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Promoting healthy operations and policies is one of the major ways to eliminate the hazard. One important way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread is by continuing to provide instruction through online classes and encouraging teleworking and virtual meetings.

Continuing to work remotely

Continuing to have employees work from home wherever possible is the most effective way to remove the hazard of COVID-19 from their workplace. Employees are to continue working at home unless they are expressly authorized to work on campus. 

Please consult with the relevant Roles and Responsibilities section of this document for information pertaining to return to campus.

Adjusting the workplace

The following three primary controls are to be implemented to minimize the spread of infectious disease:

  1. Physical distancing
  2. Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  3. Surface decontamination

Links to Return to Campus Safety Plan templates

Physical distancing

Occupancy and workflow

Designating occupancy limits for spaces to accommodate a 12.5 m2 (2 m diameter) space per person is the most effective way of maintaining physical distancing. 

Scheduling controls

Option 1: Alternating scheduling. This approach limits employee staffing such that fewer people are in close proximity to each other at any one given time. Consideration must be given to ensure that employees have the tools necessary to perform their work in both on-campus and at-home locations.

Option 2: Staggering start and end times. This approach lessens congestion at the beginning and end of each workday; however, it may not decrease overall population density. Staggering schedules will make it easier to manage traffic in communal areas such as: kitchens, washrooms, and communal areas. 

The University’s Working Alone  guideline must be followed when deploying employees in any operation or fieldwork.

Workflow controls

Designation of a workflow within a workspace can also have a profound effect on minimizing incidental infringement on personal space. The diagrams below demonstrate traffic-flow designations and occupancy reductions for both office and lab environments.

Figure 3A below depicts a typical office environment and Figure 3B shows a laboratory environment.

typical office environment

Figure 3A: Typical office environment

typical lab environment

Figure 3B: Typical lab environment


  • Red arrows indicate the suggested one-way flow pattern.
  • Blue circles with "OL" indicate an occupancy limit for the room.
  • Red circles with an "X" indicate suggested reductions in occupancy
  • Green rectangles denote shared workstation/equipment locations

In order to manage occupancy load, consider the following factors:

  • Workflow
  • Equipment usage/sharing
  • Equipment requirements and supplies
  • Process requirements and supplies
  • Creation of workstations to designate work and separate tasks
  • Scheduling of specific tasks or equipment
  • Non-essential tasks removed from high demand workspaces
  • PPE requirements and availability

When designing workspaces for occupancy limits, ensure that physical distancing of 2 m is maintained in the work area. In addition:

  • Indicate maximum occupancy on all entrances
  • Remove extraneous seating from the workspace
  • Designate workstations as single-person use (use tape or other markings)
  • Develop workflow patterns for one-way travel
  • Document and communicate all changes to all occupants/ employees
  • Post signage to promote physical distancing practices

The following circumstances demonstrate instances within the workplace where physical distancing is possible. 

  1. Room occupancy limits: The employee can maintain a 2m distance from colleagues. 
  2. The operation of equipment or completion of tasks: Where 2 or more people share the same workspace or equipment, they can maintain a 2m distance while simultaneously operating equipment or completing tasks. If any equipment is shared there must be processes in place for the proper cleaning of this equipment.

In instances where physical distancing may not be possible, the supervisor is encouraged to consider alternate work schedules or contact the Safety Office for guidance. 


To maximize physical distancing measures, the preferred approach for all meetings is to continue to utilize available collaborative tools and hold meetings virtually. 

Where absolutely necessary, in-person meetings are to be limited to established restrictions of Public Health and government requirements. Ensure attendee presence does not exceed revised room capacities and ensure all attendees maintain a 2 metre distance at all times for physical distancing requirements. 

To encourage proper physical distancing practices, move and, if possible, stack excess chairs. Add visual cues to promote and support physical distancing practices between attendees.

Communal and public areas

There are a number of communal spaces (meeting rooms, break rooms, washrooms, elevators, stairwells etc.) accessible to employees across campus.

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, all employees, students, visitors and contractors are required to wear a face covering in common use areas of University buildings.

In employee-only areas, ensure appropriate physical distancing practices are maintained and adhere to health and safety protocols. Masks must be worn when physical distancing is not possible. As able to do so, consider taking the stairs over the elevator.

Departments are responsible for limiting occupancy within their own communal spaces to facilitate physical distancing.

Access and egress

Each building has designated entrances which will be open. All other entrances will be for egress only. Upon entering the building, occupants are again reminded to verify that they are symptom-free before entering.

Elevators, corridors, lobbies and stairs

  • Wear a non-medical mask/ face covering when using elevators and walking through populated lobbies and atriums.
  • In buildings with elevators, occupancy in the elevators will be limited, which will increase wait times. Wash or disinfect your hands after exiting the elevator.
  • Practice physical distancing and avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes after touching a surface. 
  • In buildings with four floors or less, use the stairs, if you are able.
  • In more populated buildings and floors, follow signage for spacing and paths of travel. 
  • In the absence of signage, stay to the right of any hallway or stairs while others are passing. Some stairwells will be designated for travel up or down only to help with traffic flow within the building.

Kitchens and lounges

  • Remove or reduce seating in break rooms and kitchenettes to prevent gathering in communal spaces.
  • To maximise physical distancing, develop alternate times to take breaks and lunches to prevent gathering.
  • Disinfect surfaces (microwave buttons and handles, fridge handles, lunch table) before each use
  • Do not share utensils or dishes


  • Physical distancing must be maintained in all washrooms
    • In some washrooms this means there will need to be a limit of one person in the washroom at a time
  • Use automatic door openers where possible using elbow/knuckle 
  • Wash hands with soap and water after using the washroom
  • Consider using a paper towel to open washroom doors


Signage has been posted throughout the campus to help instruct and guide individuals. Signage communicates important information, including instruction on hand hygiene, COVID-19 symptoms, cough, and sneeze etiquette. In addition, decals and directional signage have also been posted to remind individuals of traffic flow changes. A list of required signage can be reviewed on Physical distancing signs order form

Additional signage may be ordered online for your department at no cost to your department. Please complete the on-line order form through Retail Services. A guide to available poster options can be accessed here.

Cleaning protocols

In light of the COVID-19 virus, our custodial staff have modified their duties to increase sanitization of high touch surfaces including twice-daily cleaning of main doors, elevator buttons, handrails, and washrooms. In your labs and office areas, floors will be cleaned, waste picked up, door knobs and light switches wiped in accordance with the posted cleaning schedule.

Therefore, all faculty and staff are expected to continue to clean their own equipment including various electronics, keyboards, office equipment, lab equipment, and lunchroom equipment such as fridges, coffee makers, etc.

Cleaning products can be obtained via Plant Operations.

Wall-mounted and portable hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed at all building entrances and elevators. 

In cleaning kits, each department will be provided with two bottles of hand sanitizer, disinfectant and disposable cloths and will be expected to order replacements as required. Plant Operations is working on a reliable supply chain as these items remain difficult to procure. 

Disinfecting wipe dispensers will be installed in many classrooms to allow students to disinfect their desks and chairs. 

Cleaning protocols in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus

When a report of a suspected or confirmed case with potential contamination is received, the affected area must be isolated by the supervisor. If possible, note the location of affected workstations/areas at the entrance to the isolated area.  

Environmental Services (and Housing Facilities in Residences) are responsible for cleaning and disinfection of the affected space, using recommended chemicals and personal protective equipment. This includes a final step using an electrostatic machine for thorough disinfection.

Physical barriers

Plexiglas barriers and workplace modifications

As staff and faculty gradually return to campus, maintaining physical distancing will be critical in reducing risk of infections and ensuring that are faculty, students are staff feel safe. Barriers or shields are options to consider in open-plan offices or customer service areas where staff and customers may find themselves in close proximity to one another. These barriers can provide protection during interactions in addition to simultaneously enabling clear and unobstructed lines of sight. Barrier materials must be easy to clean and sanitize.

As everyone is gearing up for return to campus, please think about the services that you provide, how can the mode of operation be modified to make it safer, and at last what modifications to your physical space need to be made:

  • Can services be provided online?
  • Can appointments, deliveries, etc. be scheduled to eliminate lineups?
  • Can office layout be changed to enhance physical distancing?
  • Do you require plexiglass shields or furniture partition alterations?
  • Are stanchions or barriers needed to establish safe spacing for customer services lines? 
  • Is directional signage needed?

How do I request help?

You can submit requests via Plant Operations website. 

Plant Operations, Space Planning Office and Procurement have joined forces to provide assistance in keeping you safe as you return to campus: 

  • Space flow review
  • Options for barrier installation (plexi or furniture type)
  • Signage, floor indicators & decal order
  • Other space modifications (door hardware, mirrors, etc.)

A staff member will meet with you to review your options, priority level, cost, and anticipated delivery time. 

Your request will be placed in a priority sequence that includes the following:

  1. Laboratories & workplaces included in the early phases of campus re-entry
  2. High volume service counters (food services, material distribution centers, etc.)
  3. Reception areas if processes cannot be adjusted to minimize contact
  4. Research groups if processes cannot be adjusted to minimize contact
  5. General office layouts

Pricing and cost allocation

Items ordered through Plant Operations will be charged to your department – please code charges related to COVID-19 safety measures according the applicable Finance Unit4 codes. UW Procurement and Plant Ops are working with our suppliers to source materials quickly and at reasonable price. Please note, all institutions and companies are doing the same, so delivery time and cost might change.

Pricing examples:

  • Free standing base with 32”h x 30”w plexiglass shield – $120-$150
  • Fixed permanent installation 32”h x 36”w plexiglass shield – $150-$200
  • Hang panels 32”h x 22”w plexiglass shield – $100-$120

Adjust work processes

Hand hygiene

Hands are the most common vehicle for the transmission of microorganisms. Hand Hygiene reduces the risk of transmission of microorganisms from person to person, environment to person, or person to environment.
Hand hygiene can be accomplished by hand washing using soap and running water or hand sanitizing using an alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR).
Ensure there are hand hygiene stations appropriate for the type of work being conducted, in or near the workspace. For example:

  • If the work will result in dirt and debris soiling hands, a handwashing sink is required (E.g., vehicle shop, laboratories, kitchens, workshops)
  • If the work will not cause soiling of hands, hand sanitizing stations are sufficient (E.g., office work). 
    • Hand sanitizing stations and supplies can be order through Plant Operations

In addition, document and communicate the following guidelines to all occupants/employees.

Frequency of hand hygiene

  • Hands should be washed or sanitized upon entering and exiting any space (room to room)
  • Hands must be washed or sanitized before beginning any procedure, upon completion of any procedure, and whenever removing gloves 
  • Hands must be washed or sanitized before eating, after removing gloves and after performing any surface decontamination

Refer to these resources from Public Health Ontario:

If you wear rings (or other hand jewelry), removing the ring before washing and replacing when complete is not acceptable. You must either completely decontaminate the ring during each hand wash/sanitize or stop wearing hand jewelry altogether.

Respiratory etiquette

Infectious diseases can easily spread when an individual coughs and sneezes. Manage this potential using the following etiquette: 

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and immediately discard the tissue in the trash.
  • If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Perform hand hygiene immediately after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If you are experiencing fever, cough, runny nose, or headache, isolate yourself at home or another suitable location and follow the University’s protocol for individual disclosures of COVID-19
covering face with tissue

Figure 4A: Covering face with tissue

covering face with arm

Figure 4B: Covering face with arm


Surface decontamination

Surface decontamination involves two stages, cleaning then disinfection. Before proceeding with surface decontamination, consider the following: 

  1. Ensure the disinfectant chosen is appropriate for the surface being disinfected.
  2. Ensure there is enough disinfectant to last the workweek.
  3. Designated individuals responsible and establish schedules to perform decontamination.
  4. All work surfaces should be decontaminated twice daily. In most situations, this means before work, and once work has concluded.
  5. All high-touch surfaces should be disinfected twice daily. Designate responsible persons and a schedule for this to be done. High-touch surfaces include:
    1. Entry and exit points (doorknobs, push bars, and handles) 
    2. Cupboard knobs and handles
    3. Light switches, power switches, keyboards, etc.
    4. Equipment related controls that are accessed in high frequency (several times per day)
    5. Devices that come into close contact with the face (phones)
    6. Faucets and taps 

Surface cleaning

Cleaning removes organic materials from the surface, which can inhibit the effectiveness of any disinfectant used. Cleaning involves:

  • Wearing nitrile or other similar gloves if required by product instructions 
  • Removing organic materials with a disposable towel and discard
  • Using a cloth and warm soapy water to wipe down surfaces
  • Allowing the surface to dry

Surface disinfection

The three most important factors to consider when disinfecting a surface are:

  • Disinfectant efficacy against whatever you are trying to kill
  • Concentration of the disinfectant is strong enough to be effective
  • Contact time is long enough to allow the disinfectant to perform its action

Some commonly used disinfectants include:

  • Alcohol based (60% - 70% isopropanol or ethanol) for a contact time of 2 minutes
  • Hydrogen peroxide at 3% for a contact time of 5 minutes
  • Bleach at a 10% dilution for a contact time of 5 minutes

Procedure for using disinfectants

  1. Put on gloves if required by the product instructions (nitrile gloves are normally sufficient but check with manufacturer instructions)
  2. Clean surface of visible dirt as described above
  3. Spray or apply disinfectant onto the clean, dry surface
  4. Allow the disinfectant to sit on the surface for the duration of contact time (reapply if disinfectant evaporates prior to required contact time)
  5. Allow the surface to dry
  6. Wipe off residue with a paper towel and discard
  7. Remove your gloves
  8. Perform hand hygiene

Protective equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) or group protective equipment (GPE) is normally considered the last line of defense. It is a way to control hazards when other more effective options of control are not available. 

This section focuses on the following:

  • When PPE vs GPE is required
  • Glove considerations
  • Lab coat considerations

When is personal protective equipment required?

In employee-only areas, if physical distancing is maintained and hand hygiene and surface decontamination are both performed adequately, the risk of disease transmission will be low and personal protective equipment (PPE) / group protective equipment (GPE) will not be required. To determine which protective equipment should be used, consider the following:

  • PPE: Includes N95 respirators, medical/surgical masks, gowns, face shields and goggles protect the wearer from infectious disease and are normally reserved for health care environments or in human participant research. Workers who normally wear PPE will continue to do so.
  • GPE: Includes non-medical masks or face coverings, the intent of which is to reduce the potential exposure to COVID-19 by containing the wearer’s respiratory droplets. Non-medical masks / face coverings are required in public settings, e.g. entering and exiting buildings, corridors, washrooms, communal areas, etc.

Non-medical masks / face coverings must be used when physical distancing is a challenge.

Respirators cannot be used unless they have been authorized by the Safety Office.

GPE – Safe use of non-medical masks and face coverings

When wearing a non-medical mask/face covering, follow these precautions:

  • Consistent and strict adherence to hand hygiene, physical distancing, and respiratory etiquette.
  • Wash hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (in addition to practicing good hand hygiene while wearing it).
  • Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their mask and wash hands immediately or use hand sanitizer after removing.
  • When removing the mask, grasp the ties or ear loops carefully without touching the front of the mask.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with the mask.
  • Make sure the mask fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Do not share the mask with others.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it.

Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website for instructions on wearing cloth masks.

PPE – Gloves

Nitrile or latex gloves are used to provide a non-absorbent barrier between a contaminated surface and the skin. Leather or cloth gloves are used in many workplaces to protect hands from mechanical injury (cuts, scrapes), but will not provide adequate protection from infectious disease. 

Gloves are not a replacement for hand hygiene, must be changed frequently, and must never be re-used. In general, if gloves were not needed for an operation or process prior to COVID-19, it is likely they are not required now.

PPE lab and shop coats

Lab coats are used to protect street clothing from contamination, spills, and exposure to hazardous substances in labs and workshops. Lab coats should not be worn outside of the primary work location or any public area. The type of lab coat (e.g. cotton, polyester) should be selected to protect against the hazards normally present in the work. To protect against COVID-19 transmission, the following precautions should be followed: 

  • Lab coats should be stored on hooks at the main entrance of the lab or workshop
  • There should be separate racks/hooks for lab coats. Street clothes, backpacks, and other common items should not be stored in any lab, but is strictly prohibited in BSL2 permitted labs
  • Lab coats should be laundered when contamination is suspected or evident
  • To launder a lab coat – don gloves, place the lab coat in a plastic bag and seal it with a twist tie or other secure means. Now it can be transported
  • Dirty lab coats can be laundered with regular laundry (unless contaminated with hazardous materials) using the highest heat settings possible in the wash and dry cycles
  • Use hand hygiene after handling soiled lab coats