Researchers return to campus

Whilst the majority of the faculty were getting used to the ‘new norm’ and the delights of working from home, virtual meetings and balancing home life,  a number of laboratories remained open throughout the lockdown undertaking COVID research.  However as the weeks went by the pressure to get back on campus and reopen the laboratories for more researchers was increasing.

The  Return to Campus (RTC) group was formed with a view to reopening buildings to allow research which couldn’t be undertaken at home  to restart and had representation from HR, H&S, EFM, Campus services, Research Services and Faculties in attendance. The group  pulled together the framework  for how departments could reopen, using government guidance  in order to make our areas ‘COVID safe’.

It was agreed our faculty would start with our research laboratories first, this area being impacted the most by the lockdown and so departments started pulling together Risk Assessments to cover  the return and working through checklists in order to open the buildings safely. This required us to work closely with Campus Services and EFM colleagues  in order to ensure buildings were ready for staff and students to return, re-establishing waste collections, cleaning schedules and that it was safe  including testing for legionella as water hadn’t been used for long periods.

Getting everything in place was a mammoth task for departments with staff looking to get paperwork in place alongside ensuring the buildings were ready for the return with signage, new working practices and protocols needing to be put in place and assessing what PPE would be required. The Faculty is grateful to everyone’s hard work in reopening departments and did result  in areas in our Faculty being amongst the first to reopen in the University.

We are by no means back to normal in terms of our on campus activities, social distancing requirements mean that the number of people onsite is reduced and therefore shift working has been put in place  to help facilitate more staff and students being able to return. Permission to be onsite must have been granted by your Department, with Faculty also approving  departmental plans , reviewing and approving work requests and reporting to UEB on activity  on campus.

Things so far seem to be working well,  with more departments looking to see a return to campus over the coming months and as staff come off furlough numbers will continue to increase further. We are monitoring how things are working constantly, keeping an eye on government guidance and changing our practices when necessary.

We have started looking at how we can reopen some areas to allow clinical teaching to our students as well are opening up more of the Faculty to facilitate on site work in offices where it cannot be undertaken at home.

It is strange being  on campus when there are so few people around but is also  great that we are starting to see departments reopening. The University is keen that where possible staff and students continue to work from home and that if required time on campus is reduced to the minimum.  The Faculty is aware of the impact the COVID situation has had on  ours staff and students and are extremely grateful for everyone’s co-operation and hard work throughout.

Written by Kevin Corke, Department Manager, Neuroscience