Returning to Campus Safely

Workforce protection and safety are critical to reopening campus. This page provides guidance to help schools, colleges, and divisions (S/C/D) make effective process and facility-use changes intended to prevent workplace transmission of COVID-19 once they are approved to return to campus.

All S/C/D should implement a safety plan that:

  • Is specific to your workplace
  • Identifies all areas and job tasks with potential exposures to COVID-19
  • Includes control measures to eliminate or reduce exposures

This page is part of the campus Smart Restart. Refer to the campus page for the most updated guidance.

For assistance with risk assessment, safeguards, or hazardous materials management, contact Environment, Health & Safety at 608-265-5000


For facility issues, contact Physical Plant via web request or phone at 608-263-3333

Considerations Before Returning to Work

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

What is the approval process to return to campus?

Please know there is an approval process to return to campus. At this time please submit your request through this form.

What is the phased reopening timeline?

Guidance for the phased reopening of campus will be provided by campus leadership. Employees should not return to campus for work unless instructed to do so. Employees who are able to telecommute should continue to do so until provided further direction.

What public health guidance should we consider before returning?

We are still learning about COVID-19, but do understand it is a respiratory disease spread primarily through respiratory droplets, aerosols, and touching of contaminated surfaces. Infected individuals may be asymptomatic. To prevent the spread, each work unit should:

  • Develop a plan for physical distancing (6 ft apart)
  • Not work alone with hazardous materials
  • Know campus guidance on cloth face coveringsCampus Guidance on Use of Face Coverings
  • Avoid sharing PPE
  • Disinfect high-touch objects
  • Wash hands frequently

What is the COVID-19 training I need to take?

This short training provides an overview of what we know about COVID-19 and how to navigate safely around campus.

Take the training.

What basic infection prevention measures should we implement?

  • Promote frequent and thorough handwashing
  • Encourage employees to stay at home if they are sick
  • Encourage covering coughs and sneezes
  • Discourage sharing phones, computers, desks, offices, and equipment where possible
  • Employees are responsible for cleaning their workspaces

What logistical considerations should I plan for?

Understand there has been considerable disruption to campus operations, staffing, and supply chains. Consider how you may rely on other facilities and operations that may not be on the same schedule as your area.

Please be aware of custodial and maintenance workers in your buildings. Be respectful by maintaining appropriate physical distancing.

Will I be able to get lab supplies easily?

Many lab items are either in short supply or have longer lead times including gases, chemicals, disinfectants, hand sanitizer, and PPE. Plan to schedule smaller deliveries and expect delays.

How can we ensure adequate PPE for planned research?

Make sure to assess your existing supplies and use rate. Consider implementing measures to extend your stock, such as modifying workflows to reduce need.

Allocation of PPE critical to the COVID-19 response is being coordinated through the UW-Madison Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Requests can be placed here.

Start-up Planning

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

What are general building considerations to keep in mind?

  • Know the status of all work units, where they are in the restart process, especially laboratories and shops. Keep FP&M informed to ensure building services are adjusted as needed for occupancy.
  • Do a safety walk-through in your building to verify fire extinguishers, pull stations and emergency egress are not obstructed. Contact Fire & Life Safety for a consult, as needed.
  • Develop a delivery management plan as mail and package delivery schedules may be modified.
  • Ensure access by coordinating with your department.

Why do I need an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan?

This contingency plan will serve to outline your planned actions in the event someone begins to exhibit symptoms of illness or reports a positive COVID-19 test.

Refer to this guide for a sample plan.

What does a Hazard Analysis include?

A Hazard Analysis will guide any mitigation needed specific to your area’s work space. Because not all campus operations and facilities have the same hazards, there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach. There are four primary actions in the Hazard Analysis.

  1. Collect existing information about workplace processes.
  2. Inspect workplace for safety hazards.
  3. Identify potential opportunities for health hazards.
  4. Prioritize hazards for controls based on likelihood and severity.

Use this Hazard Identification and Mitigation template.

What types of hazards can be fixed on the spot?

There may be a number of hazards unrelated to COVID-19, such as housekeeping and tripping, that can be fixed as they are found. Refer to OSHA guidance on identifying common safety hazards.

Implementing Workplace Controls

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

What are workplace controls?

Workplace controls are protection measures that can be put in place following your hazard analysis. The most effective controls, from most to least effective, are engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

What do engineering workplace controls cover?

Engineering workplace controls are those that involve isolating employees from work-related hazards without relying on employee behavior.

What engineering workplace controls should be considered?

Examples of engineering controls include:

  • Installation of drive-through windows at customer service points.
  • Reconfiguration of common areas to limit occupancy.
  • Elimination of reusable kitchen items.
  • Removal of shared appliances and high-touch items like magazines.
  • Spacing out shared equipment if/when congestion occurs.
  • Installation of plexiglass barriers at high-interaction areas like reception desks, customer service, and check-in points.

What engineering controls are being addressed centrally by campus?

Facilities Planning & Management is doing the following centrally across campus:

  • Increasing ventilation rates in work environments.
  • Installing automatic door openers.
  • Maintaining temperature and humidity to reduce the potential of infectious aerosol transmission.

What are administrative workplace controls?

Administrative controls are changes in work policies, procedures, and practices that aim to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard.

What administrative work procedure controls should be considered?

Examples of work procedure controls include:

  • Minimizing contact among employees, clients, and customers by  replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings whenever feasible.
  • Establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce total number of employees in a work space at any given time.
  • Discontinuing non-essential travel to areas with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Developing an emergency communications plan that includes online and cloud-based platforms to address employee concerns.
  • Provide employees with appropriate training on risk factors and protective behaviors.
  • Placement of appropriate signage at building entrances and near high-use spaces that identify safe behaviors.
  • Identify allowable occupancy and post new maximum occupancy in common areas.
  • Secure and monitor inventory of hand sanitizer, wipes, cleaning products, and hand soap.

What administrative safe work practices should be considered?

Examples of safe work practice controls include:

  • Providing resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene.
  • Require regular hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Consider ‘personal touchless tools’ for elevator controls and opening of restroom doors.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning, with a focus on high touch surfaces.
  • Discourage sharing of equipment and tools where feasible.
  • Conduct meetings virtually. If in-person meetings are mandatory, keep to a limit of 10 people and enforce physical distancing.
  • Avoid concurrent use of bench tops/desks/workspaces that face one another.
  • Coordinate with other S/C/Ds and work units to develop a schedule for use of common spaces.

What administrative communications controls should be considered?

Examples of communications controls include:

  • Actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, without fear of reprisal.
  • Promote etiquette for coughing, sneezing, and hand washing.
  • Have frequent conversations with employees about their concerns, understanding some employees may be at higher risks.
  • Include all of your employees in hazard communication around the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • Provide all important information in appropriate language and literacy levels for all employees.

What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face covering guidance should be considered?

While the above-mentioned engineering and administrative controls are considered more effective in minimizing exposure to COVID-19, PPE and face coverings may also be needed.

  • Follow this campus guidance around the use of face coverings.
  • Secure and monitor inventories of PPE.

Are there workplace control measures that are not recommended?

Yes. Due to either efficacy, cost, regulatory requirements, or unintended harmful consequences, the following controls are not recommended:

  • Installation of no-touch soap dispensers.
  • One-way corridors or stairwells.
  • Propping open restroom or laboratory doors.
  • Foot-operated door openers.

First Day Back

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Have there been changes to transportation?

Yes, there have been and will continue to be a number of changes to transportation that coincide with overall campus density. Plan ahead and understand both the limited bus schedule and changes to parking enforcement. Check Madison Metro schedule for bus schedules and operations info and the Transportation Services website for campus updates, including parking availability.

Do I have access to enter my workspace?

Campus buildings have been restricted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to coordinate building access with employees returning to campus is underway. Once approved to return, contact your building manager with any access issues.

What should be inspected on the first day back?

Understanding it has likely been some time since your work area has been operational, check for the following:

  • Dispose of any expired food.
  • Remove shared small appliances.
  • Inspect for any evidence of pests.
  • Let water run for a minute to return normal water flow.
  • Check for evidence of water leaks.
  • Monitor indoor air quality.

Laboratory Start-Up

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

What should be considered before entering the lab?

Please be aware that after a temporary shutdown, the condition of the laboratory may not be as you left it. Here are ways to enter with caution:

  • Stop outside the door and check for any unusual odors that would indicate a chemical release or spill.
  • Turn on the lights and scan the lab space for any immediate concerns.
  • Listen for any local alarms.
  • Enter slowly to see if any materials or equipment have been damaged.

Who do I contact in the event of hazardous or dangerous conditions?

If, at any point in re-entry, you notice either odors, hazardous material spills or any other dangerous conditions contact:

  • Office of Chemical Safety at 608-265-5700
  • Environment, Health & Safety at 608-265-5000
  • Call 911 for any immediate danger to anyone’s life, health or property. Ask to be connected to UWPD dispatch.

What should be considered in the initial walkthrough and restart preparations?

After determining the lab is safe to enter, the following is a checklist to have a safe and productive re-start:

  • Make sure to engage in the process with at least one other person, with physical distancing in mind.
  • Review and update all Occupant Emergency and Evacuation Plans and Laboratory Emergency Cards.
  • Ensure lab has adequate soap and paper towels for hand washing, and disinfectant for cleaning.
  • Verify all emergency equipment is functional and accessible.
  • Check that all utilities such as compressed air and natural gas are operational.
  • Flush all faucets.

Who do I contact if the initial walkthrough presents a concern?

You may discover issues in this phase of re-starting. Here are contacts for common issues you may run into:

  • Request limited quantities of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer through this form.
  • Request a replacement fire extinguisher from Fire & Life Safety.
  • For questions and concerns about mold, contact Environmental and Occupational Health at
  • For damage and losses due to the shut down, report these to Risk Management for potential insurance coverage.

What should I check for with equipment?

Be aware, equipment may have failed during the shut down. The following include considerations when re-starting equipment:

  • Open freezer and refrigerator doors slowly as temperature fluctuations may have caused items to shift.
  • Turn water back on slowly for any equipment connected to water.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions to peer up electrical equipment.
  • Do not use extension cords in attempt to reach power.
  • Verify “Laser in Use” lights, door interlocks and other safety related controls are operational.
  • Verify heat sources do not have any damaged cords before connecting to power sources.

What should I be aware of working with animals?

If you work with animals, you should do the following:

  • Communicate with your vivarium manager prior to restarting any research.
  • Confirm inventory of controlled substances and documentation. Report any missing materials immediately to UWPD at 608-264-2677.
  • Check expiration dates on drugs and other agents to be administered to animals.  Follow campus guidance for disposal and use of expired drugs.

What should I be aware of working with biologicals?

If you work with biologicals, you should do the following:

  • Verify all biosafety cabinets (BSC) are in working order. Turn on blower and run at least 10 minutes before use.
  • Ensure biohazardous waste and sharps containers are available.
  • Ensure disinfectants appropriate for your biological work are available and not expired.

What should I be aware of working with chemicals?

If you are working with chemicals, you should do the following:

  • Ensure all operations that were shut down did not leave a hazardous situation.
  • Verify the fume hood is in working order.
  • Check all chemical containers for damage, leaks, pressure build-up, and missing caps.
  • Ensure you have appropriate chemical disposal containers before beginning work.
  • Check all compressed gas cylinders for leaks and damage.
  • Verify cryogen supply.
  • Review chemical inventory.

What should I be aware of working with radioactive materials?

If you are working with radioactive materials, you should do the following:

  • Reach out to your assigned Radiation Safety contact to notify them of your return.
  • Verify all radiation-producing machines are operating normally.
  • Verify all radiation survey meters are working and have been calibrated in the last year.
  • Perform the same routine monthly wipe test survey of the lab before beginning work.
  • Perform a radioactive material inventory check.
  • Contact the Office of Radiation Safety at to request assistance or report issues.