Further to the Principal's earlier message, we know that many of you are keen to return to your laboratory science as soon as possible. This letter is all about how the return to the labs is going to be managed; it is rather long but the contents are important so please read it carefully. Full information is available on the Return to Site webpages.
We wish to emphasise that staff and students who can work from home should continue to do so. Importantly, at this point, we are only asking those that wish to return, to come back. Your circumstances may mean you do not wish to return to laboratory work at present, for example due to family commitments, caring for a vulnerable individual or you may simply feel concerned about being back on site.
We are working hard to put plans in place and to ensure that your return is as safe as possible. The health and safety of all staff and students remains the University’s responsibility, including deciding who returns to campus and when this is feasible.
Please note that the University’s guidance for return is in line with specific government advice for laboratories, which differs from guidance for NHS Trusts.
The initial return to laboratory work will be in groups. The first wave of people who can return from Monday 8 June includes only those staff who:
- Are Research Institute members or joint members doing scientific laboratory work
- Who cannot work from home
- Who live locally and can travel to work without relying on public transport (this is because we want to ensure our new social distancing measures work with low numbers of people first and individuals can easily return home if required).
The second wave of people who we aim to return 7-10 days later are the same as above, with the inclusion of those who use public transport to travel to the University. In addition, PhD and MD students who have laboratory work that they wish to continue may return at the same time.
MRes students who have deferred their projects will return shortly after this. They will be written to separately once plans to ensure their adequate supervision are confirmed. They should not return until they have been contacted.
Any subsequent waves for return to laboratory work will be communicated in due course.
Returning to site
If your circumstances mean you should be included in the groups above, you must discuss and agree your return with your PI/line manager.
PIs/line managers (or a delegated individual) will need to read the following guidance:
And complete the following forms:
- A new risk assessment for your area of work (lab and office)
- New local rules updated for social distancing measures (template available)
- Complete a lab inspection before any work can commence
- Review all relevant COSSH forms
These forms will need to be sent to the RIM before any work can commence. The forms and guidance to support these processes are available on the Health and Safety website and help is available from the SHE office.
Changes to ways of working
Please remember that returning to Jenner is for laboratory work only and writing up or data analysis should still be performed at home.
For everyone’s safety, there will be some changes on site. For example:
- There will be sign-posted directional routes for entering/exiting and going up/down between floors in Hunter and Jenner buildings.
- We have installed more hand gel dispensers at key locations but we also ask you to wash your hands regularly in addition to good laboratory practice.
We wish to ensure that social distancing measures are in place in laboratories and offices and hot desking is discouraged. This means that there will be maximum capacity caps in lab and office areas. These will be defined by you in your local rules.
Some groups may have to work in shifts to accommodate these requirements. Whether this means working at different times of the day or on different days will be up to PIs to decide.
We do not encourage working out of hours, since support from Research Operations and other teams is limited at such times. We will monitor out of hours usage (after 19.00 Monday-Friday and at weekends) and if this is greater than normal then we shall review.
If you wish to wear a mask/face covering you may, but this is not compulsory.
Government guidelines encourage you to bring in your own food and drink; you can use kitchens to make a hot drink or similar but first wash your own hands and always remember social distancing guidelines in these areas must be adhered to and you must clean up carefully after yourself.
You should also be aware that arrangements for obtaining clinical research specimens or using clinical facilities in any way, will depend on the clinical realities at present and will require discussion with clinical collaborators. At the moment the CRF is Covid-19 focused (St George’s is currently recruiting to more NIHR-approved studies than anywhere else in the UK), but we expect other clinical research to resume soon.
For those who are planning to return, now is the time to start ordering your consumables and we hope your next experiments are a success!
Finally, it is hard to predict everything so please act sensibly. You are welcome to get in touch with us, if there is anything that concerns you or which you simply think could be done better. At St George’s, we value supportive teamwork and this approach has never been more important than now.
Jon S Friedland, Deputy Principal (Research & Enterprise)
Deborah Baines, Chair of Safety Management Committee