Division Title
Safety

​Common Area Guidance

Meeting Spaces and Conference Rooms

NIH In-Person Meetings

Requirements and recommendations for meetings and events are dependent on the workplace community level at the location where the meeting or event will be held, as well as the number of in-person attendees. Higher community levels and greater in-person attendance increases risk, therefore additional controls and approvals.

 

Meeting/event planners or hosts should complete the “NIH COVID-19 In-Person Meeting/Event Safety Plan” prior to informing participants that the event will be in-person or entering into contractual agreements for the space (if non-government space). This process must be followed whether the event is held in NIH/HHS facilities or non-government facilities. 

 

For information on how to use the form and when it is required to be submitted, please review the chart below and additional information in the NIH COVID-19 Safety Guidance document. Contact the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) or your Safety Specialist if you have any questions. All locations and sites should follow recommendations for community levels. There are no differences in recommendations if you are in a healthcare location.


Community Risk Levels

< 10 participants

11-49 participants

50+ in-person participants

Low

Use recommended by event organizer

Use recommended by event organizer

Submit form to NIH Events Management, with Subject Line IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST 50+ - {NIH IC} – {Meeting Name}

Approval Authority

N/A

N/A

Notification required, but no approval required.

Medium

Use required by event organizer

Use required by event organizer, safety measures to be communicated to participants. DOHS consult available and recommended.

Submit form to NIH Events Management, with Subject Line IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST 50+ - {NIH IC} – {Meeting Name} 

Approval Authority

N/A

N/A

DOHS approval required

High*

In person events are not recommended.

Submit to DOHSwith the subject line: IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST LESS THAN 50

Submit to DOHSwith the subject line: IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST LESS THAN 50

Submit form to NIH Events Management, with Subject Line IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST 50+ - {NIH IC} – {Meeting Name}  

Approval Authority

DOHS approval required

DOHS approval required

DOHS, NIH and HHS approvals required


*If the location moves into the high-risk level, only mission critical in-person events will be approved, and approval must be received from DOHS for meetings of any size. The event planner should have a contingency to move to a virtual-only setting if community levels change to high-risk levels.


NOTE: Any student-led, in-person meeting must receive approval from OITE. Students should email OITE@nih.gov to request permission to lead an in-person meeting.


Reminder: This approval process for 50+ in-person events is separate from the Efficient Spending Policy (ESP). If your event is subject to the ESP, then you should obtain the needed approval(s) at the appropriate ESP threshold levels.

Important items related to the approval process for 50+ in-person attendee events:

  • A sketch or floor plan of the meeting layout (locations of tables, chairs, panels, etc.) with room dimensions, and the proposed agenda and schedule for the event are required to be submitted with this form.
  • Depending on community level, the package will be reviewed and routed by NIH Events Management (e.g., if the community level is "high" it will be routed for review and approval by DOHS, the DDM and the NIH Director (or designee)).
  • NIH Events Management will coordinate all required HHS approvals after the NIH Director (or designee) approves the form.
  • NIH Events Management will contact the event coordinator listed on the form with the final decision at "medium" and "high" community levels.

At All Community Levels

It is highly recommended that you have a hybrid attendance plan in place that will allow virtual attendance of the meeting should community levels unexpectedly spike. Keep in mind when filling out this planner, that you should have a plan for including considerations such as density, distancing, masking and testing, should the community level require these considerations when the meeting takes place.

 

If you have visitors attending your meeting, they should be expected to meet the same standards as any NIH staff attending the meetings, including guidance on masking, distancing, and density. Visitors should be notified of any meeting requirements that are established in the planning of the meeting.

 

Tips for Internal NIH In-Person Meetings

Some groups that will return to the NIH may need to hold in-person meetings. In this case, onsite participation should only include personnel that are approved to be onsite.  Small groups, or groups that have a large space to meet can make in-person meetings safe by following these basic guidelines. 


These helpful tips can assist you in holding a safe in-person meeting.

  1. Keep the groups small, with no unnecessary attendees. Sometimes, when staff are located in multiple areas, the continued use of virtual formats ensures a consistent and inclusive, as well as an optimal safety experience.
  2. Keep the meetings brief.  Limit the time spent gathering to the shortest time needed to accomplish the meeting objectives.  Start and end the meeting on time. If the meeting business is concluded early, end the meeting and minimize socializing.
  3. Know how many people you want to bring together in-person. The number of people that will be in-person will let you know what size limitations of your room. Limit occupancy to current NIH requirements in the Physical Distancing and Onsite Density Requirements portion of the Section titled Additional Personal Safety Guidance. The density limits are determined by  community levels. Plan to have room for 6’ of spacing if required.
  4. Notify all attendees of meeting safety expectations in advance of the meeting.  Remind them of meeting requirements when they arrive at the meeting. This should include expectations on masking, physical distancing, and other behaviors such as expectations regarding eating, drink, or socializing.
  5. If you have more than 50 people attend in-person, you should submit a meeting planner to ORS for awareness, should community levels dictate that your meeting will need DOHS, NIH, and HHS approval. 
  6. Remind personnel of the importance of self-assessment of symptoms. If personnel have any symptoms, no matter how mild, they should not be at work. This is even more important for personnel attending meetings in-person.  
  7. Assess the space you are meeting in. Check the size of your room. The square footage is very important, but not the only factor. Rooms with high ceilings are better than those with low or standard height ceilings. More importantly, make certain your room has good ventilation. If the room you are proposing does not have a supply air vent, it may not be adequate.  
  8. Offer remote call-in options. Meeting in person is great but continue to offer remote participation options in order to reduce the number of people that will be in the room. More options mean fewer people in the space. Fewer people mean lower risk. 
  9. Keep the meetings brief. If your meeting only needs an hour, then keep it to an hour. Should an asymptomatic infected person be in attendance, risk of infection is directly related to the duration of exposure 
  10. When required by community levels, strictly enforce masking and distancing requirements. It is easy to let your mask slip down or to lean into close to whisper something to a colleague. There must be zero tolerance for those behaviors for this to work. . 
  11. Make sure sufficient appropriate disinfectant supplies are available and used before and after the meeting. All touch surfaces should be wiped down, including tables, arm rests on chairs, light switches, shared equipment, and other things touched by attendees so the space is clean for the next user. 

 

Remember, between our high vaccination rates, adherence to safety principles regarding transmission control, and assessment and selection of appropriate locations we can find ways to safely gather for important business.