Safe Start Western

Helping Western create safe and inclusive working environments during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Ensure the health and safety of all individuals.
  • Effectively address hybrid working (on and off-site) in a thoughtful and inclusive way.
  • Ensure consistency and completeness with State, Federal and County Health requirements and recommendations.

Whatcom County is in Phase 2

4 Phases of Reopening in WA State. Currently Western is in Phase 2.

Safe Start Plan

Washington’s Governor in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Health, has developed a “Phased Approach to Recovery” which is to be used as the main source for reopening and determining who should return on-site, how workspaces need to be modified to accommodate additional safety measures and when things should happen. Timelines are not static and may be extended by the State depending on a number of variables. There are four phases to the Governor’s plan. Each phase is at least three weeks long: 2-3 weeks for allowing changes to embed followed by an additional week for reviewing trend data before the next phase is approved to roll out. Phase 1 began on May 5, 2020; Phase 2 began in Whatcom County on June 5, 2020.

Currently there are a number of people who are deemed 'critical on-site staff'. The university is currently analyzing the situation to determine when it is best for some staff to return to campus. What university leadership are considering is the availability of testing, contact tracing and, of course, overall staff safety. Even when staff can return to campus, physical distancing is mandated by the State. High risk individuals, or any other person with an underlying health condition as defined by the CDC, would not return until the beginning of Phase 4 in the Governor’s plan, at the earliest and maintain physical distancing when they do.

The university is implementing a number of measures to ensure safe working on campus.

  1. Department Reopening Plans: These plans consider all elements for a safe workplace and follow State mandates. Within this website is a set of guidelines to help departments develop plans which cover use of space, circulation, break rooms, conference rooms, cleaning protocols, alternative working schedules, agility plans etc. Departments are to submit their plans through the ReADY request system (VPN required if off campus), as described in the guidelines. All plans will be reviewed and approved by the relevant individuals, with final approval by a VP or designee.
  2. Information and resources: Within this website are a number of resources including FAQs, signage and information on face coverings.
  3. Remote Work guides: Human Resources has developed a number of guides to help individuals working remotely and is there to support departments in new modalities of working.
  4. Building preparation: Buildings remain locked and further preparations are being made to ensure employee safety when more faculty and staff return to campus.
  5. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting: Regular cleaning and disinfecting continues throughout the university, with supplies available for departments to clean their own work areas. Supplies are available through the Western Marketplace.

Managing staff on campus

We continue to manage who is approved to be on campus to work or visit. It is important for the university to know who is on campus at any given time for contact tracing purposes. If you do need to visit the campus to collect a file or an item, use the On Campus Visit form.