Research Space Utilization Policy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Suffolk University Workplace Safety Standards for Re-Starting Teaching and Scholarly Activities in the Laboratory, Art Studio, Field, and Law Clinical Spaces

Purpose

These specific COVID-19 workplace safety standards for research and work in laboratories, art studios, the field, and Law School clinical programs are to provide faculty members, staff and others required to work in aforementioned settings with guidelines to help protect against the spread of COVID-19 as teaching and scholarship activities have resumed. This policy does not cover procedures for use of individual or shared office spaces while on campus for lab or studio work.

We expect faculty and staff to conduct as much of their work remotely, rather than on campus or in the field, as is feasible. These standards set minimum requirements only and are not exclusive or exhaustive. All faculty and staff are expected to understand that this guidance may evolve over time depending on changing conditions and take personal responsibility to monitor for updates provided by Suffolk University and Suffolk Office of Environmental Health & Safety (OEHS). Please continue to monitor OEHS updates and maintain regular communication with your Department Chairperson.

Anyone who returns to work in labs, studios the field, or law clinic will be required to comply with all trainings, protocols self-monitoring and health attestations as required by the Suffolk Safe Actions for Employee Return (SAFER) Committee. All activity must also meet Federal, State and City mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces.

As described at the end of this report, all faculty and staff must fill out a form that describes their plan for safely using a specific lab, art studio, field setting, or Law clinical space, and submit the plan for review by the Research Space Utilization committee. Classtime activities will take precedent over individual utilization requests. No forms need be completed for classtime utilization. The sections below describe the principles and practices that are needed to ensure the safe use of these spaces.

We are guided by the principle of implementing best practices to reduce transmission of infection while enabling work in these settings to move forward. The Safety Standards are organized into four General Categories: Social Distancing; Hygiene Protocols; Staffing, Operations and Communication; and Cleaning and Disinfecting. General instructions about PPE, handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting, logging activities, monitoring and scheduling access etc. will be addressed by the SAFER Committee. Additional instructions regarding equipment cleaning, required buddy systems, compliance with the Suffolk Chemical Hygiene Plan, presence of students, maximum room capacity etc. related to individual labs, studios, field sites, and clinical spaces will be specific to those locations and should be addressed in your plan. Please plan your work to minimize safety risks. Since much work might be conducted alone after business hours or on weekends, we ask that you avoid use of any dangerous procedures or chemicals that could pose a health or safety risk in case of accident. You will be asked to describe and justify any deviation from these instructions as they relate to your specific situation.

General Rules of Conduct

  1. Classtime activities always take precendent in scheduling and do not need to go through the research utilization form and approval process.
  2. You are expected to only enter and occupy your prescribed locations in your plan and not enter other spaces. For example, if you are granted permission to resume research in Samia 819, it is reasonable to use the bathroom on the 8th floor, but it is not permitted to enter other labs on other floors, common spaces, or classrooms. Use of your own private office is also permitted.
  3. Only the personnel described in your plan are permitted access to the locations. Family members, friends, and pets are excluded.
  4. Suffolk will be using CoVerified, a comprehensive COVID-19 platform designed for college campuses, for self-attestation, health screening, test-result management, contract tracing, and monitoring COVID-19 viral transmission rates and trends on campus. Suffolk University students, faculty and staff must use CoVerified to monitor and report their daily health screenings and to complete a self-attestation that will facilitate access to campus buildings. If there is no building security personnel present when you arrive or leave, please call the Suffolk University Police on their non-emergency dispatch phone number (617-573-8333; functional 24/7) so we have a record of those personnel on site.
  5. After hours and weekend work is acceptable, as needed, but requires specification within the proposal form and must conform to previously established after hours safety standards.
  6. Student research on campus is permitted in laboratories, if the faculty member will be present and can attest that the student has been pre-trained in the necessary methods and is already familiar with the lab space (e.g., knows where necessary chemicals are and how to use necessary equipment). If training new students in research, that procedure should be noted on request form.
  7. If a researcher arrives on campus and finds their designated space occupied during their approved time, they should explain that the use of the space is scheduled and politely request that the person(s) clean the space and then vacate it. If the person with approval is still not able to use the space during their allotted time, they should contact the Chairperson responsible for that location.
  8. All personnel are expected to wear masks and maintain a minimum of 6 feet distancing from others inside buildings, except when prior permission has been obtained.
  9. If you use one of these Suffolk spaces and subsequently test positive for COVID-19, please contact Gina Begley in Human Resources.

If you have any questions about common space e.g., elevators, bathrooms please contact Ashley Lindsey by email or 617-573-8667.

Laboratory Work on Campus

For faculty, staff, and students who must return to Suffolk laboratories to conduct their scholarship or teaching preparation, we are asking you to work with your Department Chairperson to develop a plan for your staged return process. Access to campus labs may be limited due to density concerns and prioritized based on the nature of the work being performed. Access will be coordinated by the Department Chairperson with personnel working in shifts to allow for sufficient social distancing and for all surfaces to be properly cleaned between uses. Individual faculty members and lab managers are in the best position to craft group-specific implementation plans for the resumption of lab activities. Please use your judgment in how best to meet the safety guidelines in your specific situation. In turn, Department Chairpersons are in the best position to assess your proposed plans and to work with you to implement the plan. Your plan will require review by a subcommittee of the Lab Utilization Committee (Melanie Berkmen, Patricia Hogan, and Lauren Nolfo-Clements) as well as OEHS and the Risk Management approval before you are allowed access to the space. This approval process will ensure commonality of principles in implementing approaches across the University and coordination between multiple departments using the same building and shared spaces.

Personnel using labs are expected to clean up and disinfect all high touch surfaces and utilized equipment before leaving at the end of their scheduled session to minimize risk to future users of the shared space. For disinfection, soap, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, or EPA-registered disinfectants for COVID-19 should be used. Ensure the disinfectant is compatible with the surface before using. High touch surfaces and equipment to consider includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Benchtops
  • Desks, tables, and chairs.
  • Freezer, refrigerator, cold room, and incubator doors
  • Equipment handles, controls, and touchpads
  • Cabinet and drawer handles
  • Door handles/knobs and light switches
  • Sink faucets
  • Shared equipment, instruments, and tools
  • Shared electronics, including computer mouse, keyboard, and displays
  • Small tools such as pipettes, pens, etc.
  • Waste container lids if not step-activated
  • Fume hoods and biosafety cabinets
  • Shared computer keyboards
  • Cover items that cannot be moved and will not be used.
  • Minimize personal belongings in the research space. Only bring in essential items.
  • Personnel are also expected to wear disposable gloves in the labs. Masks and/or face shields are also expected to be worn, except as needed in particular circumstances that have been outlined in the submitted plan and approved (for example, you are the sole user of a room for the day and you are making a video of a technique and need to speak during the video to explain the technique). Cloth face coverings do not replace or supersede task-specific PPE requirements.
  • Use of a cloth or disposable face mask could trap vapors. Please consult with OEHS when using volatile solvents in hoods as use of a plastic face shield and goggles (without face mask) might be preferred PPE in this condition.

The following table outlines the available lab spaces, their square footage, and recommended absolute maximum occupancy. Please note that these limits on occupancy represent absolute maximums, are subject to change, and require users to make sure that all occupants are at least 6 feet apart. Many of these rooms have barriers, equipment, tables, and built-in cabinets and benches that likely prevent sufficient distancing to allow for maximum occupancy. You can request a different number of occupants due to the location of immovable workstations; however, no occupancy value will be approved if it is greater than the listed value and violates the 6 feet of social distancing or density rules.

Samia Room Number Department Square feet Absolute Max Occupancy (min. 113+ square feet/person)
514 Physics 384 3
514A Physics 86 1

514B

Physics

155

1

514C

Physics

147

1

516

CUES/Physics

953

8

517

CUES/Physics

731

6

613

Biology

1143

10

614

Biology

925

8

615

Biology

937

8

616 (gen chem lab)

Chem&Biochem

1219

10

617

Biology

87

1

618

Biology

110

1

713

Biology

814

7

714

Biology

315

2

715

Biology

313

2

716

Biology

290

2

717

Biology

306

2

718

Biology

536

4

719

Biology

316

2

720

Biology

374

3

721

Biology

911

8

722 (cold room)

Biology/Chem&Biochem

90

1

723

Biology

105

1

724

Biology

314

2

813 (Organic Lab)

Chem&Biochem

1208

10

814 (Instrument)

Chem&Biochem

313

2

815 (prep/research)

Chem&Biochem/CUES

443

3

816 (research)

Chem&Biochem/CUES

514

4

817 (instrument)

Chem&Biochem

341

3

818 (prep/research) Chem&Biochem 342 3
819 (advanced lab) Chem&Biochem / CUES 925 8
820 Chem&Biochem 86 1
821 Chem&Biochem 86 1
822 (computer res) Chem&Biochem 315 2

Art Studio Work on Campus

For faculty, staff, and students who return to Suffolk buildings to conduct teaching preparation in art studios, we are asking you to work with your Department Chairperson to develop a plan for your return process.  Access to campus art studios will be limited and prioritized based on the nature of the work being performed. Access will be coordinated by the Department Chairperson with personnel working in shifts to allow for sufficient social distancing and for all surfaces to be properly cleaned between uses. Individual faculty members are in the best position to craft group-specific implementation plans for the resumption of studio activities. Please use your judgment in how best to meet the safety guidelines in your specific situation. In turn, Department Chairpersons are in the best position to assess your proposed plans, and to work with you to implement the plan. Final review of your plan by a subcommittee of the Lab Utilization Committee (Audrey Goldstein and Patricia Hogan) as well as OEHS and Risk Management approval before you are allowed access to the space will ensure commonality of principles in implementing approaches across the University and coordination between multiple users accessing the same building and shared spaces. 

Field Work

For those who return to field work, a face covering must be worn and/or a minimum of 6 feet physical distance must be maintained. When possible, data should be collected through remote sensing technology (wildlife cameras, hair traps etc.). Everyone must wear gloves when handling wildlife, soil, plant, or other environmental samples and collection equipment should be cleaned and disinfected with alcohol between uses if utilized by multiple field workers. Field work must not be conducted alone.

Field work conducted with human subjects must include an IRB-approved protocol outlining the safety measures following the latest Mass DPH and CDC guidelines. Home visits will not be approved. Check-in and check-out procedures must be established for all community site visits; PIs may design their own safety check-in/check-out procedures, but this information must be included in the application to return to Field Work. Faculty and students are required to include the COVID-19 safety plans for any community sites they are visiting when they submit a request to return to Field Work, if applicable. External sites may have additional safety measures to comply with (beyond those established by Suffolk University), and all researchers are required to comply fully with them. For Experiential Learning activities associate with courses for credit please see the Temporary Outside of Class Experiential Activities Policy.

Law Clinical Spaces

Use of Clinical Programs and the spaces it occupies will be deliberate and guided by public health advisories, the policies of the courts and agencies in which we practice, as well as the policies and procedures developed by the University. We aim to balance the needs of our students, faculty and staff, as well as those of our clients and the communities we serve.

This document seeks to provide some basic guidelines and a process to help guide the use of Suffolk Law School’s Clinical Programs and help protect against the spread of COVID-19. This policy covers the use of all Clinical Programs suites in Sargent Hall – Suites 140, 150, 160, 110, 160, and 165. It also covers requests to use other spaces in Sargent Hall for Clinical purposes. Finally, the document contains some guidance regarding court or other case-related appearances.

Non-Suffolk Building Locations

For those who must return to non-Suffolk building locations for scholarly purposes, the off-site locations must provide Suffolk with their COVID-19 related safety protocols, or have them easily accessed and publicly posted on their webpages. These protocols must meet federal, state, and city standards.

Faculty and staff should review the additional information in the separate Lab & Art Studio, Field, or Law Clinical Space Proposal sections and submit the completed Qualtrics form for the space that they wish to use.