Guidelines for Designating Trainees as Performing Essential Lab Activities During COVID-19 Restrictions

Post-doctoral and pre-doctoral trainees can be designated as performing essential research activities (including essential maintenance) on campus—subject to some additional requirements described below:

  1. When a trainee is proposed as essential personnel, they should be consulted by the faculty advisor and also by someone the school not involved in the research to determine whether the trainee is doing this willingly.
  2. Specific tasks that are part of these essential duties should be documented and trainees should perform only these activities while on campus.
  3. The following information should be requested from the faculty and/or trainee:
  • The frequency (days/week) and duration (minutes or hours/day) of the trainees' time on campus.
  • A description of how the trainee will travel to and from campus.  
  • Does the trainee fall into any of the CDC-defined high risk groups, including immunocompromised, diabetic, and asthmatic? (Obviously we should not ask which category applies and trainees may decline to provide this information altogether.)
  • What is the backup plan if the trainee cannot perform these essential activities?
  1. With this information, requests to designate trainees as having essential duties should be given extra scrutiny at the school level, especially for pre-doctoral trainees. 
  2. All personnel designated as essential should be directed to the Safety Guidelines for Essential Research Personnel that includes information about safety and wellness. They should affirm in some manner that they have read the information there.
  3. Trainees designated as essential should be provided with information on whom to consult with concerns about these requests. In most cases this will be initially the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies or the School Ombudsperson. They should also be told that they can appeal to the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies. Additionally, anyone can complete an anonymous feedback form to share any concerns about this process including being designated to perform essential research activities. Responses will be read by the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and will be kept anonymous. 

Trainees can express concerns with workplace safety via the Environmental Health and Safety Concern Reporting Form or by phone at 412-624-9505.