should reduce density by arranging staggered work schedules; limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people; working remotely whenever feasible; and continuing to host meetings via video conference platforms. Research lab guidelines are included below.
Recommended Buddy System
Under current circumstances, it may be possible and encouraged for one person to work on a given critical research activity at a campus laboratory or research site. As a safety precaution, such workers are encouraged to notify at least one other person who will be outside the facility or not at the research site where they will be working so their location is known by others. If two or more people are needed to enter a research facility or site, they are encouraged to do so simultaneously while maintaining social distance. This will allow them to be aware of each other’s presence. Evening and weekend work is permitted if an alternative schedule better enables employees to follow social distancing guidelines and/or reduces the number of employees working simultaneously in one location.
- Be aware of Federal, State and local health guidelines in regards to Covid-19 “Researchers must follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines on avoiding close contact with others, cleaning and disinfecting, using cloth face covers, etc. These guidelines are continually evolving, and researchers are urged to stay attuned to the CDC’s latest recommendations.”
- How many personnel can work safely in this space? Schedule times in advance with colleagues to enable proper social distancing especially in regards to shared equipment. Communication will be key. Email, call or message intended plan and/or utilize the shared equipment
- Wear PPE as per EHS door postings and face coverings while in shared spaces. See UNL policy on face coverings.
- When working in the laboratory clean and disinfect the work surface and tools prior to beginning your work. Read and follow all EHS guidelines in respect to labeling secondary containers. Date these containers and note the concentration on the container. The following is a list of those disinfectants that can be effective against Covid-19, be especially mindful of contact/dwell time of disinfectants.
- Wipe down any high touch surfaces or equipment you will employ or come in contact with. Consider marking those high touch surfaces as a reminder with signage or tape.
- Maintain proper social distancing in the lab and be cognizant of the voluminous air flow that some equipment generates. Consideration should be given to move some key equipment to ensure proper personnel flow thru the laboratory and to avoid air currents produced by some equipment.
- General use laboratory PPE should be placed in waste baskets containing a trash bag, where it can be removed and placed in the dumpster.
- Before starting again, assess the PPE amount required to finish, and assess the consumables and reagents you have on hand. If you are at a stopping point now check with your supplier on availability and the lead times of required materials.
- Familiarize yourself with the location and employment of eye wash stations, emergency showers and chemical spill kits. See Links below
- Know your skillset, give yourself plenty of time, keep good notes, check your calculations, check them again. Wash your hands.
Probable High-Touch Locations and routine cleaning
- Light switches and door handles
- Equipment handles and latches (refrigerators, freezers, incubators)
- Equipment controls, touchpads, and computer keyboards
- Drawer and cabinet handles
- Bin and water incubator lids
- Hand tools
- Micro-pipettors, tip boxes, and other shared tools
- Faucet handles and sprayer grips
- Baskets, ice bins, trays, etc.
- Exteriors of shared chemical bottles and caps
- Chair backs and armrests
- Pens, whiteboard markers, etc.
The following protocols were put in place for the Agronomy Research Farms at ENREC, Havelock, and East Campus research fields.
- Per UNL guideline only one person per vehicle – for the safety of all, there will be NO exceptions to this policy including in personal vehicles.
- Call the manager the day before you plan traveling to Agronomy farm at ENREC (Manager Greg Teichmeier) Havelock and East Campus (Manager Jenny Stebbing). Please inform the manager about the expected number of people on site and work location.
- The shop doors will be locked – bring your own equipment (hand tools, garden tools, PPE, etc). If you borrow the farm equipment, follow the guidelines for disinfecting and returning it back to the manager. If you need help with repairs, call Greg or Jenny for assistance.
- As in the past the farm crews will be doing field preparation – if you need to use a tractor, it will be up to the farm manager to let you do so or have their crew operate the tractor. If you do use the tractor, clean the cab with disinfectant wiping down all surfaces available in the tractor.
- Prior to using the dryers, call the manager – only the farm crew will start and stop the dryers. The PI name should be on the samples and the sign-up sheet on the dryer door – any unmarked sample will be removed.
- Lunch area at Havelock will be the picnic tables on the north side of the shop. There will be no food storage, microwave, bottle water available. There will be porta potty. Follow hygiene guidelines before and after use of the facility.
- Mead Agronomy farm will have the kitchen and lunchroom available with a limit of not more than 5 people at any one time. Disinfecting supplies will be available in the lunchroom and bathrooms (NOTE: custodial services only clean every 2 weeks)
- As a courtesy to the farm crew and other users of the facility, please notify Tj, Greg, or Jenny if you are not well so precautions can be taken.
This is a general list, additional protocols may be added as issues arise. We recognize this is inconvenient and difficult time, however, if we all follow the guidelines and use common sense, we should be able to safely move forward with research.