June 9: Return to Campus: Safety

COVID-19 Return to Campus Guidance and Checklists [PDF - 700kB]

To: Dalhousie faculty and staff

From:  Frank Harvey, Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic
Ian Nason, Vice-President Finance and Administration

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Re: Return to Campus protocols: Resources and info for employees

As public health restrictions due to COVID-19 begin to ease, Dalhousie is working to ensure a safe, gradual return to on-campus activity. Safety is our highest priority.

While the majority of instruction this fall will take place online, other university functions and services are expected to begin a gradual return to in-person operations (academic, research, staff, service) in a phased approach over the coming months. This will be done in full adherence with provincial health directives.

Dalhousie is a large, complex organization with many different roles, responsibilities and functions. All of us must do our part to ensure the continued health and well-being of everyone who works at, studies on, or is a visitor to our campuses. This means adhering to health protocols established by our Environmental Health and Safety office in alignment with provincial health directives.

We have recently communicated details on our Return to Campus protocols with unit leaders to share with their faculty and staff, as well as with Principal Investigators with respect to research operations. Below is a summary of what’s been shared and new resources for our community to assist in this process.

Phased approach

Some front-line workers have remained on campus during this pandemic, and we thank and appreciate their collective efforts. As we begin to return more of our community to campus, this process will take place in phases.

The first phase, tentatively set to begin after July 2, 2020, will consist only of individuals required to work on campus to ensure continued operations of their units or research spaces, and who can do so safely. If your position is scheduled to return to campus in the first phase, you will be notified by your leader in advance.

The majority of faculty and staff will continue to work remotely at this time. Leaders in departments, units and research Principal Investigators have been asked to carefully assess who is required to work on campus. For planning purposes, a maximum of 25% of our collective, university-wide personnel will be permitted to return to campus in this first phase, but we expect the actual percentage to end up lower than this maximum. Requests for on-campus attendance will be evaluated by a cross-functional Return To Campus (RTC) committee to ensure alignment and adherence to protocols. The majority of campus buildings will continue to be closed except to those permitted to return, and with electronic access control cards.

We envision future phases to allow more of our community to return gradually, along with a broader opening of more campus services and spaces. The timing and scope of these future phases are still in the planning stages and will be determined largely by the evolving public health situation as well as the availability and careful allocation of essential university resources such as custodial staff and limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and protective barriers.

Our employees’ well-being is our priority in this planning, including mental health and other safety concerns. This includes employees who would not otherwise be required to return to campus in July but who, for health or safety reasons, require an accommodation permitting them to do so. If you or a team member are seeking such an accommodation, please contact Órla McDevitt, Director, Accessible Employment, Human Resources at orla.mcdevitt@dal.ca.

Current health and safety guidelines

Below is a summary of health and safety guidelines for phase one of Dal’s Return to Campus planning, to be effective July 2, 2020 at the earliest. The full guidelines, prepared by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, can be reviewed at the Return to Campus Safety Tools and Resources page (login required). Unit, department leaders and Principal Investigators are accountable for adherence to these guidelines.

  • Only those required to work on campus should do so. The majority of our Dalhousie community will continue to conduct their work remotely. Leaders are to give special consideration and accommodations to those who express concerns with returning to campus.

  • Physical distancing must be maintained. Each active workspace should have a physical distancing plan to address unique needs and circumstances. A minimum distance of 2 m (6 ft) between people should be maintained, and in-person group meetings are to be avoided where possible. When in-person meetings cannot be avoided, physical distancing protocol must be met. Physical barriers should be used in cases where physical distance cannot be easily maintained.

  • Each unit should have a unique safety plan for their needs, in alignment with the overall Safety guidelines. Frequent hand-washing is to be emphasized. Alternative work schedules, staggered breaks or other means to minimize the number of people sharing the same area should be considered. Signage and posters are encouraged and are available on the Return to Campus Safety Tools and Resources page.

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is not required if physical distancing can be maintained. In situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained, and barriers prove impractical, PPE of an appropriate grade will be available. Appropriate PPE for non-COVID-19 related hazards (ie. chemical hazards, particulate hazards, biological/radiological hazards, etc.) are still required to complete these tasks.

  • Anyone who wishes to wear non-medical face coverings is welcome do so, following proper use guidelines, provided these masks do not pose additional risks based on the tasks being completed.

  • Enhanced cleaning protocols will be in place. In areas serviced by Custodial Services, there will be a minimum of twice-daily cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common building areas (doorknobs, light switches, handrails, bathrooms, etc.). Individual units should increase local cleaning on shared equipment (photocopiers, phones, desks, lab tools, etc.).

  • Employees who show symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and self-isolate. If an employee shows signs or symptoms of COVID-19, they are to follow the current guidance from Public Health, refrain from travelling to campus, and notify their manager or supervisor. In the event of a reported suspected/positive COVID-19 case, Dalhousie will follow Public Health guidance in taking all necessary steps and operational decisions to minimize the potential spread.

Return to Academic Programs

As noted in President Saini's memo from May 20, the fall term will be predominantly online, with very limited exceptions tied to accredited professional programs that specifically require in-person delivery (e.g., Medicine, Dentistry, select Health professions, and the Veterinary Technology program in the Faculty of Agriculture). Other accredited programs in Engineering, Architecture, Planning and Management are moving forward with online-only delivery formats and developing innovative ways to meet their respective learning experiences, designed activities and group interactions. Full in-person, on-campus courses are currently scheduled to resume in January 2021 pending Provincial health and safety guidelines. Please contact the Faculty's Associate Dean Academic for any details on specific courses. Further communication on academic programming will follow shortly from the Office of the Provost and VP Academic.

Some faculty members have expressed a need to access space on campus to record lectures and lab demonstrations prior to September. We are actively working to respond to this need and expect to have select on-campus spaces and equipment available for such recordings by July. Further information, including instructions on booking spaces, will be forthcoming.

Return to Research

For guidelines on the Return to Research protocols, please review the May 22 memo to Principal Investigators from Vice-President Research and Innovation Alice Aiken. There is also a new video available summarizing the protocols, which you can review here.


  • Please visit our new Return to Campus Safety: Tools and Resources page (login required) which has resources for faculty, staff, unit leaders and researchers. Please bookmark this page, as more information will be added in the future.

  • Training and support: Virtual training resources for departments and service units have been prepared by the Environmental Health and Safety office and can be reviewed here.

  • Signage for your unit: Review and download standardized COVID-19 safety signage for your office, lab or workspace here.

Where should I go if I have questions?

Specific questions should be addressed first to your unit leader/department head. Faculty members should contact their Faculty's Associate Dean Academic with questions about fall academic programming. Researchers are encouraged to consult with their Faculty’s Associate Dean of Research.

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Human Resources and Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation are available to address questions and concerns as they emerge.

We appreciate everyone’s support as we continue to make progress on our plans for the fall. Thank you for all your efforts. Be well. Stay well.


Frank Harvey
Acting Provost and Vice-President Academic

Ian Nason
Vice-President Finance and Administration