VIU Scholarship, Research, and Creative Activity

Guide To Develop Your Research - COVID-19 Plan

Requests to resume research will be accepted during Phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan. Requests to resume research activities through access to on-campus facilities or spaces, fieldwork, or the engagement of physical face-to-face activities, can be prepared and submitted on behalf of a single faculty researcher, or a research team comprised of one or more faculty researchers along with students and/or research support employees.

Vancouver Island University has high expectations for Plans in terms of how research activities will be conducted to comply with COVID-19 related safety requirements (e.g. minimizing the number of people in shared space, requiring/maintaining physical distancing requirements, enhanced cleaning protocols, etc.). Researchers must remain prepared to modify, scale back, or suspend approved research activities should external conditions require (e.g. PHO increasing restrictions), or if provisions to protect public health are not being met.

When preparing their Plans, researchers should consider how the proposed research (either on-campus, or in the field) will be conducted while meeting all key public health obligations, including, but not limited to:

1. Outlining work protocols that allow physical distancing between researchers and participants, and minimize the number of people in a lab/room at any time (this may necessitate, for example, having research team members work in alternate shifts to avoid being together in a lab/room);

2. For on-campus work, clear listing of which spaces will be required to be used and accessed, and a designation of planned hours/days of work; use of daily sign-in/out registers will be needed for each researcher, to be maintained by the principal researcher.

3. Demonstrating how all reasonable measures will be taken to ensure minimal interaction of people within two metres of each other, including limiting the number of persons who travel in a single field vehicle to one;

4. Discussing if, or under what circumstances, masks or other PPE for COVID-19 purposes are planned to be utilized (and whether such PPE is available);

5. Demonstrating how every reasonable step will be taken to prevent persons who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the workplace, including vehicles for field activities;

6. Implementing and specifying cleaning and/or disinfecting protocols in research workspaces – this will be the responsibility of the researcher, not custodial staff;

7. Limiting interactions with others as much as possible, and interactions with the general public to essential businesses (e.g. gas stations);

8. Taking every reasonable step required to prevent persons from entering workplaces (including vehicles) who have travelled outside BC in the previous 14 days;

9. Demonstrating, for field research taking place out-of-province (after such time that restrictions on such domestic travel has been lifted), how measures will be taken to ensure that all researchers comply with Public Health requirements to self-isolate for 14 days at all stages, in all relevant provinces;

10. Preventing gatherings of persons involved in the proposed research efforts;

11. Considering the method that any researcher can be sent home should they start experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; if any researcher shows 2 or more symptoms of COVID-19, all research activities should stop immediately, and medical help sought for the affected individual(s) – within BC, call 811 for further assessment.

Finally, approval to resume research through this process does not remove the normally expected or required safety and compliance practices – for example, clearance from the Research Ethics Board or Animal Care Committee as needed, completion of Biosafety applications, following the University’s H&S Program, following established Science standard operating procedures and safety protocols, etc.

Developing your plan to resume research:

Each researcher will review the information outlined in each of the 9 steps below in order to effectively implement the Risk, Safety and Health Planning template for COVID-19. Health and Safety Services will be available to assist as required. 

The forms required have been assembled in the 

1. Complete the Request to Resume Research Form (appendix a)

2. Review the COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan 

3. Complete the Risk Assessment template (appendix b)

4. Review and/ develop safe work procedures (appendix c)

5. Complete research space plan - checklist (appendix c)

6. Complete People Management checklist (appendix d)

7. Identify Facility access/cleaning plans required

8. Complete required training

9 Ensure oversight and compliance

Step 1: Request to Resume Research Form

1. A list of the primary faculty researcher(s) submitting the application, and all research team members to be involved in the research activities; include each individual’s position at VIU (faculty, graduate or undergraduate student, postdoctoral research fellow, etc.).

2. A description of the requested research activities to be resumed. The description may be brief, but must:

a. be sufficient to outline the nature of the research to be undertaken;

b. be clear in the reasons why it cannot be done remotely (that is, that it either requires access to                     campus, or be done in the field, or require physical face-to-face interactions with research participant);

c. be clear in how the research connects to one or more of the listed Priorities;

3. Status of research funding and applications for compliance (REB, ACC, Biosafety). A series of questions will identify if the research is supported by an external funder and whether or not it has any required approvals in place through the Research Ethics Board, Animal Care Committee or the Biosafety Committee.

Step 2: Review the COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan

An Exposure Control Plan (ECP) is required in a workplace where there is an identified risk of exposure to a hazard or biological agent (COVID-19) and it documents the specific and appropriate controls that will minimize or eliminate that risk. The ECP is general since it applies to all VIU operations, and it should be reviewed as a base of information to assist in the completion of the other steps in this plan.

Review the Exposure Control Plan for COVID-19 here.

COVID-19 Transmission Prevention Guidelines   

Figure 1 outlines examples of general COVID-19 transmission prevention guidelines or hazard controls outlined in the ECP, which are based on current provincial and federal requirements. These guidelines should be used as controls during the risk assessment of critical tasks to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Any controls that are chosen to mitigate identified risk should follow the hierarchy of controls presented in the COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan beginning at the most effective strategies.

The following general transmission prevention guidelines will be used throughout this plan. They are measures that have been recommended by provincial and federal health authorities, as well as by WorkSafeBC. Many of these guidelines are built into the checklists found throughout this plan and will be implemented as part of those processes. They are listed here in order to provide another layer of guidance when completing the risk assessment for critical tasks simply as a point of reference.

Step 3: Complete the Risk Assessment

The purpose of the hazard identification and risk assessment template is to pre-identify critical tasks/work activities occurring in a work area and to assess and mitigate risks relating to those tasks in order to protect workers and students from COVID-19. Identifying tasks will also assist in determining what safe work procedures need to be amended or developed. One risk assessment can be done for each research center/institute as long as all critical tasks are listed and the work area is generally the same. An example would be, doing a risk assessment for chemistry lab work. Critical tasks would include, tasks done by the principle investigator including research tasks, supervising and observing student work, demonstrations, checking work or providing one on one support. Since the assessment would include one general area (e.g. chemistry lab), other employee tasks should also be included if applicable.

Risk Identification Assessment and Control Template

Directions:

1. List and assess critical tasks/situations encountered in the work setting in column 1.

a. Critical Tasks/ work are those tasks that must be completed – E.g. Researchers enter research area, deliver a demonstration

2. List the possible situations for each task that could be associated with being exposed to COVID-19: Think about how COVID 19 is spread (through the droplets from infected people, often from coughs or sneezes).

3. Refer to the VIU HIRAC program for further instructions.

Assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19 (low consequence, medium consequence, or high) in column 2.

a. E.g. Low – deliver a demonstration with physical distancing intact

b. E.g. Medium – breaching the 2m physical distance to conduct work with other controls in place (e.g. PPE), where physical distancing would increase the hazards related to the work being done.

c. E.g. High – working with high risk individuals (COVID-19 positive patient) in a health care setting.

4. Select the appropriate control strategies to minimize transmission for each task in column 3.

a. E.g. Use the hierarchy of controls figure and the transmission guidelines above for mitigation ideas or see examples below:

i.      Eliminate/Physical Distancing:  Postpone in-class or onsite instruction, offer online option, maintain physical distancing at all times (>2m)

ii.      Engineer:  install Plexiglas barrier or other means to prevent transmission that is appropriate for the research space/activity

iii.     Administrative:  Minimize # researchers conducting an activity, re-arrange research areas to promote physical distancing, stagger research times, enhance cleaning protocols, personal hygiene protocols, etc.

iv.     Personal Protective Equipment:  Only considered after careful considering previous control measures. If PPE was required before COVID-19, then this will remain. We are only concerned with any additional PPE needs. Last resport.

v.      Use of non-medical face coverings or masks. If there is a need to breach 2m physical distancing for short durations, it is required that this is used in addition to the other controls that are selected.

5. Describe the mitigation strategy chosen.

a. E.g. Physical distancing - cordon off the demonstration area

b. E.g. Administrative - sanitizing tools/equipment

6. If administrative or PPE controls are selected, create a safe work procedure that will be used to train research personnel on the expectations and safe methods. E.g. Disinfection of tools and equipment requires a SWP to identify how to do it safely and will include the identification of required PPE as per the SDS for the cleaning product. VIU has created a general procedure for the Donning and Doffing and Cleaning of PPE that can be embedded into the SWP. (See Step 3 below)

a. E.g. Develop a safe work procedure for sanitizing tools/equipment

 Example

The first two rows contain examples to assist you with the completion of the risk assessment. If further assistance is required, please contact Health and Safety Services at safety@viu.ca. See APPENDIX B for the Risk Identification, Assessment and Control template.

Step 4: Safe Work Procedures

Safe Work Procedures (SWPs) must be developed to establish a consistent level of safety and performance for everyone doing the same or similar critical task or activity identified in the Risk Assessment. Some safe work procedures will be general enough to share across Faculties/Departments. A SWP includes:

1. A step-by-step description of the requirements to do a task and to do it safely.

2. The materials and equipment being used in the task/activity.

3. All hazards identified that may be encountered while performing the task or activity, including possible exposure to COVID-19.

4. How to control exposure to COVID-19 when also conducting the specific task or activity in a safe manner.

SWPs also serve as a training tool for new workers and/or students or as a reference guide for seasoned employees/students. SWPs will incorporate the protective measures identified in the COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan and the transmission guidelines. Depending on the task or activity, one or more protective measure may be needed. Looking at protective measures outside of VIU (in industry) may also provide some creative ideas on what can be implemented at VIU. 

Health and Safety Services encourages the use of the VIU Safe Work Procedure Template (found at this link). The following general procedures should be considered in the creation of the Safe Work Procedures that are developed by each Faculty/Department:

1. Exposure Control Plan for COVID-19

2. Donning/Doffing and Cleaning Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

3. Disinfectants that meet Health Canada's requirements for COVID-19

4. The use of non-medical face masks

5. General Entry/Exit to research spaces

Step 5: Complete Research Space Plan Checklist

Complete the Standard Site Plan Checklist in Appendix C. for spaces being used for face to face research activities. The intent of this plan is to ensure that minimum levels of mitigation strategies are being utilized to maintain safe spaces for employees and students.

Step 6: People Management Checklist

Complete the People Management checklist in Appendix D and ensure your Faculty/Department has planned for the following issues. The intent of this plan is to ensure that procedures are being developed and reviewed with employees/students to maintain safe spaces for employees and students. Some of these items may be captured in the risk assessment process, so this is intended to capture anything that has been missed.

Step 7: Facility Access/cleaning plan

The re-opening of any VIU building/facility for the purposes of face to face learning requires approval. This is applicable to every VIU campus.

Prior to re-opening any facility for the purposes of face to face learning, Facility Access and Cleaning requirements must be fulfilled. Facilities Services must be informed of the intention to provide face to face learning well in advance of the proposed start dates to determine if the level of service required for each facility is possible:

1. Schedule of research activities (Start date, End Date, days of the week, times)

2. Location (R#/B#)

3. # of people in space

4. Principle Investigators name and contact information

5. Research activity (chemistry lab, animal research)

This information needs to be submitted to: facility@viu.ca as soon as it is known to ensure that appropriate planning can occur.

An email has been sent to facility@viu.ca providing the 5 items above.

 Step 8: Required Training

Workers and students returning to face to face activities need to be trained in the new processes and procedures that have been developed to support their safe return. They should be familiar with the contents of this document and should complete the following training:

 Employee training requirements:

1. Orientation to the VIU Exposure Control Plan for COVID-19

2. Department Orientation to new or updated safe work procedures

a. E.g. Sanitizing equipment

b. E.g. General VIU Teaching-space entry/exit procedure

3. PPE – donning and doffing, use care and maintenance

a. Note: PPE (gloves, respirators, etc.) should only be recommended/required for pandemic exposure control if absolutely necessary (i.e. work with). Due to global healthcare burdens there are shortages in common prevention PPE, and most resources are being directed to healthcare individuals. Please contact safety@viu.ca for further guidance regarding PPE.

4. Ensure that existing WHMIS course has been completed to support new chemicals being used. Train on safe use of specific chemicals selected by each department

 Students training requirements:

Researchers should build in time to orient and train students and should include the following training at a minimum:

1. Orientation to the VIU Exposure Control Plan for COVID-19

2. Orientation to new or updated safe work procedures

a. E.g. Sanitizing equipment

b. E.g. General VIU Teaching-space entry/exit procedure

3. PPE – donning and doffing, use care and maintenance

a. Note: PPE (gloves, respirators, etc.) should only be recommended/required for pandemic exposure control if absolutely necessary (i.e. work with). Due to global healthcare burdens there are shortages in common prevention PPE, and most resources are being directed to healthcare individuals. Please contact safety@viu.ca for further guidance regarding PPE.

4. Ensure that existing WHMIS course has been completed to support new chemicals being used. Train on safe use of specific chemicals selected by each department

5. Orientation on Step 4: site plan and Step 5: people management

 Record keeping:

Records should be maintained in each department for both workers orientation and training and should be made available upon request.

Step 9: Oversight and Compliance

All employees and students have a responsibility to follow the established safe work practices/procedures implemented during COVID-19. Anyone identified with a supervisory role also has the added responsibility of ensuring compliances with the established practices within their Faculty/department, which includes regular and period inspections in the workplace.

Appendix E includes a daily COVID-19 prevention checklist that can be completed daily by principal investigators as part of their daily due diligence. These daily checklists should be maintained within each Faculty/department. These records should be made available upon request.

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