Lab and community settings

COVID-19 Guidance for Researchers: Lab and community settings

This page contains information about research operations during the University of Calgary's COVID-19 response.

Visit the Emergency Management website for general campus information.

Last updated: April 2020

  • Principal Investigators must ensure Lab Placard is current and After Hours Contacts are current in Chematix. Refer to Lab Safety Program resources for more information.
  • Identify procedures, processes and equipment that require ongoing personnel attention (e.g. glove boxes, heating/cooling systems, supplies of liquid nitrogen/helium, compressed gases, etc.)
  • Be prepared for building/lab/workshop access to be reduced or removed. 
  • Be prepared for scenarios in which access may only be allowed for key personnel to enable safe shutdown of experiments OR essential maintenance to critical equipment that could otherwise lead to increased risk of an incident.
  • Review/prepare laboratory procedures for long term shutdown of experimental systems that cannot be left unattended. Ensure that these protocols can be initiated and completed quickly should they be required. 
  • Identify and train key personnel to perform safe shutdown or essential equipment maintenance.
  • If you do not have experiments planned, work from home. This will facilitate social distancing in labs.
  • If you are working in your lab/workshop, try to keep a 2-meter separation between active work areas.
  • Lab personnel working with animals are asked to refer to animal care recommendations relating to the current COVID-19 situation.
  • Increase disinfection of lab/workshop areas including benches, chairs, common equipment / areas – especially should you be notified of personnel who become ill due to COVID-19.
  • Prioritize critical activities. 
  • Identify any activities that can be ramped down, curtailed, or delayed.
  • Consider installing remote control monitoring devices for critical equipment – monitoring which would otherwise be conducted by personnel (e.g. -80⁰C freezers, liquid nitrogen storage Dewars, incubators).
  • Label, secure and store hazardous materials such that hazards are removed/controlled for other personnel who may need to enter at short notice.
  • Avoid initiating long-term (e.g. overnight) unattended experiments. Post signage, if required.
  • Regularly dispose of hazardous wastes using Chematix.
  • Lock labs/workshops when unoccupied.
  • Coordinate personnel to avoid Working Alone situations.
  • Please keep in mind that activities in certain research core facilities such as imaging and mass spectrometry services may be compromised if facility staff are either ill or under self-isolation. If you have staff who may be able to assist, please contact the research core facilities managers.
  • Cross-train personnel or coordinate with colleagues with similar activities to provide support.
  • Biosafety Committee authorization is required prior to performing research with the virus causing COVID-19 (including accepting patient samples). Contact biosafety.officer@ucalgary.ca.   
  • For research involving human ethics, the CFREB and CHREB advise investigators to consider if their research protocols can be modified or delayed to limit unnecessary personal contacts. Specifically, for some research activities, in-person participant interactions could be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication.
  • While TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide).
  • If your unit administers resources that researchers, including trainees, may need to access in order to complete their studies, please give some thought to how remote access could be arranged (for example, to datasets).
  • The University is providing a number of IT options for accessing shared drives from home or even remote log-in to desktop machines.  However, these tools require advance set-up of University devices.  Visit the Working and Learning from Home website for details, including steps you must take prior to working remotely.
  • Please postpone any in-person study visits, focus groups, interviews etc and where possible conduct these as virtual meetings by telephone, Skype, Zoom or similar. UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.
  • For research involving human ethics, the CFREB and CHREB advise investigators to consider if their research protocols could be modified or delayed, to limit non-essential personal contacts in the community setting. Specifically, for some research, in-person participant interactions could be reduced and/or replaced with telephone or online communication.
  • While TCPS 2 typically requires review and approval of modifications prior to implementation, an exception can be made where the change is necessary to eliminate an immediate risk to participant(s) (Article 6.15). Such changes may be implemented but must be reported to the REB at the earliest opportunity (within 5 business days as a guide).
  • Please postpone any in-person contact with study subjects, including study visits, focus groups, interviews etc and advise your collaborators in the community to do the same. Where possible, these in-person meetings should be rescheduled as virtual meetings by telephone, Skype, Zoom or similar. UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.

 

Guidance for all researchers

Please stay up to date with rules and guidance from the Government of Alberta and AHS.

If you must conduct research, creative or scholarly activities on campus, in the field, or in the community, review the research exemption section and apply for the appropriate exemption.

If you are working on Main or Foothills Campus, you can contact Staff Wellness at staffwellness@ucalgary.ca to schedule a time to pick up disinfectant wipes.

  • Be aware of current guidelines from AHS on how to protect others and yourself.
  • Be prepared for the possibility of core facilities and other fee-for-service resources becoming unavailable. 
  • Be prepared for delays in supply chain, including shortage of Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Be prepared for delays in services provided by vendors.
  • If you returned from travel abroad after March 12, be aware that a 14-day self-isolation period is required upon your return. Check Alberta’s current isolation requirements.
  • Even in cases where you have a research exemption, please continue to work from home whenever possible and limit your presence in research facilities and in the workspaces on campus.  
  • Maintain a 2-meter separation between active work areas.
  • Any in-person group activities including thesis defenses, mentorship committee meetings, seminars, journal clubs, laboratory meetings and hiring interviews should be canceled or held as virtual meetings by telephone, Skype, Zoom or similar. UCalgary now has an institutional license for Zoom.
  • Although there are currently no plans to close the university, this could change in the future with very little or no notice.  Further, individual COVID-19 cases could lead to closure of University buildings with no notice at all. Therefore, please take measures to ensure that your unit is prepared for the possibility of a closure at the end of each day.
  • Visit the ‘Working and Learning from Home’ website for information about ensuring you are set up to be productive from home.
  • Think carefully before initiating new experiments: consider the time required to complete them as well as the cost and inconvenience if they were interrupted before completion.
  • Unit leaders should consider communicating with each other about opportunities to mitigate the impact of illness or self-isolation, such as by sharing staff between units.