Safety for University of Maryland Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The University of Maryland (UMD) is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability & Risk (ESSR) has developed the following information based on federal regulations and guidance for the safety of workers. With the changes that come from the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 pandemic, ESSR continues to monitor and update documents as needed.
Safety of Employees Who Work Onsite
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classifies worker exposure to COVID-19 into the following four categories:
Lower exposure risk jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with COVID-19 or frequent close contact (less than 6 feet) of the general public. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public or other coworkers.
Exposure controls include use of social distancing (maintain 6 feet of distance from others) and the same PPE used for regular job tasks.
Most UMD employees who are working onsite fall into this category. This include housekeepers, groundkeepers, trades workers, coordinators, specialists, laboratory technicians, and animal care workers.
Onsite job functions can continue to be performed as usual with the use of social distancing measures (stay 6 feet away from others including riding alone in vehicles), and hygiene measures including frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, refrain from touching the face, and covering coughs and sneezes. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is the same as required by the employee’s department for their regular job tasks.
Medium exposure risk jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact (within 6 feet of) people who may be infected with COVID-19 but are not known to have the disease. In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, this is considered to be contact with the general public.
Exposure controls for this category may include social distancing measures, physical barriers (sneeze guards), strategies to minimize face-to-face contact (e.g., drive through windows, phone-based communication, telework), and PPE such as gloves, masks, or goggles. The PPE will vary by work task and the results of the employer’s hazard assessment.
UMPD staff who have close contact (less than 6 feet) with the general public fall into this category. The general public are individuals who are not employees or students or otherwise affiliated with UMD.
High exposure risk jobs are those with high potential exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Workers in this category are healthcare delivery and support staff (e.g., doctors, nurses, hospital staff), medical transport workers, and mortuary workers.
Exposure controls for this category are the same as those for very high risk exposure.
UMD Health Center staff who have direct contact with patients and UMPD staff who must have close contact (less than 6 feet) with individuals who are known or suspected of having COVID-19 fall into this category.
Very high exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, postmortem or laboratory procedures involving COVID-19 specimens. Workers in this category are healthcare workers performing high risk procedures on COVID-19 patients, healthcare or laboratory personnel collecting cultures from COVID-19 patients, and morgue workers.
Exposure controls for this category include hospital ventilation controls, training, and personal protective equipment (PPE): gloves, gown, face shield, mask or respirator.
There are no UMD employee job titles that fall into this category.
Reducing Workplace Exposures
OSHA mentions a number of ways to help reduce workers’ exposures including the following: develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan; implement basic infection control measures including promoting frequent handwashing, encouraging workers to stay home if sick, and encouraging respiratory etiquette including covering coughs and sneezes; explore ways to establish a flexible worksite such as shifts and teleworking; promoting physical distancing; and maintaining regular housekeeping practices. The university has implemented all of these procedures.
Employees who are ill should not come to work. Employees who become ill while at work should leave the worksite immediately and return home. Employees should call their supervisor when they are leaving but should not return to an office or building to report their illness.
Employee Protection When Cleaning or Disinfecting Spaces and Surfaces
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following guidelines for PPE for cleaning and disinfection of spaces when persons with known of suspected COVID-19 have been in the facility:
The risk of exposure to cleaning staff is inherently low. Cleaning staff should wear disposable gloves and gowns for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash.
- Gloves and gowns should be compatible with the disinfectant products being used.
- Additional PPE might be required based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash.
- Gloves and gowns should be removed carefully to avoid contamination of the wearer and the surrounding area. Be sure to clean hands after removing gloves.
- If gowns are not available, coveralls, aprons or work uniforms can be worn during cleaning and disinfecting. Reusable (washable) clothing should be laundered afterwards. Clean hands after handling dirty laundry.
- Gloves should be removed after cleaning a room or area occupied by ill persons. Clean hands immediately after gloves are removed.
- Cleaning staff should immediately report breaches in PPE such as a tear in gloves or any other potential exposures to their supervisor.
- Cleaning staff and others should clean hands often, including immediately after removing gloves and after contact with an ill person, by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
For additional information about cleaning and disinfection: