COVID-19 Prevention in the Workplace

These important workplace COVID-19 prevention elements are developed to help ensure the health and safety of personnel by reducing the potential for COVID-19 transmission. They are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the regulatory directive of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) Directive 1.70, and are required to be implemented in all University work environments. Departments or work units should document their site-specific COVID-19 prevention measures.

Mandatory Training

The Environmental Health and Safety Department (EHS) has developed a mandatory training course to help educate the University community regarding COVID-19 disease prevention measures in the workplace. Departments that are planning to work at University locations to support critical operations must include this training as a part of their department reopening plan. As a reminder, only employees approved through formal channels, including department reopening plans, are permitted to work on site at this time. 

Employees who are planning to return to work at University locations must complete the COVID-19 Prevention in the Workplace training before or upon returning on-site. Employees who have been performing critical on-site work since the closure of normal operations, please enroll and complete the training as soon as possible. People can self-enroll in the Canvas course or contact their supervisor for more information.

COVID-19 Site Supervisor

Departments on campus with an approved re-opening plan have an assigned COVID-19 Site Supervisor or several supervisors to manage duties designed to help prevent spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

These responsibilities include monitoring the health of employees, ensuring the prevention measures of the re-opening plan are followed, making any necessary updates to the re-opening plan, and reporting any safety concerns to their supervisor. Department leaders can choose to delegate specific responsibilities among several individuals as appropriate.

Site Supervisors must be available either remotely or on-site during work and/or class activities to monitor compliance and answer questions and concerns as needed. Being physically present would largely depend on the nature of the work being done on-site.

Please see the scenarios below for examples of when a COVID Site Supervisor needs to be on-site and when a remote presence is adequate.

Scenario 1: This is where activities have higher risk of COVID transmission because of increased respiration and/ or individuals may not be able to adhere to physical distancing requirements at all times.

These scenarios include an enhanced risk level where a COVID site supervisor provides leadership in mitigating disease transmission. Immediate on-site access to an area’s COVID Site Supervisor is critical.

Scenario 2: Individuals who are working or studying solo or in small groups under an approved on-site plan. A COVID Site Supervisor can support them remotely should any questions or concerns arise.

Scenario 3: Office personnel performing work at a computer with minimal interaction with others can refer to their COVID Site Supervisor remotely should any questions arise.

Western’s Access and COVID Operations Management Solution (WACOM) is a web-based system developed specifically for Western's needs to track on-site activity. While it serves a purpose for many users on campus, it provides the Site Supervisors specifically with the ability to approve visit requests by other Western Employees to their area and update their site-specific personnel schedules as appropriate. For additional questions regarding the Site Supervisor role, please email ehs@wwu.edu.

Maintain Physical Distancing

One of the most effective means to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 is to prevent close contact between workers and others

  • Maintain at least 6 feet between people with or without the use of face coverings.
  • Separate work stations by at least 6 feet or use physical barriers (e.g., curtains, shields).
  • Limit the number of people riding in elevators.
  • Stagger work schedules and break times.
  • Take separate vehicles.
  • Require one-at-a-time access at designated drop-off/pick-up points.
  • Use drop-boxes or bins to collect items.

Take Precautions with Sick Personnel

Even if symptoms are mild, do not come to work. Contact your healthcare provider and supervisor. If symptoms of COVID-19 illness are experienced while on a University work site, personnel should:

  • Contact your supervisor
  • Leave the worksite and separate yourself from others.
  • Contact your healthcare provider
  • Avoid common areas where people gather and using public transportation
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Monitor your symptoms
  • Wear a face covering

Encourage Good Hygiene

  • Wash hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and immediately dispose of the used tissue.

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g.,
  • door knobs, tables, computer keyboards, handrails) regularly
  • For surfaces touched by multiple workers, clean and disinfect on a frequent schedule, or between workers.
  • For surfaces touched by a single worker, clean and disinfect periodically, at least once per shift or when unclean, as a minimum.
  • Wipe down shared equipment after each use.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfecting products, and use personal protective equipment as required.
  • Use one of the following to disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces:
    • An EPA-registered disinfectant approved for use against SARS-CoV-2
    • An alcohol solution with at least 70%alcohol or
    • A 10% bleach/water solution
  • Please avoid putting disinfectant gels or liquids on electronics and other equipment, including elevator buttons, unless they have been indicated as safe to use on those devices.

Use Alternative Strategies as Needed

Some workplaces may encounter challenges with basic prevention elements so one or more of the
following alternatives may be used to provide protection for workers.

  • Beginning June 8, 2020, all employees will be required to wear a cloth face covering except under certain circumstances. Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) but they help protect persons nearby from the wearer’s respiratory droplets. Please see the CDC Guidance on how to properly wear a cloth face covering and contact your supervisor for supplies if needed. Employees may choose to wear their own facial coverings at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements.
  • Place nonporous covers on frequently touched surfaces that cannot be easily cleaned, such as fabric or foam. The covers should be a surface that can be cleaned easily or something that can be changed between users.
  • Ventilation that provides a clean air supply to a worker’s breathing zone.
  • Departments may implement symptom screening or self-attestation requirements to prevent sick personnel from coming to work and identify workers who exhibit signs or symptoms of COVID-19 illness.

Communicate Safety Information

Education is an important aspect in helping to slow the spread of the corona virus. Informing personnel of guidance, such as social distancing, proper hygiene and methods to keep work areas clean that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Western Safe Start Visual Aids/Posters web page has posters and graphics in various formats for you to post and communicate in your work area.

Returning to Your Workspace

The COVID-19 virus is not persistent, so cleaning is only recommended prior to re-occupancy if there were confirmed cases at the time of closure, or if occasional visits by people were made without provisions for cleaning.
When returning to your workspace, perform a visual inspection and look for any issues that have developed during the shutdown.

Plumbing and other water fixtures will need to be flushed before full occupancy.

  • Turn on water taps to clear pipes of stagnant water. A general rule of thumb is to run taps for at least 30 seconds.

For equipment that has been shut down longer than normal, re-start standard operating procedures should be reviewed or developed to address any unusual circumstances that could have come about due to the shutdown. Items that may require attention include telephones, computers, printers, scanners and USB-devices, Allow for time to troubleshoot systems during the restart. Review procedures with appropriate personnel.