Division Title
Safety

Executive Summary

Locations identified as healthcare settings or healthcare support activities will continue to operate under the NIH COVID-19 Safety Plan. Additionally, during periods of “High" Workplace Community Level the NIH will also adopt these practices for all operations at affected locations. 

During Low and Medium Workplace Community Levels, elements of the COVID-19 Safety Plan may still be valuable and personnel should consult those sections for guidance on certain mandatory elements described for those levels.  Additionally, when operating at low or medium levels, personnel choosing to adopt some practices (e.g. masking, social distancing, density, etc.) voluntarily will find useful information in the relevant sections of this plan.

This site will address COVID-19 safety topics in detail, as well as provide a framework for safe return to work guidance. The site includes information on a safe return to the physical workplace, universal workplace expectations, travel and meeting guidance, testing and vaccination information, and staff wellness. Additionally, you may view the appendices for definitions, illustrations, and background information that contributed to the requirements laid out in this site.


Appendix IX of this document includes a Code of Conduct. This attestation form establishes that the employee and supervisor have discussed the expectations for working at the NIH during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Code of Conduct should be signed after the supervisor and employee review it together.

NIH Basic Principles for at High Community Level during COVID-19

The basic principles that the NIH will follow are:

Risk Assessment

The risk of exposure is determined by a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the infectious dose and transmissibility and virulence of the viral variant, the size of the space, the vaccination rates of staff, the ventilation and air filtration in buildings, the use of protective equipment, the duration of exposure, and the number of personnel present. Host factors such as whether the individual is immunocompromised, has a condition that places them at high risk for a poor outcome if infected, and whether or not they live or work closely with immunocompromised or high-risk individuals are also considered. The NIH will make informed decisions that reduce risk based on this knowledge.

Vaccinations

Vaccines are highly effective and have greatly reduced the threat of COVID-19. Maintaining high vaccination rates among NIH employees and contractors is fundamental to minimizing workplace transmission of the virus and reducing the severity of infections.>

Symptom Self-monitoring and COVID-19 Testing Programs

Each of us knows our physical health better than anyone else. NIH staff experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms must stay home (or leave immediately if at work). Notify your supervisor to discuss options for leave or telework. Routine surveillance (e.g., asymptomatic) testing is also an important tool to detect asymptomatic infection and ensure safety of staff.

Masking

Use of surgical masks and N95 respirators reduces the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They serve as source control, reducing the potential to infect others. N95s, and to a lesser extent surgical masks and face coverings, can also provide protection from infection if exposed to SARS-CoV-2 positive personnel.

Physical Distancing

Occupancy must be limited as identified in the Physical Distancing and Onsite Density Requirements portion of the Section titled Additional Personal Safety Guidance.  NIH staff must also maintain 6 feet of physical distancing from others whenever possible. When 6 feet of physical distancing is not possible other measures must be implemented, including minimizing time in close proximity to others, enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE), and increased screening practices. 

Workplace Flexibility

Maximizing the use of telework, leave options, and other administrative controls can greatly reduce workplace exposure by minimizing contact with others that may be infected. The NIH staff has demonstrated remarkable resilience and the ability to perform exceptional science and provide the highest customer service despite being forced to remotely work. Using the tools we have refined (including virtual meetings) will allow us to continue to adjust to conditions that can quickly change.

Applicability

This site applies to all NIH healthcare facilities, healthcare support activities, and locations operating in a county identified at a “High" Workplace Community Level. However, the NIH recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach is not sustainable, and that risk assessments and local conditions may require customized solutions to the challenges of each location. Rather than prescriptive solutions, this site establishes baseline expectations. Where modifications from these baseline expectations is necessary, the changes should be thoroughly documented and supported by a risk assessment conducted by the supervisor, in consultation with the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) and approved by the Institute/Center/Office (ICO) leadership.

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