Education Programs & Training Courses

Laboratory Teaching Guidelines

The guidelines for laboratory-based teaching at the Marine Biological Laboratory are outlined below. It reflects the growing understanding of best practices for mitigating the risk of spreading SARS-CoV-2 in environments where proper hygiene, social distancing, and mask wearing protocols are strictly followed. In order to accommodate these conditions there will be reduced density in MBL programs with the primary focus of minimizing potential COVID-related risk to the MBL community. Courses must adjust plans to conform with the social distancing and mask requirements in the laboratory.

The MBL continues to follow the “Sector Specific Workplace Safety Standards for Laboratories to Address COVID-19” issued by the state March 22, 2021. Changes in local or state regulations may affect these guidelines with little or no advance warning.

The MBL will administer a COVID-19 Testing Program for all course participants living in MBL housing. See MBL Testing and Contact Tracing Program for additional details. Note there are accommodations in place for isolation housing if needed.

Vaccination status, a prior positive test or prior diagnosis of COVID-19 of any individual has no bearing on any requirements in this policy.

General Guidelines

  • Universal mask use, maintaining physical distance, safety training, frequent hand washing, and disinfecting of surfaces are a critical part of maintaining a safe working environment. Administrative meetings between course personnel and MBL personnel should continue to take place remotely, when possible, even when all participants are on the MBL campus.
  • Course orientations are mandatory for all course participants including directors, students, managers and assistants.
  • Each CD must have an approved Return to Laboratory Teaching Plan (RLTP – see sidebar for docs) that addresses safety and physical distancing and commits CDs to monitor and evaluate safe behaviors in the lab. Plans will be evaluated by the Director of Education and will receive final approval by the Director of the MBL.
  • CDs must notify the MBL’s Laboratory Operations Manager, Maia Theophanis, at a minimum of three days in advance of any visitors to your course to ensure appropriate time for registration and COVID training. In addition, CDs must follow the guidance for inviting Vendors or Contractors if they invite vendors or technicians to install or service equipment. Compliance with the MBL COVID-19 health requirements and guidelines is the responsibility of the CD. Program participants who have not completed training and attestation may not enter any MBL building. Anyone entering MBL facilities is responsible for conducting a daily health screening.
  • Prior to commencing the course all labs will be stocked with an initial supply of disposable masks and 70% ethanol solutions for disinfecting. Additional PPE will be available from the MBL Stockroom. Disposable surgical masks must be worn when hazardous materials are being used in the laboratories. If you would also like a hydrogen peroxide based disinfectant then you must specifically request those supplies from Jessica Berrios, Environmental Services department (EVS) Supervisor.
  • All CDs and staff (e.g., course managers, course assistants and research facilitators) must complete the online Safety Training as part of the onboarding process. If applicable, Laser, Biological, Radiation, or Select Agent training must be completed. This must be arranged through the MBL’s Safety Office at safety@mbl.edu.
  • Elevator use is restricted to one individual at a time. As such, individuals are encouraged to use the stairwells. As a reminder, there are three stairways in the Loeb Laboratory: the central stairwell as well as stairwells in each wing. Making use of all three stairwells will help to reduce congestion.
  • As per state guidelines, cleaning logs describing the disinfecting protocol must be maintained for each room. For shared equipment rooms, it is critical that they be completed after each user. Cleaning logs for the main labs will be filled out daily by the CD or designee. Individuals are responsible for cleaning their own workstations (no log necessary). Cleaning logs should be returned to the Lab Operations office as sheets fill or at the course end, whichever comes first.
  • Daily building inspections will be completed by the MBL Safety Office to verify compliance with MBL policies including appropriate density, PPE usage, physical distancing, and maintenance of cleaning logs. These checks may happen at any time, including outside of the regular workday. Failure to adhere to the MBL COVID policies and to the relevant RLTP can result in termination of access to the campus or closing of labs. Should any specific concerns arise, the CDs will be notified immediately to make any necessary changes.
  • Meeting spaces, tents and conference rooms will be pre-booked for the courses. Any additional space requests should be sent to education@mbl.edu. Designated break rooms cannot be used for meetings or social gatherings. Posted guidelines including capacity limits for each space must be followed.
  • It is essential that anyone displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 remain in their assigned housing residence. CDs will serve as the point of contact for all faculty, students, course assistants, and research facilitators. If CDs are aware of someone displaying symptoms, they will alert MBL’s Human Resources Department at hr@mbl.edu to request a meeting. It is important to note that no identifying information should be submitted in writing. An individual’s presence in teaching spaces is an attestation that they are asymptomatic. More information can be found in the MBL’s Guide for Addressing Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 Exposures.
  • No minors are permitted in teaching laboratories.

Accessing the MBL Campus

All buildings on the MBL campus are locked and require an active MBL ID card for entry. An individual’s MBL ID card is for their use only and enables access to doors according to their campus program. ID cards must not be shared or loaned for any reason. All MBL ID cards are inactive until the program participant completes the MBL COVID-19 Safety Training and Attestation.

All Advanced Research Training Course participants must complete a registration form or a student accept form prior to arriving on campus. Two weeks prior to arrival, each approved registrant will be sent a link to complete the online MBL COVID-19 Safety Training and Attestation which must be completed in order to receive an MBL ID card. MBL ID cards will generally be activated within 24 hours of completing the training and attestation.

At check in all course participants must present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours or proof of full vaccination status.

Social Distancing Considerations for Laboratory Space

Social distancing is the combination of distance, activity, direction, and time. The MBL follows the CDC and state definition of close contact, which is currently defined as 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes cumulative over a 24-hour period. This definition is subject to change based on state and federal guidelines.

Transient use of space is a low exposure risk given that all individuals are wearing masks, however individuals should walk with purpose through shared areas or when passing another person’s workstation. Shared equipment should be located at a distance from individual work areas and should be used sequentially whenever practical. Equipment that will be shared between courses must have a sign-up sheet.

Teaching often requires individuals to work in close contact (e.g., working within 6 feet at microscopes, injection rigs, dissection stations). To accommodate these conditions, face shields must be worn by both individuals in addition to double face masks. If a situation arises in which one individual cannot use a face shield for practical purposes (for example while looking in a microscope), that time should be kept to a minimum. CDs should justify the need for close contact within their RLTP. Note that any close contact with an individual who tests positive will result in mandatory quarantine regardless of PPE employed.

Designation of Laboratory Space

A Return to Laboratory Teaching Plan (RTLP) must be completed by each course. Please plan on submitting a complete form at least two weeks prior to the start of the course so that it can be reviewed and approved by the Director of Education and the Director of the MBL. However, as soon as possible, feel free to communicate with the Lab Operations team while considering best usage of the space and any other issues that may arise.

  1. Masks must be worn at all times in all rooms regardless of time of day or current occupancy, with the exception of single office use.
  2. Disposable surgical masks must be worn when hazardous materials are being used in the laboratories and should be switched to either a cloth or a new disposable mask after leaving the laboratory.
  3. Designation of room usage – as single-user, multiple-user, general use, or closed as described below:
    • a) Rooms/offices designated as single user:
      1. must be clearly labeled.
      2. only one named individual allowed in the space.
    • b) Rooms designated as multiple user space (e.g., large laboratory teaching spaces):
      1. each individual will be assigned a workstation (where they spend most of labstheir time) with a diameter of at least 6 feet. Workstations may not include tall objects that restrict air flow such as full-size incubators or freezers. Workstations will be marked with tape to create clear boundaries.
      2. In consultation with CDs, workstations will be arranged so that individuals are facing walls or other barriers, or otherwise facing away from other individuals; the workstation set-ups should not be changed. No work zones should ever have individuals facing each other within 6 feet.
      3. No fans may be used.
    • c) Rooms designated as general use (small room/side rooms):
      1. These are small rooms sequentially used by multiple individuals (e.g., microscope rooms, other rooms with special equipment)
      2. Common use equipment should be spread out and where practical moved to under-utilized rooms to maximize distance.
      3. A distance of 6 feet must be maintained between individuals, and individuals should occupy shared space for the minimal time practical.
      4. Common use equipment should be disinfected before and after use, with physical or online sign-up sheets completed.
      5. Wash hands after use of shared equipment. If wearing gloves, dispose of gloves within room and then wash hands before exiting room.
      6. Maximum occupancy, as determined by social distancing considerations and specific space configuration, will be posted on the doors.
    • d) Rooms designated as closed have a defined purpose, such as an autoclave or cold room.
  4. The MBL EVS staff will clean floors and high touch points (doorknobs, light switches, etc.) on a daily basis. Hand sanitizer and hand soap will be managed by EVS. All paper goods (masks, paper towels in labs, and gloves) will be available for purchase in the stockroom.
  5. Trash should be consolidated into the large bin by the entrance or left outside of rooms in the immediate vicinity of the entrance for emptying by the EVS staff.

Teaching Specific Exceptions

While the goal is to maintain 6 feet distancing and PPE use, we recognize that closer contact will be required at times. Our experience has demonstrated that this is possible while also maintaining a high-safety workplace. To this end we are asking CDs to address plans for close contact teaching situations, and room usage.

The plan document is summarized below:

Information requested: Provided by:
Identification of rooms in designated course space in terms of use: single user, multiple user, general use, or closed; and the specialized equipment to be in each room • MBL will provide list of rooms
• CDs identify room use and equipment
Special cleaning/disinfecting plans (if needed) CDs
Describe conditions where close-contact situations are likely to arise and how they will be managed CDs
Describe the need to use space inside Loeb not assigned to your course and the coordination plan CDs
Describe your need to use space outside of Loeb outside Loeb (CMF, MRC, ACF or other research services) CDs