Continuity Guidance for Lab and Research Facilities

 

Principal Investigators and research facility directors are encouraged to develop a continuity plan specific for their facilities and operations.  The following guidance will assist you in developing a plan for your laboratory or facility. The guide includes specific considerations for general laboratory safety, physical distancing, use of required PPE, disinfection of laboratory surfaces, and frequent hand washing to minimize potential infection by COVID-19. Note that there may be unique considerations relating to your lab operations which are not addressed in this guidance. Please contact your Safety representative or RMS at 334-844-4870 with questions about how to safely proceed with essential research, or research operations in your laboratory if necessary.

Lab personnel should survey labs for any hazardous conditions prior to engaging in research operations. Contact RMS at 334-844-4870 if you have any questions.

Auburn University Guiding Principles: In accordance with CDC guidelines, individuals on-campus are expected to take the following reasonable measures to safeguard the health of the campus community:

  1. Self-screen before coming to campus. All persons are expected to monitor their own health to limit the spread of the virus. Before coming back to campus, individuals should self-screen for COVID-19 and consult a doctor if showing symptoms.
  2. Continue physical distancing: All persons on campus are expected to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others whenever possible while on campus.
  3. Wear face coverings: All persons on campus are expected to wear a cloth or disposable face covering in University buildings, even if 6 feet of physical distancing is possible.
  4. Practice good hygiene: All persons on campus are expected to:
    1. Wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom or touching their face.
    2. Wipe down commonly touched surfaces in their work areas periodically.

 

  • Develop a list of supplies needed for lab operations.  To prepare for possibility of supply chain disruptions and limited availability of essential items, contact vendors of critical supplies to determine status of supply inventories and anticipated delivery delays.
  • Ensure that emergency contacts listed on the door sign are accurate and updated. AU emergency contacts are posted by the door (inside of labs) for reporting incidents. 
  • Identify key personnel that will safely perform essential activities. Establish rotation schedules for critical activities that may be performed while keeping safe physical distances. All lab personnel must be informed / trained on the scheduling systems being used for rotation purposes.
  • Avoid performing high-risk procedures alone.  The PI or supervisor should be notified before conducting such procedures. Working alone for extended periods of time is discouraged. 
  • Laboratory personnel must avoid coming to the laboratory if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. This must be strictly monitored by the PI, lab manager, or other designee. See COVID-19 symptoms. Lab personnel who have reason to believe they may have been exposed to or have any symptoms of the coronavirus should call the Auburn University Medical Clinic at 334-844-9825 BEFORE visiting the clinic. After-hours or on weekends, call East Alabama Medical Center’s COVID-19 hotline at 334-528-7425 BEFORE going to the hospital.
  • Laboratory configuration and procedures should be consistent with sustaining physical distancing (maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance between individuals). The PI should post lab occupancy limits at conspicuous places. 
  • Ensure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available and personnel in the lab are using PPE as appropriate to protect against transmission.
  • Wearing cloth or disposable face coverings in labs will be expected regardless of spacing between individuals.  Disposable face coverings are recommended  for lab personnel who work with hazardous materials because disposable masks can be easily discarded if they become contaminated.  (provide link to Face Coverings, Surgical Masks, and Respirators in Laboratories).
  • Thoroughly decontaminate all laboratory surfaces and frequently used equipment before and after procedures.  Use an EPA registered disinfectant.
  • Reduce clutter to make cleaning and decontamination of surfaces easier
  • Instruct all lab personnel to avoid physical contact (shaking hands, sharing physical objects such as phones, etc).
  • Ensure that laboratory personnel practice good hygiene such as washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoiding wearing gloves outside of labs. Restock hand soap and disinfectant and ensure storage locations are known.

Lab personnel should survey labs for any hazardous conditions prior to engaging in research operations. Contact RMS at 334-844-4870 if you have any questions.

  • Consider possible hazards you may encounter before entering the laboratory and review procedures for reporting and responding to those issues.
  • Establish shared PPE procedures; for example, reusable gloves (autoclave gloves, cryogenic gloves). Follow proper hand hygiene including washing hands before and after handling. Do not use disposal gloves in conjunction with these types of gloves.
  • Check for signs of water damage or leaks (e.g. wet discolored ceiling tiles, stained cabinets or standing water on the floor or in cabinets).
  • Check cold rooms for evidence of mold growth. Make note of all unusual lab conditions and notify RMS at 334-844-4870 or Facilities 334-844-HELP.
  • Run water in all laboratory sinks for 2 minutes to help clear sediment out of lines and re-wet sink traps.
  • Activate sink mounted eyewash stations by running for 3-5 minutes or until water runs clear. Confirm that they are in good working condition. Notify RMS at 334-844-4870 if any are non-functional or submit work orders to AU Facilities.
  • Check for signs of leakage from reagent bottles or waste containers. Survey chemical and waste storage areas for signs of reaction, crystal formation or container degradation.
  • Conduct inventory of cold storage units to ensure that research sample preservation was not affected. Check that the refrigerator, freezer, and incubator doors are tightly closed.
  • Check for equipment that may have been affected by power disruptions. This includes inspecting all equipment requiring uninterrupted power for electricity supplied through an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and by emergency power (emergency generator). Ensure all equipment is in good working condition prior to start of work.
  • Check that cryogens are at acceptable levels for proper operations. Fill dewars and cryogen containers for sample storage and critical equipment.
  • Check the functionality of all equipment (computers, microscopes, water baths, hotplates etc.) that may have been disconnected from energy sources for extended periods of time. Proper turn on procedures must be followed to bring such equipment back online.
  • Confirm that biological safety cabinets are working properly. Decontaminate surfaces inside Biosafety Cabinets (BSC) prior to first use. Contact RMS at 334-844-4870 if problems are noted.
  • Confirm chemical fume hoods are operating properly.  Contact RMS at 334-844-4870 if problems are noted. 
  • Check oil level on vacuum pumps that were left on prior to restarting. Test house vacuum and compressed air to ensure that they are operational, and lines are free of condensation prior to using or connecting to laboratory equipment.
  • Flush distilled water systems (such as Milli Q) according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Empty and refill carboys that have been holding water for an extended period.
  • Ensure gas cylinders are properly stored in upright position, check gas supply in cylinders that were left on to maintain critical functions.

Online training will temporarily replace in-person trainings. Please use Internet Explorer browser to take Laboratory Safety and Biological Safety training. Contact the Biosafety Officer for Bloodborne Pathogens training needs. PIs may offer lab specific training to review job hazard analysis and other standing operating procedures.

Below is a helpful video from Dartmouth College EHS about Cleaning and Disinfection of Lab Surfaces

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