Reducing Workplace Exposure to COVID-19

USU is committed to a safe and healthy working and learning environment for the members of its campus communities. 

As part of this commitment and consistent with federal and state requirements, USU strives to provide worksites free from recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. At present, COVID-19 is a recognized harm. This plan is designed to reduce  the risk of COVID-19 exposure. The following guidance should be used in creating COVID-19 department operation plans.

Sources of COVID-19 Workplace Exposure

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly person-to-person, and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Exposure can occur through:

  • Interactions with symptomatic individuals.
  • Interactions with the general public, customers, coworkers, and students.
  • Interactions with individuals with a higher risk of infection (e.g., international travelers or those who have visited locations with widespread ongoing COVID-19 transmission).
  • Contact with surfaces contaminated by COVID-19 carrier(s).

Prevention Measures for All Employees

Prevention for all individuals is achieved through prevention hygiene, social distancing and wearing face coverings.

Prevention Hygiene

  • Promote frequent and handwashing and/or use of hand sanitizer.
  • Remind employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette:
    • Covering coughs and sneezes
    • Using tissue and throwing away immediately
  • Provide employees and workspace visitors with readily available:
    • Tissues and trash receptacles
    • Hand sanitizer
    • In clinical settings or crowded areas, face coverings for clients or customers

Cloth Face Coverings

  • Set expectations that employees comply with USU, state and federal guidance regarding wearing cloth face coverings unless more protective PPE is required (health services, student health center, dining services, etc.). If something more than a cloth face covering is required for a role, the USU supervisor should ensure appropriate protective equipment is provided.
  • Currently, the state of Utah has indicated that employees and campus community members should wear a cloth face covering when social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Social Distancing and Worksite Adjustments

  • Continue to promote flexible temporary work arrangements that allow for social distancing, including:
    • Remote work
    • Staggered days or shifts
    • Other flexible work arrangements
  • Replace face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings whenever possible, even as more employees return to onsite operations.
  • Discourage sharing devices, desks, or other work tools or equipment, if possible.
  • Stagger breaks and lunch periods to minimize congestion and congregating in break/lunch rooms. Also, avoid sharing food.

Increased Disinfection Protocols

  • Establish and implement disinfection protocols between the use of devices, conference tables, desks, tools and equipment.
  • Perform routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment (using EPA-approved products and following manufacturer instructions).

Containing Individuals Who May have COVID-19

  • Inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick and send home employees who come to work sick or with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Encourage employees who are quarantining due to exposure of, or isolating for, symptoms of COVID-19, to complete the COVID-19 questionnaire
  • Ensure that employees are aware of COVID-19 temporary policies.

Additional Prevention and Control Measures

In addition to the employee safety measures described here, USU will implement prevention controls at a university-wide level. These prevention measures include symptom checking for employees and other campus community members as well as isolation protocols designed to contain COVID-19 cases. These prevention measures will be addressed in separate guidance and protocols.

Prevention Measures for Job Categories

Consistent with guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), USU has evaluated the exposure risk to its employees by evaluating the risk of exposure to COVID-19 based on job responsibilities and the setting in which the job responsibilities are performed. 

USU has divided job groups into four risk exposure levels: very high, high, medium, and low. Several factors were considered when evaluating exposure risks, including the quantity, length, and type of interactions with students, customers or members of the public. Most USU jobs fall under the Medium Risk Level. 

USU has determined specific controls for each job group. These controls should be reviewed and, in consultation with the COVID-19 Employee Safety Committee, tailored to suit the unique circumstances of each work site. 

High-Risk Individuals

Public health officials have also emphasized the importance of protecting high-risk individuals until the threat of COVID-19 has moved to the state’s green level (the new normal). Employees who are at a higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 and those employees with high-risk household members should work with supervisors to make appropriate and reasonable adjustments to the employee’s work arrangements to reduce the risk of exposure. 

Appropriate and Reasonable Adjustments

  • Changes to job responsibilities to allow for social distancing.
  • Permitting remote work.
  • Adjusting work schedules as outlined in USU’s temporary policy on work arrangements.

Disability and Health Inquiries Not Permitted

Supervisors should typically not make inquiries about employee’s disabilities or non-COVID related health conditions. Instead, supervisors should educate and inform their employees that certain individuals are at risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, and that individuals who need accommodations should talk with their supervisors and/or Human Resources directly to discuss options for reducing workplace exposure. 

Concerns about the reasonableness of or need for an accommodation will be mediated by Human Resources if a staff member is making the request or a supervising dean if a faculty member is making the request. 

Privacy of Health Information

If an employee voluntarily discloses that they have a specific medical condition or disability that puts them at increased risk of COVID-19 complications, a supervisor (and any other USU administrators with a need to know) must keep this information private and may wish to consult with Human Resources for further guidance.