Lab Preparations for COVID-19 Disruptions

March 14, 2020 - Genevieve Cottrell

The MSU Office of Environmental Health and Safety remains open and intends to be on campus during business hours, even if further activities are suspended. We are also on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist. Please refer to the msu.edu/coronavirus website regularly for latest updates.

Safe and prudent lab practices are part of our research community’s values, supported by EHS throughout the year. However, due to the COVID-19 disruption, they carry greater weight as you plan for inevitable changes to your normal business operations. There are no plans to suspend research at Michigan State University. Therefore, your research group should take actions now to allow for continuation of research in the foreseeable future. Make thoughtful and safe decisions, considering impacts to the health and welfare of all the University community, not just your laboratory.

  1. Prioritize your research activities now. Decide ahead of time what can be suspended and what must continue; ensure your coworkers/employees are aware of the priorities. Do not start new experiments that you cannot support should the University be further curtailed. Be aware of the possibility of limited to no access to your research space in the event of an unexpected infrastructure issue.
  2. Know how to shut down critical equipment and reactions that could cause fires/explosions/exposures if left unattended. Put detailed shutdown directions into a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) now so your colleagues can confidently perform these measures. You may be asked to do this quickly in the event of an unexpected building emergency.
  3. Label important equipment such as freezers, cryogen dewars, reactors, etc. with current contact information and phone number in case of malfunction. Update chemical, biological and radiological inventories for all your research locations. Ensure research facility door signs are current; use this link to request an updated door sign: https://db.ehs.msu.edu/door_sign/new_request.htm
  4. Order extra supplies and equipment to support those operations that have specific, critical safety requirements (compressed gases, HEPA filters, lab coats, gloves, cryogens, etc.) Many items, such as PPE, are now in short supply – experiments may have to be suspended or ended if safety equipment is not available.
  5. Be extra vigilant with good research practices (hand washing, glove use, eye protection, closing doors, lab coats). These also help limit the spread of COVID-19 in your building. Work in pairs or small groups; do not work alone in the laboratory or in the field.
  6. Encourage employees to stay at home if they are sick. Be a good example and do the same if you are sick.

EHS will be updating information on our website regularly, check back for more information. Call us at 517-432-8715 with any questions you may have. Keep up to date with current University policies and procedures via: msu.edu/coronavirus/