Last Revised: June 01, 2021


Rescinded 6/02/21

Issued: 9/21/20

Revised 10/7/20 (masking of non-Penn affiliates and additional examples of close proximity work)

Revised 2/5/21 (double-masking)

This policy is no longer enforced.


Distancing (6 ft) is required by the State of Pennsylvania in all businesses, including Penn Laboratories, for all routine work.  Some work, including certain research activities, cannot be accomplished if workers maintain a 6-foot separation.  In these cases,   Pennsylvania State guidance permits “close-proximity” work only when it is absolutely required and provided additional controls are put in place by the employer. 

This SOP provides the minimum precautions necessary to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Penn research environments where close proximity work is required.  Faculty and researchers are required to utilize these precautions and augment them with additional precautions where warranted by research conditions. In all cases, approval of close proximity work by the appropriate school official or committee is required. 


This SOP applies to all research laboratories, cores and centers conducting or supporting sponsored research by University of Pennsylvania Faculty.  This SOP excludes clinical trials and patient treatment conducted in the health system. 

In all cases, Faculty and Staff are required to evaluate the necessity and duration of close proximity work in addition to the suitability of ventilation at the work site.  EHRS is available to assist in this evaluation. 

Situations where the use of this SOP is appropriate, include, but are not limited to: 

  • Animal surgeries where multiple researchers are required. 

  • Training on the use of specialized equipment (such as Electron Microscopes, Flow-Cytometry equipment, Tools in Quattrone Cleanroom) or specialized surgical techniques. 

  • Moving heavy equipment, such as pressurized cryogen dewars-- that require two people 

  • Placement of EEG head cap on research participants.


Situations where use of this SOP is not permitted include, but are not limited to:   

  • Size of room is too small to permit distancing. (Move work to larger facility.) 

  • Sharing an equipment display. (Utilize video conferencing or add second display.) 

  • Staff meetings (Utilize video conferencing) 

  • Breakrooms 


Required attire and PPE for close-proximity work

  • Lab staff must wear proper lab attire (long pants, closed-toed shoes) and personal protective equipment for chemical and biological materials (lab coat, eye protection and gloves) 

  • Laboratory Surgical masks or Penn-Approved cloth face coverings. 

  • A reusable or disposable face shield that extends below the chin and around the side of the face.  (disinfect after each use if reused).  Note that plexiglass shielding may be used in place of face shields for non-clinical human subjects research participants.  Non-clinical human subjects researchers must wear a face shield where practical. 

  • The close-proximity work area must be sanitized with appropriate wipes prior to and after use (including instruments, keyboards, chairs and tables). 

  • Vinyl gloves may be used in place of nitrile in instrument areas where chemicals and biologicals are not handled.  This includes, but is not limited to, the Nanoscale Characterization Facility located in the Singh Center.   Sanitation of equipment and controls may be reduced in instrument facilities (free of chemical and biological hazards) if vinyl gloves are universally employed throughout the facility.

  • Double Masking 

    Surgical masks may not form a tight seal on all faces, thus reducing the effectiveness of the mask.   Double-masking, placing a cloth face covering over a surgical mask, improves the facial seal and also provides a second filtration barrier.  Double-masking is encouraged for Close-Proximity work; however, it may not be possible for everyone.  The mask closest to your face must be a non-medical grade surgical-style procedure mask.  The second mask, worn over a surgical-style mask, may be a Penn-branded cotton cloth face covering or any home-made or purchased face covering. 


Mandatory Administrative Controls for close-proximity work

  • Approval by the appropriate school official or committee is required.

  • Use of PennOpen Pass by all parties on a daily basis (including weekends) regardless of the frequency of campus visits. 

  • Non-clinical human subjects research that requires close contact with non-Penn affiliates must have a mechanism to screen research subjects prior to and 48 hours after in-person contact. 

  • Provide surgical masks to non-Penn affiliates participating in research.  Homemade cotton face coverings vary wildly in performance.



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