Penn State develops processes to help protect employees during COVID-19 pandemic

April 05, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), in coordination with University Health Services and Human Resources, has implemented new protocols related to COVID-19 to help protect the health of employees whose responsibilities necessitate working on campus during the remote-learning period.

“The health and safety of our students and employees and anyone who visits a Penn State campus is our highest priority,” said Jim Crandall, director of Environmental Health and Safety. “While COVID-19 is a new disease and much remains to be learned about it, University Health Services, Occupational Medicine, and EHS are working together on the University’s Campus Health Preparedness and Response action group to help assess emerging information about coronavirus as it develops. We want to do everything we can to put the right protocols and processes in place, based on the best available knowledge, to reduce the likelihood of exposure and transmission on our campuses.”

Reporting COVID-19 cases

Among these new processes are instructions for supervisors who are responding to reported COVID-19 cases in their work units. The instructions include:

  • Guidance for individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • An online reporting tool for supervisors to communicate COVID-19 cases to the Penn State Emergency Operations Center.
  • Information for supervisors to assess the impact of a reported COVID-19 case on University operations.
  • Protocols for identifying and restricting access to work areas and equipment in close contact with a COVID-19 case, as well as signage to restrict access to work areas potentially impacted by the virus.
  • Instructions for supervisors and employees in close contact with a COVID-19 case, those using shared work areas or equipment, and co-workers or the general public who entered a building with a COVID-19 case but did not come into contact with the impacted individual.

Any employee who develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — including fever, cough and/or shortness of breath — should notify their supervisor and leave work immediately or remain at home. The employee should self-isolate and contact their personal health care provider for a phone assessment or use Penn State Health OnDemand.

In addition to the above steps, there are specific circumstances when employees must contact Penn State Absence Management at or 814-865-1782, including:

  • Immediately upon the employee self-quarantining for 14 days.
  • Immediately upon the employee having any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Employees having close contact with a COVID-19 individual at work or at home.
  • Employees having suspected exposure to COVID-19 and not sure from where.
  • If employees have tested for COVID-19, upon receipt of these results, including positive or negative. If positive, then additional guidance will be provided by Absence Management.

When contacting Absence Management, employees should note “Suspected COVID-19” as the reason for the absence, confirm their work location and supervisor information, provide the date they last worked on campus, and provide the date when they first experienced symptoms.

For full instructions for assessing and reporting COVID-19 cases in the workplace, including information on identifying and notifying contacts and restricting access to impacted work areas, visit

Employee guidance for working on campus

Penn State is aware of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s call for universal masking on Friday, April 3, and is actively evaluating options to meet this call but also reserve critical supplies for our health care providers.

To help reduce the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19, Environmental Health and Safety also has developed the following guidance for employees working on campus:

Maintain social distancing

  • Avoid close contact (maintain distancing of at least six feet) with other individuals, hand-shaking, or gatherings of 10 people or more.
  • Establish a limit of one individual per vehicle. Special arrangements should be put into place if this cannot be accomplished.
  • Avoid sharing tools, phones, desks and other objects in the workplace. If this is unavoidable, work with your supervisor to develop a hard surface cleaning procedure prior to use.
  • Departments that would like to clean their work areas should develop a procedure using the University’s hard surface cleaning guidance.
  • Supervisors should evaluate alternative work arrangements for individuals that need to share workspaces where possible (i.e., rotate individuals coming on campus).

Maintain good personal hygiene

  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
  • Avoid touching your face and eyes with your hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Stay home when you are sick and notify your supervisor.

General workplace health and safety

  • Shared work areas: Maintain social distancing, wash your hands often, and establish cleaning procedures for common touch points with your supervisor.
  • Tasks requiring multiple individuals: Complete task without touching face, cover coughs/sneezes, and immediately wash hands when the task is complete.
  • Working alone: Due to the scarce number of individuals on campus during this unique situation, establish a periodic check-in protocol (recommended minimum every two hours) with your supervisor or designee.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): For employees in the “Lower Exposure Risk” level, additional PPE is not recommended except for what would ordinarily be used as protection against routine hazards.
  • Notify your supervisor, work unit safety officer, or contact EHS directly at if you have any questions or concerns.

For additional information, visit or

Last Updated April 06, 2020