Research Plan: EHS Guidelines

Note: The below research plan guidelines are excerpted from the Plan For Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research.

Table of Contents:

5. Guidelines For Safe Research During COVID-19 Pandemic
5.1 General Guidelines
5.2 COVID-19 Case Management

5.3 Social Distancing
5.4 Face Coverings
5.5 Laboratory Coats
5.6 Cleaning, Decontamination and Disinfection
5.7 Handling Laboratory Hazardous Waste
5.8 Required Training [REMOVED]
5.9 Preparing the Laboratory and Office Workspaces 
5.10 Managing Shared Facilities and Equipment
5.11 General Work Rules
5.12 Requests For Reasonable Accomodations
5.13 Emergency Contacts
5.14 Related Resources

6. Building Guidance
 

 

5. GUIDELINES FOR SAFE RESEARCH DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

 

5.1 General Guidelines

  • As of July 4, 2021, face coverings and social distancing are not required in Princeton University buildings or outdoor spaces. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to continue to wear face coverings indoors, especially when around other people. The University encourages a culture of non-judgment and no assumptions regarding mask-wearing. For more information, see the Face Coverings Guidance (add link).
  • All researchers who routinely come to campus or who live in campus housing must participate in the asymptomatic testing program
  • Every researcher (faculty, graduate student, postdoctoral researcher) who is not fully vaccinated is required to complete a Daily Symptom Check before coming to work on campus or before entering any University building other than their campus residence, and may not come to campus if advised to stay home.
  • Entering any University building with a TigerCard, represents an attestation that the individual is symptom-free.
  • DO NOT come to campus if you are sick or experiencing any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19.
  • If you have been tested, confirmed to have COVID-19, or have been quarantined as a close contact of someone who is confirmed ill with COVID-19, you must email University Health Services at communityhealth@princeton.edu.
  • If you begin experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 while at work, distance yourself from co-workers, notify your supervisor, and go home as soon as possible.
  • Carry your TigerCard at all times. Exterior doors to the science and engineering buildings are configured to allow card access 24 hours a day.
  • Frequently clean hands with soap and water. If you do not have immediate access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. All laboratories are required to have handwashing supplies available, including soap and disposable paper towels.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth or any part of your face.
  • Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Routinely disinfect high touch points, facilities, work areas, personal electronics, and shared equipment and spaces using a disinfecting solution or wipes. Refer to the Environmental Protection Agency's Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.

5.1.1 Personal Responsibilities When Conducting Research

  • Check in with your PI, lab manager, or supervisor to determine whether you are permitted to conduct research on campus, which experiments or activities you may conduct, when to report to the laboratory or research office space, and what your responsibilities are.
  • If you are not fully vaccinated and arriving from an international location, complete the COVID-19 Risk Assessment form, which will be reviewed by University Health Services, within 3 to 7 days prior to your expected return to campus, and wait for a response before coming to campus in any capacity. Risk assessments are not reviewed during non-business hours or on weekends, so please plan ahead.
    • University Health Services will determine whether your responses merit the need to quarantine, based on your travel history and potential exposure to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.
    • Individuals classified as low risk will be allowed to come to campus immediately.
    • Individuals classified as high risk will need to self-quarantine for up to fourteen days.
  • Every researcher (faculty, graduate student, postdoctoral researcher) who is not fully vaccinated is required to complete a Daily Symptom Check before coming to work on campus or before entering any University building other than their campus residence, and may not come to campus if advised to stay home.

5.2 COVID-19 Case Management

University Health Services (UHS) provides public health guidance and expectations for the University community. When appropriate, UHS informs individuals of the need for quarantine or isolation based on COVID-19 testing results, and acting on behalf of Princeton’s Department of Health, conducts contact tracing to determine close contacts from the campus community. 

  • All Princeton University employees and students who have been tested for COVID-19 outside of the University (regardless of the reason [e.g., prior to a medical procedure]), should notify UHS via email: communityhealth@princeton.edu. If appropriate, this notification may begin the contact tracing process. 
  • Community members tested through the asymptomatic testing program and students with symptoms tested at McCosh do not need to send a notification as this notification happens through internal processes at UHS. Contact tracing will follow asymptomatic testing only if the result is a positive test.
  • People who are not identified as close contacts by UHS staff do not need to self-quarantine.
    • Due to privacy laws, the University is not permitted to disclose the name of the person reporting that they were tested.
    • Public health officials do not consider being in the same room (more than six feet away) or briefly passing, sharing an elevator, or working near an individual who may be contagious to be a high enough risk to require self-quarantine. We do recommend, however, even if you are not identified as a close contact, that you remain vigilant about wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance from others, and engaging in frequent handwashing.
  • University Health Services and EHS will work together to determine whether the space that a person testing positive has occupied requires specialized cleaning and will arrange for that cleaning.

5.3 Social Distancing

As of July 3, 2021, social distancing is no longer required. Labs and offices may resume full occupancy.

5.4 Face Coverings

Face coverings are required in Princeton University buildings regardless of vaccination status except when working alone in a room or cubicle or when actively eating or drinking. Face coverings are not required outdoors. 

For more information and updates, see the Face Coverings Guidance.

5.5 Laboratory Coats

  • If working with human specimens or biological materials that require BSL 2 containment, wear the covering specified in your IBC approval, which may include using disposable lab coats or isolation gowns.
  • Do not share lab coats.
  • Cloth laboratory coats must be regularly laundered to minimize the risk of an exposure from contamination on the coat and to help mitigate the risk of the coat becoming a viral reservoir.
    • Due to the risk of the coat being contaminated with hazardous materials, the laboratory coat must be cleaned by a professional or dedicated laundering service at least weekly.
    • Laboratory coats may not be taken home for laundering or cleaned with a public laundering service or facility.
    • Contact your departmental administrator for additional information regarding the process for laundering laboratory coats.
  • If cloth lab coats are worn by a researcher who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, the coat should be placed inside a sealed bag, and held for 7 days prior to laundering. The bag containing the potentially contaminated laboratory coat should be labeled “COVID-19 quarantined laboratory coat” and the date when the coat can be removed for laundering.

5.6 Cleaning, Decontamination and Disinfection

All lab surfaces and equipment must be disinfected at least daily. This includes all surfaces within the biosafety cabinet, chemical fume hood, equipment, bench tops and other work surfaces, transport and transfer containers. 

Faculty, researchers, staff and students are responsible for cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces within their work areas, such as computer keyboards, phones and desktops

Building Services custodians will continue to clean bathrooms, hallways, common areas, etc. They will not clean your laboratory or office space unless there is a specific need and under controlled conditions. Contact EHS for more details.

5.6.1 Maintaining Laboratory Hygiene

Laboratory members are responsible for developing plans to promote good laboratory hygiene by regularly disinfecting common laboratory areas and touch points (e.g., doorknobs, sink handles, freezer doors, telephones) within the laboratory space.

Alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) solutions can be effective when used as follows:

  • 62%-80% ethanol or isopropanol (70% recommended)
  • >0.5%-8% hydrogen peroxide
  • 0.1% - 0.525% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and cold water solution (made fresh daily)

Sodium Hypochlorite Concentration

Diluted 9:1*

Diluted 49:1*

% ppm % ppm % ppm
8.25 82,500 0.825 8,250 0.165 1,650
6.15 61,500 0.615 6,150 0.123 1,230
5.25 52,500 0.525 5,250 0.105 1,050

*Parts/Volume of water: Parts/Volume of bleach used to create final dilution.

If you wish to use other disinfectants, please select from the EPA’s Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 list. Care must be taken to follow the manufacturer’s disinfection directions, which may include pathogen-specific inactivation instructions.

Never use solutions containing formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde to disinfect laboratory surfaces. Both of these chemicals can cause severe acute and chronic health effects.

5.6.2 Best Practices for Disinfection

  • Ensure that the area is cleaned prior to initiating the disinfection process where applicable. Excess gross contamination significantly decreases the activity of the disinfectant.
  • The concentration of the disinfectant is critical to the efficacy of the disinfectant for inactivating the pathogen. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dilution if purchasing a commercial disinfectant.
  • No disinfectant works immediately. Disinfectants must be left on the surfaces or items to be decontaminated for a specified contact time, which may vary depending on the pathogen to be inactivated. Contact times of 1, 3, 5 or 10 minutes or even longer may be needed to ensure that any pathogen present has been inactivated. Apply disinfectant until surfaces are glistening wet and allow surface to air dry. If your disinfectant has a higher evaporation rate (e.g., alcohols), and a longer contact time is needed, you may need more than one application; however, the surface being disinfected should remain wet for the duration of the required contact time.
  • Ensure that all surfaces are completely covered with the disinfectant. Merely spraying the disinfectant on a surface, especially if only applied quickly or lightly, can leave spaces in between the disinfectant drops.

5.6.3 Additional Chemical-specific Considerations for Using Disinfectants

  • Most (if not all) chemical disinfectants designed for surface decontamination contain components that can be harmful if ingested, inhaled, or if skin/eye exposures occur.
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment, including eye and hand protection, must be used when applying chemical disinfectants.

Note: Be aware of any dermal or respiratory irritation that occurs after using disinfectants or after working on surfaces that have been disinfected. If dermal or respiratory irritation is encountered:

  • Exit the area, get to fresh air.
  • Try to flush the irritated area (for dermal irritation).
  • Seek additional medical assistance as needed.
  • Suspend the use of the suspected disinfectant and contact EHS for additional assistance.

5.7 Handling Laboratory Hazardous Waste

5.7.1 Regulated Medical Waste Disposal

  • Follow the University’s regulated medical waste procedures, found here.
  • Building Services custodians will remove properly packed and labeled boxes of regulated medical waste on a weekly basis.

5.7.2 Chemical Waste Disposal

  • Follow the University’s guidelines on collecting and labeling laboratory chemical waste, found here.
  • Laboratory chemical wastes will be collected directly from the laboratory based upon information provided on the Waste Pickup Request.
  • During the suspension of regular laboratory operations, the frequency of waste pickups has been reduced from a weekly to bi-weekly schedule. After submitting the request, you will be notified of the anticipated pickup date and time.

 

5.8 Required Training [REMOVED]

 

5.9 Preparing the Laboratory and Office Workspaces

 

Before restarting work, check the physical condition, supply levels and readiness of the facilities. Ensure that equipment, such as biosafety cabinets, autoclaves, etc. are up to date on inspections and maintenance. Make arrangements for services as needed.

  • See Information for University Contractors and Vendors before making arrangements for contractors or vendors to come onto campus.
  • Inspect equipment and facilities for damage, leaks, etc.
  • Check expiration dates on chemicals and supplies.
  • Confirm availability of support services, such as gas delivery, dry ice, etc.
  • Post signage that clearly indicates the maximum occupancy for the space, and reconfigure workstations if necessary.
  • Adapt work schedules to ensure social distancing. 
  • Provide sanitizing supplies and instructions for researchers to wipe down their work surfaces and other frequently touched surfaces regularly. 
  • Review the Guidance on Ventilation Systems

5.9.1 Obtaining Supplies

For the most current information, please go to the EHS page on Ordering Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies.

EHS can provide the following COVID-19 related supplies:

  • Disposable face coverings
  • 8 oz. and 32 oz. alcohol-based hand sanitizer bottles
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Disposable surgical or isolation gowns (as approved by EHS)

The laboratory and associated department are responsible for providing the supplies listed below. If you experience problems ordering or sourcing these materials, email ehs@princeton.edu.

  • Hand-washing soap
  • Disposable paper towels
  • Laboratory coats
  • Gloves
  • All other personal protective equipment needed to safely perform your research

Plan carefully when ordering supplies. Certain research materials may have significant delays due to high demand or shuttered production facilities.

During the suspension of normal laboratory operations, a number of buildings and their loading docks have shifted to limited schedules.

  • Contact your departmental administrators for additional information regarding any restrictions or limited hours staff may be available to receive incoming shipments.
  • Inbound research materials may not be shipped to private/personal addresses and then brought to campus. Contact EHS at ehs@princeton.edu if you need assistance.

Confirm with your home department the availability of other support functions both internal to your research department/institute (e.g., core imaging and analysis facilities, glass washing) as well as other campus support functions. 

5.10 Managing Shared Facilities and Equipment

Many laboratory workers share laboratory equipment with others in their lab group and, in some cases, with individuals outside of their lab group. 

  • Carefully schedule use of shared facilities or equipment to maintain social distancing for those who have not had their vaccination status verified.
  • Wear gloves when touching or manipulating equipment.
  • When work is complete, wipe down high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes or solution if it will not damage the equipment or surfaces.
  • Plan and communicate roles and responsibilities for cleaning/disinfecting.

 

5.11 General Work Rules

 

5.11.1 Meetings and Gatherings

Please see the upated Guidance on Gatherings, Events and Meetings

5.11.2 Meals and Breaks

  • Eating and drinking in the laboratory is still prohibited.

5.11.3 Unsafe Behaviors or Conditions

If you find that people are not observing COVDI-19 safety practices and procedures, or if you recognize unsafe conditions:

  • In a congenial and caring manner, advise the individual(s) how they can improve the behavior or condition.
  • If you are uncomfortable alerting the person or group, or if behaviors or conditions do not improve, speak with a Principal Investigator, advisor, department manager, director of graduate studies, or another person in authority.
  • If neither of the above is successful, or if you wish to remain anonymous, you can report confidentially via the EthicsPoint hotline.

5.12 Requests for Reasonable Accommodations

If an individual requests an accommodation due to a disability, the individual should notify EHS upon completion of Safe Practices for Resumption of Research training in the Employee Learning Center. EHS will work with the appropriate University office to discuss the request with the individual and ascertain if there is a reasonable accommodation that can be provided to address the individual’s needs. Given the current situation, the University will consider reasonable accommodations for individuals whose disabilities put them at a greater risk from COVID-19 (or severe symptoms from COVID-19) and who request an accommodation to eliminate possible exposure to the virus. As always, reasonable accommodation decisions are fact-specific and vary based on the relevant circumstances.

5.13 Emergency Contacts

In case of emergency, dial 911. Department of Public Safety officers are available to respond.

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Support: EHS staff are available, on campus, during normal business hours Monday through Friday. Email requests for services to ehs@princeton.edu or call 609-258-5294.

5.14 Related Resources

Guidance on the Use of Face Coverings
https://ehs.princeton.edu/health-safety-the-campus-community/covid-19-in...

Biosafety Precautions for Working with Human Clinical Specimens that May Contain SARS-CoV-2
https://ehs.princeton.edu/laboratory-research/biological-safety/working-...

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf (PDF)

OSHA COVID-19 Website
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html

CDC Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens Associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/index.html

ABSA SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 TOOLBOX
https://absa.org/covid19toolbox/

WHO Laboratory biosafety guidance related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
https://www.who.int/publications-detail/laboratory-biosafety-guidance-re...(covid-19)

CDC Guidance for Schools, Workplaces & Community Locations
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL)
https://www.cdc.gov/labs/pdf/CDC-BiosafetyMicrobiologicalBiomedicalLabor...P.PDF (PDF)

Back-to-work criteria for health care workers 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/return-to-work.html#practi...

 

6. BUILDING GUIDANCE

Additional guidance is available in the Princeton Playbook, particularly the section on Working Safely on Campus.