The work you perform is essential, and returning to the lab during the COVID-19 era poses several challenges. When you work with a safety-first mindset during your workday and follow the lab and local government regulatory guidelines, you may continue to carry out your essential duties while posing little risk to yourself and those around you. Here are some tips on how to smoothly transition back to work in the lab.
Before returning to the lab
As advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all labs should perform a risk assessment to determine the best way to navigate a safe return back to on-site work. A significant component of a safe-working protocol involves having a clear plan in place before you entertain a partial or full return to lab work. The first and most crucial factor to consider is ensuring all aspects of your team's return to the lab comply with institutional and local COVID-19 requirements. Familiarize yourself with the latest federal and state regulations as well as any public health requirements and how they may affect your ability to return to work safely. Also consider identifying a point person or team responsible for the coordination, implementation, and enforcement of new policies related to changes in the work environment during this phase.
Considerations for returning to the lab
COVID-19 return-to-work plans are taking shape across the country. Although lab safety has always been a priority, there are now additional considerations and new procedures employees will need to implement once they return to the lab during the pandemic.
Personal hygiene considerations:
- Use the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) as designated by your lab's protocols. Wear an appropriate face mask or face shield to protect yourself and others, especially when physical distancing of 6 feet or more cannot be maintained.
- Adhere to strict hygiene protocols at all times. Wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
- Maintain your PPE stock and ensure enough supplies are ordered to last until a new order is received.
- Arrange the lab in such a way that it allows for appropriate physical distancing when using shared equipment.
- Make cleaning agents such as IPA, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes available and easily accessible.
- Develop a cleaning and sanitization routine with your colleagues to ensure regular treatment of shared spaces throughout the lab.
- Clean shared lab equipment before and after each use.
- Check all reagents and specimens for expiration and functionality and discard any expired or compromised items safely. Promptly make a list and reorder supplies to avoid long delays in critical items that may be on backorder.
- Check and recalibrate instruments where needed and reschedule any necessary routine equipment services that may have been missed during access restrictions.
- Plan and prioritize the day's lab activities based on the availability or arrival of new supplies and when required equipment services are expected to be completed.
- Perform safety checks on fire extinguishers and hazardous exposure stations to ensure they are clean and working.
- Review and implement COVID-19 policy changes as they evolve and take part in the required training that is provided.
- Use your time efficiently, performing only critical lab-related work on-site and prioritizing essential tasks first.
- Follow any established protocols relating to staggered breaks and work shifts.
- Limit in-person interactions with individuals from outside the lab, such as vendors and delivery staff.
- Continue to take part in training, seminars, and other events virtually.
The bottom line
As your team is returning to work in the lab, be sure to proceed in a safe manner to protect yourself and those around you. The best way to accomplish this is by performing a COVID-19 risk assessment for your lab and implementing a return-to-work plan that is tailored to your lab's specific needs.
It is more important than ever to be efficient with time spent in the lab. We are supporting our clients by providing ready-to-use biologic products and contract manufacturing services to support the innovative experiments necessary to develop their programs. Consider all areas of work in the lab and outsourcing tasks as appropriate to best leverage your team's time to focus on highest-value activities.
Does your team need support with pDNA, mRNA, or enzyme preparations? Contact us. Aldevron can help, so you can focus on your priority return-to-work activities in the lab.