Ramp Up Guidance for Research Labs

(COVID-19 Partial Shutdown)


If you have an emergency, contact NMT Police at 575-835-5555, or 911 from a campus phone. The NMT Police department non-emergency number is 575-835-5011, or “0” from a campus phone. For HAZMAT or Laboratory safety concerns you cannot handle on your own, contact hazmat@nmt.edu, 575-835-5842 or 575-517-7067. After handling a safety concern yourself, document and report the matter to HAZMAT.

Do not expect to be able to pick up where you left off or work in your lab full days.

Cover everything in this document before beginning any lab work. Prior to re-entering your lab ensure you have all your social distancing practices, including work schedules, laid out for your lab, and any other rooms you need to share (break room, bathroom, shared lab, etc.).

Have a disinfection plan for multi personnel use areas posted at the entrance to the room and near each spot that is covered by the plan. All areas should, at a minimum, be disinfected before and after each use (see NMT disinfection guidance).

Fill out the checklists associated with this document, save them in your lab safety binder, and send a copy to HAZMAT.

First Time Entering the Lab

Do not enter the lab if there is no power in the building. Use extreme caution when entering a lab that has not been in use for an extended period of time.

If there is a window in your lab door use it look for any issues that may have occurred during your absence. Disinfect the door handle.

Cautiously enter the room, wash your hands, put on your safety glasses, gloves, and lab coat, and go around the lab looking for signs of problems that may have occurred during your absence. Check equipment such as fume hoods, refrigerators and biosafety cabinets for signs of power failure. Label and place any chemicals that may have been affected by a failure in your satellite accumulation area for pick up and disposal. All peroxides and peroxide formers must be tested or discarded.

Most labs have chemicals and/or equipment that may have created a hazard during your absence.

Contact HAZMAT with any safety concerns. If you have an emergency safety situation, leave the room, notify anyone in the building who might be affected and contact Campus Police. Campus police will call HAZMAT.

Report any situations you are able to handle to HAZMAT after handling them.

Check the integrity of your chemical containers and look for spills inside chemical cabinets. Go over your chemical and equipment inventories to ensure nothing is missing.  If you are missing anything, notify Campus Police and HAZMAT. Now is a great time to request pickup of any expired or unneeded chemicals or equipment.

If you have gas cylinders that were not capped prior to leaving the lab, cap them until you are ready to start using them.

Flush out your eye wash station and safety shower. If they have not been tested for over a week, the water in them is stagnant. Return to your weekly schedule of testing your safety shower and eyewash.

Check for any equipment that was left running during your absence. Do not use any equipment that has an alarm sounding. If the alarm indicates you are in the presence of danger leave the room and notify Campus Police of the situation. Campus Police will notify HAZMAT. Provide your contact information for additional information collection.

If you do not notice any safety concerns, resume any routine cleanup or equipment maintenance.

Document all the steps above using the checklists provided, and save them in your lab safety binder, and send a copy to HAZMAT.

Returning to Work

Plan for the possibility of working partial days to facilitate social distancing, and disinfect the lab following your lab’s disinfection protocol. If more than one person will be working in the lab at any time, create protocols to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times, but keep the number of people in the lab to a minimum using rotations.

Do not come to work sick.

Make sure there is sufficient disinfectant to work safely.

Before starting an experiment, make sure you have enough PPE on hand to finish. Some PPE is hard to obtain and you may not be able to get more.

When wearing a face covering, make sure to follow appropriate guidelines for use. Also, be sure that the material will not cause an additional safety hazard (e.g. synthetic fabrics while working with heat sources or flammables).

Make sure your chemical/equipment inventory is sufficient prior to starting an experiment, as it may be difficult to get more in a timely manner.

Prior to restarting equipment, read the user manual and SOP to ensure you are starting it up correctly.

Refer to your lab’s disinfection plan for entering and leaving labs/rooms, washing hands, PPE use, etc.

Review startup procedures and safety guidelines for gas cylinders prior to using them.

You may have more unattended operations than usual. Make sure your unattended operations policy is up to date.

If, due to social distancing requirements, lab personnel will be handling additional experiments or parts of experiments they do not normally deal with ensure they are properly trained prior to performing their new duties.

Keep a log of who is working in the lab at what times. Update all personnel contact information, and emergency contact information.

Keep a log of anyone who does not work in your lab coming into the lab for any reason.

Monitor and follow the disinfection protocol for your areas. This includes areas of multi-personnel access, like break rooms and shared labs.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. Avoid touching your face.

Building Guidelines

Department Chairs, and department safety officers should create and implement social distancing requirements (NM Public Health Order 6-1-2020 (PDF)) for common areas (more than one person). Buildings housing more than one department should collaborate between all departments with access to that building, including custodial staff.

Examples of areas to address to comply with NM State requirements on social distancing (NM Public Health Order 6-1-2020 (PDF)):


Post signs for guidance and reminders. For assistance with creating signs, contact HAZMAT at hazmat@nmt.edu or 575-835-5842.