Employee Working on Campus – Health and Safety Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Do I need an N95 respirator to perform my daily tasks?

If your daily tasks did not previously require the use of a N95 respirator as protection for your routine work, then you do not need one.

2. What if I want to obtain an N95 respirator even if it isn’t required?

Unfortunately, due to the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) associated with the pandemic, supplier distribution of critical COVID-19 PPE is being prioritized for health care providers and first responders. However, per the governor’s guidance, Penn State is providing all employees whose responsibilities necessitate working on campus with cloth masks.

3. Do I need gloves to perform my daily tasks?

If your daily tasks did not previously require the use of gloves as protection during your routine work or were not defined by unit procedures, then you do not need them.  The best preventive measure for on-campus employees remains frequent hand-washing.  After performing the necessary work tasks, don’t touch your face and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

4. How will I know if someone on campus has been infected with the COVID-19 virus?

Penn State Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), in coordination with University Health Services and Human Resources, has developed reporting protocols related to COVID-19 cases (suspected or confirmed) on Penn State campuses. Supervisors working with facility coordinators will identify and restrict access to affected locations based on a risk assessment approach. Those areas deemed restricted entry will be marked with signage alerting employees. Supervisors will need to assess if other employees in the area came into “close contact” or “shared contact" with the suspected COVID-19 case. If employees have come into “close contact” or “shared contact” with the ill individual, those employees will be notified, per the instructions for supervisors who are responding to reported COVID-19 cases.

5. What should I do to protect myself when entering buildings – touching door handles, light switches, handrails, elevator buttons, faucets, etc.?

High-traffic areas within buildings are having frequently touched surfaces like restrooms, handrails and door handles disinfected routinely, using an EPA-approved disinfectant, following enhanced cleaning protocols that are in place. 

The best preventive measure for on-campus employees remains frequent hand-washing.  After entering a building to perform the necessary tasks, don’t touch your face, and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds periodically while working in the building.

6. Some tasks require co-workers to be within the recommended 6-foot social distancing; how can we maintain our protection?

If the task must be completed, do so without touching your face, wear a cloth mask, and immediately wash your hands when the task is complete. For tasks that will require substantial time to complete (more than one hour), work with your supervisor to discuss the best approach and take breaks to wash your hands.

7. How does my work unit get hard surface cleaning products from the University?

Contact your academic/work unit safety officer, supervisor or facility representative to obtain the necessary cleaning supplies. All product labeling/use instructions should be followed when using any type of hard surface cleaner – overuse is not necessary and can waste limited resources. Cleaning solutions are available and individual spray bottles should be reused.

8. Should we clean shared workspaces on a more frequent basis than daily?

As long as social distancing can be maintained and employees are not using the same workstations or equipment, it is not necessary to clean these areas more frequently.
If employees throughout the workday are required to utilize the same workstations or equipment to perform their functions, then work areas should be cleaned more frequently and in between users. Review the proper cleaning schedule, supplies and procedure with your supervisor.

9. Is it safe to be on campus outdoors, if social distancing is followed?

Although we are still learning how the virus spreads, employees required to be on-campus due to their job task should follow social distancing and preventive measures anywhere on campus.

10. Should University vehicles be disinfected on a regular basis?

Due to the limited number of employees on our campuses, vehicles should be dedicated to single employee use. In situations where that is not possible, the high-contact surfaces should be cleaned using the University’s hard surface cleaning guidance.

11. How do I know if a co-worker might be infected even if they are not expressing signs of being sick?

According to the CDC, people may be able to spread the virus even if they are not showing any symptoms, therefore, please follow the preventive measures recommended by the University at all times while on campus. These include maintaining social distancing, washing your hands often, wearing a cloth mask, and establishing cleaning procedures for common touch points with your supervisor.

12. Should I be wearing a cloth/general mask while on campus?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, all should be using some type of covering. The University will provide cloth masks to employees whose responsibilities necessitate working on campus in accordance with the guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In addition, please refer to the University’s cloth mask guidance document for proper use and care.

If you have access to cloth masks from home, they must meet the guidance outlined by the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health for cloth face coverings.

13. Does OPP recommend setting occupancy limits for elevators across the University?

OPP does not recommend setting occupancy limits for elevators. Since the University is instituting universal masking and the typical elevator ride has very limited duration the risk of multiple individuals in the same elevator cab is low. Elevators must remain available for ADA-compliant access, so we would encourage individuals who can use the stairs to do so. OPP is making programming changes to some of our elevators to park cars with the doors open. This will reduce button pushes and increase air circulating in the car.

14. Do we need to limit occupancy in bathrooms?

OPP does not recommend limiting occupancy in bathrooms. Since the University is instituting universal masking and encouraging social distancing, the limited time spent in restroom facilities as well as the higher air change rates in bathroom spaces constitute a low risk.  In addition, we want to avoid queueing or congregating outside of restrooms as people wait which carries its own social distancing issues.

15. When will the hand sanitization stations be delivered to our building?

The units are scheduled for delivery to campus on August 14, 2020.  OPP has developed a strategy for delivering these beginning this week and will complete no later than August 24, 2020.  Commonwealth Campuses are already beginning to receive these units.

16. If our admin. unit would like additional sanitizer stations, is it okay to install wall mounted stations?

No. When placing hand sanitizer stations, do not install on walls.  This will cause damage to building materials and unnecessary costs during removal.  Floor stands are either being provided centrally or can be ordered.  This applies to stations provided centrally and those purchased by work units.

17. When will sanitation wipes be available in General Purpose Classrooms, Departmental Classrooms and Public Computer Labs that are being provided by OPP?

Distribution will begin the week of August 17, 2020

18. Will we be able to use our water fountains for bottle filling purposes?

Yes.  Water fountains are not being disabled or taken out of service, except where needed for maintenance purposes.  In many locations, touchless bottle filling stations are available for filling water bottles and may be preferable to use, but water fountains are usable also.  Washing hands or using hand sanitizer after touching any high touch surface like a water fountain button is recommended.  OPP will be installing signs in E&G buildings with tips about the safe use of water fountains and bottle fill stations.

19. Do I need approval to erect a tent on campus?

OPP must approve all temporary outdoor structures. To obtain approval for erecting a tent on campus, or any other outdoor structure, submit a request in 25Live for the resource called “Temporary Structure Approval - Tent etc.”. Include details – start/end dates, location, structure details, vendor, etc. This request will trigger the necessary OPP approvals.

20. Does COVID-19 spread through a buildings mechanical systems?

Based on numerous studies, we do not believe that the virus can be effectively transmitted through a building’s central mechanical system.

Multiple studies have identified that, while transmission is theoretically possible, the risk of transmission seems improbable.  Taylor Engineering, a private engineering firm, performed a review of more than 80 research reports (https://taylorengineers.com/taylor-engineering-covid-19-whitepaper) and concluded that none of the studies demonstrated transmission through central air handling systems. Despite this evidence, there is not enough information to conclusively state that the virus cannot be transmitted through heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Out of an abundance of caution, the University is following a multi-pronged approach consistent with all applicable Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, as well as ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineers) guidance to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

21. Should I be concerned about the number of air changes per hours in the space I'm occupying?

OPP has been working very hard to evaluate ventilation systems in all University facilities across the Commonwealth and bring them in line with the latest recommendations from ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineers).  These efforts are centered around items such as upgrading filters, increasing the amount of outside air we bring into a building, operating systems 24 hours per day and instituting purge cycles for high occupancy spaces.  These modifications to building systems are just one part of a multi-pronged strategy to reduce the risk for building occupants.   Regardless of ventilation and air change rates in spaces, the most effective means to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transfer is wearing a facemask, maintaining social distance, and practicing good hygiene. 

Emergency Contacts
  • Emergency (Police-Fire-Ambulance): 911
  • University Police: 814-863-1111
  • University Health Services: 814-865-6556
  • Environmental Health and Safety: 814-865-6391
  • Physical Plant Work Reception Center: 814-865-4731