Return to Campus FAQs

1. Can I require students to wear face coverings in my class? 
2. What can I do if I think any controls are not suitable or sufficient? 
3. What about one-on-one meetings or one-on-one feedback in lab or other contexts? 
4. What can I do if I am concerned about my safety during teaching or another activity?
5. What should I know about testing?
6. How can I get a copy of the risk assessment for a particular activity or room?
7. Where can I find information about the general University approach to campus safety?
8. Where can I find the University policy for addressing or reporting unsafe working conditions?
9. Who are my contacts for reporting concerns or requesting information? 

 

1.

Can I require students to wear face coverings in my class? 

The instruction to universities from the Government says that “No student should be denied education on the grounds of whether they are, or are not, wearing a face covering.” However, the employer has a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for students and employees. A relevant balance will need to be achieved. We know that many staff members feel that face coverings should be required, not just recommended and this is our branch policy 

We suggest the following options if you are concerned about this issue. 

  • Check if there are local (department/programme, e.g.) instructions or risk assessments about face coverings. 
  • If there are local instructions that face coverings are mandatory, make sure that your students are aware of this. 
  • If there are local instructions that face coverings are not to be used, and you believe that this is a safety problem given the other circumstances (distancing, interaction, etc.), then raise it with your line manager or local health and safety reps (information below).  
  • Email your students, if you’re able, requesting that they wear face coverings in your class, except for those with medical exemptions. Ask that anyone who has a medical exemption contact you directly to let you know about it. 
  • Wear a face covering yourself, as we know that while it provides a lower level protection, some protection is available.  
  • Consider the whole picture: whether other controls are also not being applied and whether this increases your exposure further. If you are working in a well-ventilated room, with low occupancy numbers and 2m metre social distancing is achievable then it may be that risk is lower even without face coverings. 
  • If, however, you believe that the number of students wearing face coverings is not high enough for you to feel safe, then use the reporting mechanisms below (line manager, local health and safety rep, higher level safety reps, listed below) to formally report this. 

 

 2.

What can I do if I think any control(s) are not suitable or sufficient? 

  • Identify and read the risk assessment for the area or activity of work. Ask your line manager or local school or faculty health and safety contacts for a risk assessment that is specific to the activity or the room. There should be a risk assessment that is more specific to your activity/space than the “Generic Risk Assessment”, and that has the actual risk level and other information filled out in the form.  
  • Decide if you think it’s suitable and sufficient – you may wish to consult the branch view on the generic assessment for assistance.  
  • Reject the assessment formally to your local manager, advising what additional controls you seek. Raise this issue with your line manager and local safety advisor, and cc the local branch (ucu@manchester.ac.uk).  
  • In the meantime, if you believe that the flaws in the risk assessment result in a serious and imminent danger to you or your students, then follow the University procedure responding to and reporting safety problems (link in FAQ 8 below). You can also contact the Facilities and Estates Helpdesk for queries about specific spaces. 

 

3.

What about one-on-one meetings or one-on-one feedback in lab or other contexts?

There seems to be a lot more flexibility on being able to introduce covid secure controls with one-on-one meetings, simply because they are often self-scheduled, and not guaranteed to be in person. If you have a space in which you can meet with people, and are comfortable doing so, you should be able to follow standard covid controls such as social distancing and masks. 

If you have concerns about lack of compliance please formally record this with your manager. Find out whether you would be allowed to have such meetings online instead of in person. If you are told that you are required to hold meetings in person, and still feel that a lack of compliance is putting you at risk, then escalate this into a formal report of an unsafe working situation following the University procedure (up to and possibly including the “Accident/Incident/Near Miss Form” if necessary). 

If you do not have space to conduct meetings in a way that you think is safe (e.g. if the room is too small for distancing), we recommend that you contact your line manager to find out how you can book a suitable room. 

If your activity involves you moving around and speaking one-on-one with students who are doing lab or computer work (for example), you should be able to keep an appropriate distance (both in terms of personal space in general and in terms of Covid distancing). If a student refuses to wear a mask when asked, or to allow you to maintain what you consider to be a safe distance, or the set-up of the room does not permit safe distancing, and you believe this puts you at risk then you can follow the procedures for either notifying your line manager of a problem or concern with the room, or procedures for imminent danger (see university reporting procedures below, as well as FAQ 4). 

 

4.

What can I do if I am concerned about my safety during teaching or another activity?

Follow the steps described above in the University Safety Reporting Procedure (link and information below). It is important matters are formally logged to be corrected.  

The most likely ways that this could arise are in cases where there are issues with safety protocols that are mentioned in the generic risk assessment or any more specific risk assessments that you have been given, or with protocols listed on materials in the specific classrooms about specific measures in that room, or where it becomes apparent that the assumptions underlying the risk assessment are flawed, e.g. 

  • If a room has instructions to keep doors or windows open, and you are not able to do so. This includes if the windows or doors do open, but there is so much noise outside that you are not able to conduct class with them open. 
  • If in rooms where there is mechanical ventilation (i.e. air from vents propelled by a fan system) you do not hear the fan and cannot feel any air coming from the vents 
  • If students are not wearing masks (see also FAQ 1 above). 
  • If the risk assessment or in-room information recommend social distancing and this is not possible. 
  • If the risk assessments rely on assumptions that do not apply, for example, that in a lecture theatre, students never speak and always face forward (usually this will be something that can be discovered in advance, though, rather than as an imminent risk; see FAQ 2 above). 

 

5.

What should I know about testing?

 The university is recommending (again not requiring) two lateral flow tests per week for people working or studying on campus. Lateral flow tests are not perfect, but they can cut down at least a little on the presence of asymptomatic but infected individuals on campus. 

  • We do recommend that you carry out your two lateral flow tests each week, and that you encourage students to do the same. 
  • If you actually feel ill, you should get a PCR test, and not just a lateral flow test. You should then wait until you have the results before coming back to campus. Make sure that students are also aware of this. 
  • Keep in mind as well that the list of symptoms of Covid in vaccinated individuals is not the same as the list that we all became familiar with in the first few waves. It also includes headache, runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat, as well as the original list: coughing or shortness of breath, fever, and loss of smell or taste. 

 

6.

How can I get a copy of the risk assessment for a particular activity or room?

 Your line manager or local safety contact (see FAQ 9 below) should have copies that they can share with you of any local or activity-specific risk assessments. These appear to have been shared automatically in some parts of the Medical School, and other Schools (e.g. SALC) do have them but appear not to have shared them with staff. In most cases, it is unlikely that there will be a specific assessment for individual rooms, but there should be at least a general activity or room-type assessment (e.g. for “lecture theatres”). If you are told that these are not available, you should let the union branch know as soon as possible, as this is potentially a violation of labour laws. 

 

7.

Where can I find information about the general University approach to campus safety?

 The first stop is the Coronavirus information page, followed by the Campus Management page.   

 

8.

Where can I find the University policy for addressing or reporting unsafe working conditions?

The policy is available online. Note that this policy also contains a link to the procedure for reporting accidents, incidents and near misses that can be used in cases where you believe that there was an imminent danger to yourself or others. The reporting instructions around accidents, incidents and near misses is available here, and the form itself is linked from that document. Note that the procedure appears to imply that there are two separate forms (one for accidents, one for incidents and near misses), but the form itself seems to have been updated to be one single form on which any of these can be reported. 

 

9.

Who are my contacts for reporting concerns or requesting information?

In escalating order of managerial level, here are the contacts to whom you can report concerns about safety, and who should be able to provide safety information including risk assessments. We recommend starting with the local contacts and moving up the list if they are unable to respond to your concerns in a way that is satisfactory to you. 

[Information from  https://www.healthandsafety.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/facultydirectoratesafetycontacts/ which also has contacts for administrative offices, Jodrell Bank, the Manchester Museum, the MU Press, and the Whitworth]

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