Research spaces that have been approved by the University of Iowa Office of the Vice President for Research to reinitiate research projects should use the following general guidelines as staff return to campus. PIs should work with their administration for any department- or college-specific procedures. More information from the Office of Environmental Health & Safety may be found here

Environmental Health and Safety Laboratory Guidelines for COVID-19 Prevention

Updated 5/18/21

Do NOT return to work if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Your own department or college may have specific procedures for daily attestations of wellness. In particular, no one should come to work if they are beginning to experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever (temperature >=37.8 deg C (100.0 deg F))
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Chills

Guidance relating to illness, testing positive, and potential exposures, as well as links to self-reporting forms, can be found on the UI Coronavirus webpage, under What to do if you’re sick.

Updated 5/18/21

Create a plan for safe practices in the lab.

  • Do not begin any experimentation without an adequate stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies (ex. sharps containers).  Disruptions in supply chains may still be present as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Don the appropriate PPE when entering a laboratory, including a lab coat and gloves.  PPE hazard assessment tools/risk assessments which outlined required PPE prior to the outbreak must still be followed.  If worn, a cloth mask is not adequate PPE for laboratory safety and cannot be substituted for an isolation mask.
    • Do not wear potentially contaminated PPE outside of the lab.  Always wash your hands with soap and water after removing gloves and before leaving the lab.  In addition, wash hands after touching shared accessory devices like phones.
    • To the extent possible, minimize shared items (pens, notebooks, frequently used reagent bottles, computers, desks, etc.).
    • Create an enhanced cleaning schedule; see the enhanced cleaning section at the end of this document.

When using shared equipment:

  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Special care should be taken to disinfect equipment that makes direct physical contact with skin, including eyepieces for microscopes, touch pads, etc.  To the extent possible, don gloves prior to touching equipment surfaces that cannot be disinfected.
  • Wash your hands immediately after gloves are removed and after any surface contact.

Updated 5/18/21

The efficacy of disinfectants is evaluated on pre-cleaned surfaces. Thus, surfaces that are visibly dirty should be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection. Disinfection of work and common areas can be achieved with an EPA approved disinfectant. EPA List N covers disinfectants approved for coronavirus. Follow disinfectant label instructions for adequate contact time to disinfect. If possible, wet towels or wipes with disinfectant rather than spraying; spraying may aerosolize anything that is on surfaces. Do not mix different types of disinfectants and/or cleaning solutions; some may react with each other and may produce dangerous fumes.

General guidance

  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, focusing on high-touch surfaces.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after cleaning (and always):
    • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
    • Hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) should only be used if soap and water are not available.

Safety guidelines during cleaning and disinfection

  • Cleaning chemicals should only be used by staff trained on the hazards of those cleaning chemicals.
  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting. Wash hands immediately after gloves are removed.
  • Wear eye protection when there is a potential for splash or splatter to the face.
  • Lab coats are recommended to protect personal clothing.
  • Store chemicals in labeled, closed containers. Store them in a manner that prevents tipping or spilling.

Cleaning and disinfection of surfaces

  • Examples of Work Areas (labs, shared core areas, etc.):
    • Benchtops, fume hood and biosafety cabinet sashes and work surfaces, centrifuge lids and bucket caps, waste container lids and handles, etc.
    • Handheld devices (pipettors, pipetman, etc.) and other commonly used items.
    • Shared PPE (laser goggles, safety glasses, etc.).
    • Frequently touched surfaces, such as light switches, door handles, knobs and push plates, refrigerator and freezer handles, equipment touch screens, elevator buttons, etc.
    • Clean electronics according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Examples of Common areas (lunchrooms, offices, etc.):
    • Refrigerator/freezer handles and shelves.
    • Microwave keypad and handle.
    • Sink faucets and surrounding surfaces.
    • Tables and chairs
    • Door handles, knobs, and push plates.
    • Clean electronics according to manufacturer instructions.

Information on Facilities Management’s COVID-19 operational response and custodial services can be found here: