Issued 4/24/2020

Revised 5/19/20- added link to research resumption notification webform

Revised 5/20/20 Temperature changed to reflect Philadelphia Dept of Health guidance.

Revised 5/27/20 working alone in laboratories policy & symptom update

Revised 6/1/20 to include requirements for self-isolation after travel 

Revised 6/3/20 to reflect start of yellow phase on June 4, 2020

Daily Health Screening 

Early detection of illness can prevent the spread of COVID-19 to your colleagues.  Penn lab workers must monitor their health daily.  Penn lab personnel must stay home and notify their PI or Lab Manager if: 

  • Shortness of breath or a cough within the last 14 days
  • Temperature exceeds 99.8 F when measured with a household thermometer
  • If you are unable to take your temperature, evaluate if you have signs/symptoms of a fever: sweating, chills and shivering, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, irritability, dehydration and general weakness.
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Sore throat 
  • Anyone in your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has demonstrated COVID-19 symptoms within the last 14 days. 
  • You have had close contact (within 6 feet for 10 or more minutes) with anyone outside your home who has a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis or COVID-19 symptoms within the last 14 days. 
  • See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html 

EHRS is performing critical contact tracing for the University of Pennsylvania.  Report all Suspected/Probable/Confirmed cases to EHRS 215-898-4453 (24 hours) 

Self-Isolation after Travel 

Anyone who has not been in self-quarantine for at least 2 weeks prior to returning to campus must do so for 14 days before resuming their campus activities. 

This applies to all employees, regardless of where they are coming from, whether domestic or international. In the case of international travel, as long as you have been in self-quarantine for at least 14 days, air travel carries no greater risk than using public transportation between Philadelphia and New Jersey or using the regional rail system.

Perform Pre-Occupancy Lab Check 

Prior to ramp-up of research operations, once you are approved by Penn to resume research, it is advisable to conduct a pre-check of the laboratory condition and supplies before starting lab work.  The following should be assessed as part of this check: 

  • Confirm fume hoods, biosafety cabinets, and other key safety equipment are operating normally, have current certification (if applicable), and alarms are not activated. 
  • Check status of equipment needed to support your research such as ice makers, cold rooms, refrigerators/freezers, sinks, and autoclaves.  Submit service requests or notify your building administrator if repairs are needed.
  • Confirm you are using correct start-up procedures for critical pieces of equipment. If you are unsure, check manufacturers' web site. 
  • Confirm adequate waste-collection supplies are available for near-term research needs.  This also includes bleach and ethanol supplies for inactivating biological waste prior to disposal. 
  • Confirm adequate personal protective equipment is available for near-term research needs.
  • Confirm there is an adequate supply of soap and paper towels for hand washing and that disinfectant will be available for cleaning shared equipment and work areas.
  • Ensure that your radioactive material package arrives on time and is checked in properly. If your order does not arrive the day after it is placed, please contact the vendor for shipment information. If you need assistance, please contact EHRS 215-898-7187. 
  • Ensure safety showers are not obstructed, and eyewashes are functioning properly. Flush all eyewashes until the water runs clear.
  • Check for leaks or unusual physical conditions in the lab that need to be addressed. 
  • Check expiration dates and integrity of chemical containers.  Contact EHRS to request pick-up of expired chemicals or damaged containers.
  • Assess what support services and deliveries (such as compressed gases, reagents, dry ice) you may require when your research is restarted and determine whether those services are operational and will be available when you need them. 
  • Anticipate delays in response and repairs and the possibility of limited  personal protective equipment and other consumable supplies.   
  • Investigate how other facilities such as cores, sample/specimen providers, and collaborators will be managing their services and maintaining physical distancing requirements so you can prepare for any access requirements or delays. 
  • Anticipate delays in reaching your lab in high-rise buildings.  Physical distancing must be maintained in elevators. 

 

Check administrative/compliance requirements

Notification of EHRS 

After you lab is approved by Penn to resume research The PI or Lab Safety Coordinator must complete the Resumption of Research Notification webform on the EHRS website.​​

Before submitting this form, please confirm you have approval from your department to reoccupy the lab.​

When we receive your form submission, we will update your lab's "emergency shutdown status" in BioRAFT.  We will also request that the floor of your building receives enhanced housekeeping service.​

Determine Lab Member Shifts/Rotations 

Because physical distancing will need to be maintained in the lab, it will not be possible for all lab members to be present in the lab at the same time.  This may require coordination with other lab groups to be effective.  Be certain to check with your School or Department’s operations office as physical distancing requirements in elevators will affect your ability to reach your lab. 

Consider splitting the lab group into teams that will work during different shifts or on alternating days.  Experiments should be planned prior to coming into the lab. If lab members do not have work that requires them to be in the lab they should not come to the lab. Communicate this to your lab group.   

Take the following into account when dividing your group into shifts: 

  • Which lab benches are adjacent?  Can lab members be scheduled so that immediately adjacent workstations are not in use at the same time?  If not, can workers be temporarily assigned to other benches or hoods to create enough separation?  Open-design labs (Smilow, BRB, CRB, Johnson, Stemmler, Lynch, Hill, Skirkanich, Vagelos) may need to operate at reduced capacity.  
  • Consider your needs for floor markings to outline at least 6 feet of distancing around workstations, lab benches, and tables and indicate directions of pedestrian movement.  An example of labeling products for this purpose are these from Brady.
  • Determine which lab members will require close supervision and advisement while they are doing their lab work.  Are there any tasks these individuals should be prohibited from performing while physical distancing measures are in effect? 
  • Ensure that lab members who are essential for the operation of specialized equipment or lab techniques make documentation available to other lab members in case they are not present in the lab or otherwise not available.    
  • Although the number of people in the lab should be reduced, researchers must not work alone in the lab.   
  • Ensure that everyone has the necessary contact information for the other group members who will not be present during their shift in case there are questions or issues with materials or equipment in their workspace.  Note that BioRAFT can be used to message everyone in your lab group. 
  • Take your assigned work schedule into account when planning your research activities.  You may not be at liberty to return to the lab, at will, to stop processes or monitor experiments.  Avoid running unattended processes if possible, and post information about your experiment to communicate hazards to others who will be present in the lab when you are not present. 

Consider Equipment Startup Hazards 

Anticipate the hazards associated with the startup of equipment such as distillation systems, chemical vapor deposition systems, flammable/toxic gas distribution cabinets, etc. 

  • Consider how you can ensure safe restart of potentially hazardous systems. 
  • Review operating manuals and SOPs for safe startup procedures. 
  • Review equipment state and safely release or mitigate any stored energy sources. 
  • Review startup procedures for compressed gas cylinders, gas generators, gas distribution systems, or pressurized systems such as solvent drying apparatus. 
  • Plan to restart equipment when the process can be monitored for enough time to confirm safe continuous operation. 
  • Before restarting a process, consider what will be necessary to safely shut it down again if necessary. 

Private/Lab Group-Owned Equipment 

  • Label or place a sign near lab equipment with a reminder that the equipment must be disinfected before and after each use. 
  • Place a spray bottle with disinfectant and wipes near the equipment. See cleaning and disinfection information below. (Don’t forget to properly label the bottle.) 

Shared Facilities and Equipment 

Shared facilities and equipment include fume hoods and biosafety cabinets, procedure rooms, instruments, and instrument/resource facilities will require coordination with other lab groups.  To maintain physical distancing requirements in open-access facilities and when using shared equipment: 

  • Post an hourly schedule on the procedure rooms and shared equipment or utilize a shared calendar or other multiuser scheduling system.  
  • Disinfect equipment before and after each use. This includes all touchable surfaces. Place a spray bottle with disinfectant and wipes near the equipment. 
  • Make sure that contact information is available for equipment stewards or facility managers who may not be onsite during all shifts. 
  • Take into account that your access to certain facilities including vivaria may be affected by occupancy limitations.  Check with the facility about scheduling and restrictions. 

Cores and Core Services 

Do not assume that Cores and services offered will be the same as before the stand down.  Check with Core prior to using Core equipment or requesting services.  Distancing guidelines may have affected service levels. 

Required Lab Attire 

Wear a University-supplied mask in all Penn buildings.  Masks must be worn while in the lab and at all other spaces except when eating.  See Penn's Universal Mask Precautions and Face Coverings, Masks and Respirators Compared 

In addition to mask, all standard lab attire and PPE including long pants, enclosed shoes, lab coat, and safety glasses must be worn in the lab. 

Non-Lab Areas of the Building 

  • Gloves, used in the laboratory, shall not be worn outside the lab, in common areas, or in shared facilities except where normal lab protocol requires gloves to be worn.   
  • Use good hand hygiene and routinely disinfect high-touch surfaces such as cabinet handles in the lab.  Use a no-touch device such as the blunt end of a pen to operate elevator buttons. 
  • Post the maximum allowable occupancy for shared offices, lounges, break rooms, rest rooms and conference rooms that still allows for adequate physical distancing. 
  • Arrange seating in break areas so that physical distancing can be maintained.  Face all seats in the same direction so that seats do not face each other. 

Cleaning and Disinfection 

Detailed instructions can be found in Lab Cleaning and Disinfection COVID-19 Guidance.

  • Wash hands when entering the laboratory and at least every hour thereafter. 
  • Reduce clutter so that desk areas, lab benches and other work areas can be properly disinfected at the end of your shift. 
  • Wear gloves when cleaning.
  • Clean surfaces with soap and water if there is any surface dirt before disinfecting. 
  • Use EPA-registered cleaning products with an emerging-viral-pathogens claim for disinfection.  
  • Labs may also use alcohol to disinfect surfaces.  Exercise caution as even 70% ethanol is flammable and can be ignited.  Best practice is to saturate a wipe and apply to the surface rather than directly spraying  if ignition sources are nearby. 
  • Housekeeping will clean high touch surfaces outside the lab. 

Keep Flexibility in Mind 

Stay conscious of the fact that circumstances may change rapidly, and you may need to suspend operations again on short notice.  Be aware of what equipment may need to be taken offline and what materials would need to be secured in order to ramp down your work.  Refer to EHRS Guidance During Temporary Suspension of Lab Operations for a list of considerations when shutting down the lab. 

Emergency Procedures 

Emergency procedures are unchanged. 

  • EHRS is available at 215-898-4453.  
  • Call 511 from a University VOIP phone or 215-573-3333 for Penn Police assistance.