Research and Sponsored Programs

Research Lab Safety and COVID-19 Impacts

Disinfection Procedures Minimizing COVID-19 Transmission
Field Research and Boating Critical Research and Essential Functions

Updated May 18, 2020 at 2:15 PM

The University of Toledo Office of Research & Sponsored Programs (ORSP) has partnered with teams across campus to develop guidance for researchers, faculty, post-doctoral fellows, students and staff to best manage disinfection and laboratory research with the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation.  This guidance is intended for use both now when the ‘stay-at-home’ is in effect and when resuming research activities. 

See the Research and Sponsored Programs website for more information on COVID-19 related research impacts.

Disinfection Procedures

CDC Recommendations on Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facilities
This link will provide easy to follow recommendations from the CDC on cleaning and disinfecting your areas.

Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. However, disinfecting a surface after cleaning can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

  • Surfaces that should be disinfected regularly include before and after use: highly touched surfaces such as chairs, desktops, computer keyboards, computer displays, light switches, doorknobs, doors, door push plates, refrigerator/freezer handles and their doors; equipment panels/switches, bench tops; biosafety cabinet and fume hood sashes and their working surfaces; bio-waste container lids; commonly used hand tools and small objects (pipettors); and shared PPE (laser goggles). Be careful when disinfecting sensitive equipment to prevent disruption of the equipment.
  • Using paper towels, if possible first clean dirty surfaces with a detergent or soap and water, then carefully apply disinfectant and wipe to evenly distribute the disinfectant. 
  • Wear disposable gloves when disinfecting surfaces, and ensure the area has good ventilation. If the area does not have good ventilation, disinfect and leave the area untouched until the surfaces have dried. Discard gloves after each use and clean hands immediately.
  •  Avoid spraying disinfectant on the surfaces to prevent the creation of aerosols. Allow surfaces to air dry. Discard paper towels and disinfecting wipes into the regular trash.
  • The current recommended disinfectants are 10% freshly prepared bleach, 70% ethanol, in water, or disinfecting wipes. Virkon-S is a safe disinfectant for use around animal areas. Do not mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners. The EPA has provided a helpful list of registered disinfectants that are effective against the novel coronavirus, including ready-to-use Clorox and Lysol products.
  • The university recommends EPA-registered disinfectants for use against COVID-19, which has been simplified into this list by the American Chemical Council. Always use cleaning products as recommended on manufacturer labels, including wearing disposable gloves where directed.

Minimizing Transmission of COVID-19

  • Ensure that research team members are able to arrange personal interactions to maintain a comfortable six-foot distance from each other. If it is difficult to maintain social distance due to crowding in a research facility, you will need to work out shifts and set up schedules so that the number of people working at any one time does not preclude the ability to keep social distance.
  • Safety guidelines should be followed at all times, e.g., personnel should not work alone in laboratories and experiments should not be conducted if required faculty or staff expertise is unavailable. 
  • Although hand sanitizer can help prevent the spread of the virus, washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is considered to be more effective.
  • Sneeze into your elbow to reduce the spread of the virus in respiratory droplets (the common transmission pathway for the virus). If you are sick or have a fever, however, you must not come to work. 
  • Meetings should continue to be conducted remotely, using tools such as WebEx, as much as possible.
  • Work with your staff to ensure that they have the ability to work remotely on items such as monitoring experiments (if possible), data analysis, writing, literature review, and proposal editing.
  • Make sure to clean and disinfect all work surfaces before and after conducting research, as current evidence suggests that COVID-19 may remain viable for hours to days on various surfaces.
  • NIH Guidelines - NIH Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidance for Research with SARS-CoV-2 and IBC Requirements Under the NIH Guidelines

Field Research & Boating Safety

The intent of this standard operating procedure (SOP) is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 disease transmission and protect the health and safety of personnel conducting research activities at field sites.

A Research Operation Plan should be prepared by the Research Group Leader and approved by the department chair (or unit manager).  The field research action plan should describe any deviations from this SOP and what safety measures are being implemented.

Critical Research and Essential Functions

  • PIs/Lead Researchers should work cooperatively with other PIs, colleagues and departmental/college members to coordinate essential functions such as equipment and safety checks, monitoring of cryopreservation, inert gas blanketing of sensitive chemicals, and delivery of gases and cryogenic fluids to minimize the number of university site visits and on-site personnel each day.
  • Review the lab safety information including
    • Sample handing/disposal SOPs
    • Emergency response plans/contact information
    • -80 freezer emergency plans/contact information
  • Ensure lab is stocked with PPE.  This includes gloves, eye protection, lab coats, bleach, EtOH, etc.
    • Please note that extra supplies may be requested to be donated to the front-line hospital staff if a shortage of supplies occurs.
  • Ensure the safe containment of lab/samples for disruptions due to personnel illness or extended leave
    • Need to freeze down cell stocks?
    • Someone to check freezers, incubators, animals?
    • Lab locks functional and items secured?
  • Secure all research materials and controlled substances from loss, misdirection, or misuse.
  • Ensure that high-risk materials (radioactive, biohazards, chemicals) are secured.
  • Review CDC Information for Laboratories section for updates for laboratory professionals working with specimens from persons under investigation (PUI) for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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Last Updated: 5/18/20