Working on Campus

While remote working should continue at least through the spring 2021 semester for those employees who are able to do so, Penn State recognizes that remote work is not possible for every employee across all campuses.

Employees returning to on-campus work must receive the appropriate approvals from their supervisor and/or unit leadership and thoroughly review the University’s Return to Work website. It is critical that employees monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms daily before coming to work and, if they are symptomatic, stay home and follow the University’s COVID-19 reporting protocols.

Employees must follow all public health requirements to limit the potential for virus transmission, including:

  • Wearing masks while on campus.
  • Practicing physical distancing.
  • Washing hands thoroughly.
  • Covering all coughs and sneezes.

Penn State has developed comprehensive guidance to support employees working on campus, and work adjustments remain available for immunocompromised or other vulnerable individuals.

Cleaning and disinfecting

To help keep employees healthy, the Office of Physical Plant is taking a multi-pronged approach to help reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, offices, restrooms and other indoor spaces. This includes increased cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and high-touch surfaces. All desks, podiums, doorknobs, elevators, restrooms and other high-touch surfaces are cleaned and disinfected daily with EPA-approved disinfectants.

Units also have cleaning protocols and schedules to disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared equipment within their areas and offices. As part of these efforts, employees should avoid sharing tools and equipment as much as possible. Supervisors should stagger shifts, if possible, for high-use shared equipment and establish disinfection protocols between uses. Individual employees also are responsible for helping to maintain a clean work environment for themselves and others by cleaning and disinfecting desks, equipment, and materials before and after use.

More information about cleaning protocols is available on the University’s Environmental Health and Safety website.

Instructional spaces

All classrooms currently in use have been reconfigured to allow for at least six feet of physical distancing, and masks are required to be worn at all times in the classroom. Masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) are available to all faculty teaching in-person classes, and guidance on PPE use and other health and safety considerations in classroom and laboratory spaces is available on the Keep Teaching website. The Office of Student Conduct also has developed two guidance documents to help faculty and staff members address situations when students do not comply with COVID-19 safety requirements in Penn State instructional spaces and offices. The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs has provided similar guidance around violations of mask-wearing requirements by instructors and researchers in instructional and research settings.

Workplace safety

All employees working on campus should have received two reusable cloth face masks from the University. Additional face masks, as well as soap and hand-sanitizer stations, disinfectant sprays and wipes, are available for all units to purchase through Penn State General Stores. The University also maintains several thousand hand-sanitizer stations in high-traffic areas on its campuses. Like classrooms, alterations have been made to office environments to allow for proper physical distancing, and plexiglass shields have been installed in workspaces that require more face-to-face interactions. Distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues also have been placed in high-traffic areas across campuses to help promote physical distancing.

In accordance with Pennsylvania Department of Health requirements, each Penn State college, campus, institute, or research or administrative unit is required to designate a pandemic safety officer for each work location, such as a building or worksite, to respond to questions about the University’s COVID-19 safety plan requirements. The pandemic safety officer serves as a first level of contact to help implement unit-level COVID-19 safety plans and respond to questions and concerns raised by faculty and staff in their respective units. If individuals do not adhere to the University’s safety requirements, disciplinary measures will be elevated to the employee’s supervisor and human resources representative.

Research on campus

Penn State is committed to providing the safest possible environment for our researchers to continue their critical work. On-campus research is continuing in accordance with established safety procedures, and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, in consultation with the vice dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Medicine, has provided guidance and protocols for safely conducting on-campus research activities.

During the pandemic, research-related activities that can be conducted remotely should continue in that manner when possible, and all researchers and units must have a responsive plan for conducting research safely. Environmental Health and Safety also has provided guidance for the proper cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch work areas and equipment in laboratory and research settings.

Human resources and employee information

The University’s priorities continue to be the health and well-being of its students, faculty, staff and local communities, and the plans for substantially expanded in-person classes have the flexibility built in to quickly respond to changing pandemic conditions, if necessary. Penn State is committed to notifying students, faculty and staff as quickly as possible if conditions require the University to pivot to a remote or hybrid teaching and learning model.

The health and safety of our employees remains our priority, and the University is mindful that individual circumstances may make some faculty members or members of their household more vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Our expectation is that faculty members who are able to teach in person will return to the classroom, but a committee is currently being formed to define the exception process.

At this time, employees who are currently working from home should plan on continuing to do so under an order from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, “telework must continue unless impossible.” However, more guidance will be forthcoming for the summer and fall.

Employees can find detailed information and guidance on the Health Guidelines, Contact Tracing, and Quarantine and Isolation pages.

To help keep students and employees healthy, the Office of Physical Plant is taking a multi-pronged approach to help reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, labs, offices, restrooms, residence halls and other indoor spaces. This includes increased cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and high-touch surfaces. All desks, podiums, doorknobs, elevators, restrooms and other high-touch surfaces are cleaned and disinfected daily with EPA-approved disinfectants.

OPP also has placed additional hand-sanitizing stations at building entrances and other common areas, installed plexiglass shields where warranted in areas of close personal contact, increased signage and reminders of health and safety requirements, and reduced occupancy limits for 1,700 instructional spaces.

In addition, units have cleaning protocols and schedules to disinfect high-touch surfaces and shared equipment within their areas and offices. Guidance is available on the Environmental Health and Safety website. As part of these efforts, employees should avoid sharing tools and equipment as much as possible. supervisors should stagger shifts, if possible, for high-use shared equipment and establish disinfection protocols between uses. Individual employees also will be responsible for helping to maintain a clean work environment for themselves and others by cleaning and disinfecting desks, equipment, and materials before and after use.

From a building systems perspective, OPP has carefully evaluated all building mechanical and life safety systems to determine that they are fully functional and ready for occupancy, meeting or exceeding all of the building systems requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and undertaking intensive corrective and preventive maintenance for every building at every campus.

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