Guide to infection prevention at the University of Oslo
Approved 12 May 2020 by the University Director. Last updated on 21 August 2020 about training of PhD candidates, externals and others who do not have a username at UiO.
As of 15 June 2020, the government's closure of universities and colleges was lifted. The government emphasised that the universities and colleges had to have an infection control supervisor to ensure infection control locally, and that the social distancing rule of 1 meter still applied. Infection prevention sets the perimeter for the use of UiO´s buildings. The use must be adapted and organised according to local conditions. These guidelines provide information about infection prevention measures and what conditions must be considered. The guide has been prepared according to a template from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).
Staff and students should feel safe in UiO's buildings. UiO will facilitate for employees to return physically to work, but will adhere to the authorities' advice of reducing the number of people using public transport as well as the other infection prevention guidelines.
As a large entity, UiO will balance the need for physical attendance with working from home to prevent infection. Line managers are responsible for assessing who can be physically present at work to ensure teaching and research, and who should work from home. This must be done in consultation with the employee. Given the current situation with short-term arrangements for working from home, an oral agreement between line manager and employee will suffice.
In order to provide a better overview of the framework that applies to the use of remote work (home office), UiO has prepared comprehensive guidelines for remote work at UiO.
Walking or cycling to work is encouraged.
Employees in at-risk groups, or who live with people in at-risk groups, who do not have the opportunity to work from home should contact their GP to get advice based on their specific situation. They should also contact their line manager to discuss how work can be arranged with regard to infection prevention and control. You cannot stay home from work without having agreed this with your manager or documented the absence with a sick leave.
General guidelines for staff and managers, elaborated on in the guide, are as follows:
- Not come to work if they are ill
- Go home from work if they experience symptoms of illness
- Familiarise themselves with guidelines and measures emerging from risk assessments and follow these
- Familiarise themselves with hygiene measures and follow these
- Complete the infection prevention course
- Assess the number of staff and students who will gain access to the buildings, consider rotation schemes for using the premises, and assess who may still be able to work from home
- Maintain close dialogue with employees who, for various reasons, are working from home
- Ensure that the premises and workplaces are arranged in such a way that the rules of social distancing can be observed
- Ensure that a risk assessment has been done in advance of the employee's return to UiO's office space, and in collaboration with the employee where applicable, see guidance from the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (arbeidstilsynet.no). Ensure that measures established as a result of the risk assessment are implemented and made known. A checklist for conducting a risk assessment is attached.
- Take special responsibility to protect employees who may be particularly vulnerable if exposed to infection. These could be chronically ill, elderly, or employees with close relatives in at-risk groups. See instructions from the Norwegian Labor Inspection Authority (arbeidstilsynet.no).
This document contains information about how infection prevention at UiO will be safeguarded. The information will be updated when government advice changes.
A lot of measures are in place in all parts of society, limiting the spread of infection. It is important to implement measures that are adapted to different situations. The same measures can therefore not always be used in, for example, kindergartens, companies, the health services, or at UiO. Measures must be adapted so that the focus is on what is most important there and then.
Activities at UiO that fall under other guides compiled by the health authorities, for example the running of UiO´s kindergartens, the dental clinic at the Faculty of Dentistry and such, will follow these guides, see references. In this guide, we are describing measures to limit the spread of infection amongst other students and staff present at UiO.
The purpose of the advice is to limit and delay the outbreak of Covid-19. The three main pillars for curbing the spread of infection are:
- People who are ill should not be present at UiO and should consult the health service for testing
- Solid and proper infection prevention
- Upholding necessary social distancing
The most important infection prevention measure is for people who are ill, to stay at home. Coughing in a hygienic way and upholding social distancing is crucial for limiting droplet infection, while washing your hands, and especially avoiding touching your face with hands that are not clean, is important to limit indirect ways of infection. Increased physical distance between people reduces the possibility of infection, even before symptoms of illness occur.
Students and staff who fall ill while at UiO must go home as soon as possible. In a situation of potential illness, public transport should not be used.
Students who become sick, or have been in close contact with someone infected with Covid-19, should contact SiO Health (who now has a testing station at Blindern), their GP via phone/video consultation, or the corona phone (21 80 21 82 – see Oslo municipality) for testing and follow-up.
The test station of SiO Health is located at Fredrikkeplassen, Blindern campus. You must book an appointment for testing in advance, see information on SiO's website.
Staff who become sick, or have been in close contact with someone infected with Covid-19, should contact their GP, the corona phone (21 80 21 82 – ref. Oslo kommune), or SiO Health for testing and follow-up.
The test station of SiO Health is located at Fredrikkeplassen, Blindern campus. You must book an appointment for testing in advance, see information on SiO's website.
Staff inform their line manager in the usual way. Health services will get in touch with HSE and relevant unit(s) for assistance with infection detection and implementation of relevant measures.
Duty of confidentiality and GDPR
The employer has a duty of confidentiality regarding employees' health information and shall process all personal information in accordance with privacy regulations. Therefore, in principle the employer cannot share information about individuals' health conditions, neither with employees nor others, unless there is a basis for sharing such information.
Information about cases of quarantine and illness within the entity
- If an employee is diagnosed with illness, the municipal health services will follow up with the person in question and all his/her contacts in accordance with current guidelines to ensure sound health care and infection detection, see guidelines provided by the Norwegian Directorate of Health (helsedirektoratet.no).
- If necessary in order to ensure a safe working environment, the employer can provide information within the company that an employee is quarantined or infected. Identification of the employee should be avoided as far as possible. If it is necessary to share the name of the infected employee, the employee in question must be informed in advance. The information shall be treated confidentially and not shared unnecessarily.
- The Department of Personnel Support can assist in assessments, e-mail: email@example.com
Applies to people who have been to UiO or in contact with environments at UiO. Both in case of suspicion and confirmed coronary infection in students and staff, the affected unit and HSE must (consider) enter emergency preparedness mode in order to assist the health services in handling infection detection, implementation of measures, and communication with various target groups. The faculties must provide a contact person (for assisting with infection detection) which HSE forwards to the health services. Notifications should be made by using the emergency phone: 22 85 66 66. Information will then be passed on to the University Management, according to the contingency plan. NB: See 2.1.3 on privacy.
Local and central emergency preparedness groups will handle incidents in line with the emergency preparedness plan:
- Evaluate measures in collaboration with the health services/the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH). HSE is in contact with the District Medical Officer.
- Assist in infection detection by providing information about which groups/lectures etc. the person has been to. Faculties have overviews of registered persons per subject, sponsor groups, study groups etc., while the Department of Education Services has an overview of booked reading room places. An online form is also being developed so that people who are not registered for a subject can voluntarily register their attendance.
- Notify those affected about what to do (testing, quarantine, etc.).
- Provide information to other target groups, media, networks etc.
- Assess cancellation of teaching, cancel events, closure of premises, cleaning (registration through the Estate Department).
- Coordinate with other actors such as SiO.
People who are ill must not come to UiO. Students and staff can come to UiO:
- When they have completed UiO´s infection prevention training and familiarised themselves with guidelines and the guide to infection prevention at UiO.
- When the use of premises and potential rotation schemes have been clarified with the line manager.
- When they do not display any symptoms of illness.
- If having had a respiratory tract infection, students and staff may return when being symptom-free.
- If someone in their household displays symptoms of respiratory tract infection, but Covid-19 has not been detected, student and employee may come to UiO as normal. They should however go home if they start experiencing symptoms.
- Students and staff with known pollen allergy or other known respiratory diseases with typical symptoms (runny nose with clear nasal secretion, runny/itchy eyes) can come to UiO. However, it is important to be aware that people with allergy symptoms can also become ill with Covid-19, and should therefore stay at home if there are additional symptoms typical of Covid-19. The same is true for people with other chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis or asthma; deviations from their usual symptom picture should be emphasised in the Covid-19 assessment.
- Students and staff with symptoms of respiratory tract infections: even with mild symptoms and a just slight feeling of being ill, students and staff should not come to UiO. They must contact the health authorities as quickly as possible in order to get tested, and stay at home until they are symptom-free.
- Students or staff with confirmed Covid-19: Must self-isolate (fhi.no). It is the health and care services that decide who should go into isolation according to advice provided by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (isolation). The Norwegian Directorate of Health has provided guidelines for the regulations.
- Students or staff who are in close contact with/members of the same household as a person with confirmed Covid-19: Must go into quarantine (fhi.no). It is the health and care services that decide who should be in quarantine according to advice provided by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (quarantine). The Norwegian Directorate of Health has provided guidelines for the regulations. All close contacts of a confirmed infected person must be quarantined. If you are approached as a result of infection tracking, you will be informed of what applies to you.
- Students or staff who have been put in quarantine: Must stay in quarantine.
- Students and staff who have been travelling must keep informed of and adhere to the government´s quarantine regulations.
Proper hand and cough hygiene reduces infection in all respiratory tract infections, including Covid-19 infection. These measures are meant to reduce infection through objects and hands, and to reduce infection by coughing. Relevant measures should be carried out frequently by everyone, regardless of the level of knowledge of the infection status of themselves and others. It is important that all staff and students have familiarised themselves with the measures below.
Clothes and personal protective equipment
- It is not necessary to have your own work clothes, but the use of rings and hand jewelery should be avoided at work.
- The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) does not consider there to be a professional basis for recommending in general the use of protective masks or non-medicinal face masks, see advice on face masks (fhi.no).
- The need for personal infection control equipment is decided on through risk assessment of the work tasks one is set to do.
- When using other types of protective equipment in connection with work, please be mindful of infection prevention routines when changing in and out of the equipment.
The washing of hands
Washing your hands with lukewarm water and liquid soap is an effective way to prevent infection. Hand should be washed frequently and for at least 20 seconds. Afterwards, they should be dried with disposable paper towels.
Hands must be washed:
- Before leaving home and when returning
- When arriving at UiO
- After having entered doors that cannot be accessed without touching, or after pressing buttons in elevator, on card readers, and such.
- After coughing/sneezing and wiping of face/blowing of nose
- After having been to the toilet
- Before and after meals
- After working in a laboratory or having engaged in other work-related activities where objects have been touched
- When hands are obviously dirty
Paper towels must be easily accessible.
Alternatives to the washing of hands
- The virus is sensitive to alcohol, and alcohol-based desinfection (rubbing alcohol) is an alternative if regular washing of hands is not possible. The unit must take responsibility itself for buying rubbing alcohol.
- Rubbing alcohol must be placed in areas where it is not possible to wash one´s hands with soap and water.
- Alcohol-based disinfection is not very efficient if the hands are wet or obviously dirty, in such cases regular washing of hands should be carried out.
It is recommended to have disposable paper towels/handkerchiefs easily available for use. If not available, it is recommended to use the elbow hook when coughing or sneezing.
Avoid touching your face or eyes.
The new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is easily removed through manual cleaning with water and standard detergents. The virus may survive on surfaces from hours to days depending on the type of surface, temperature, exposure to sunlight, and other factors. Frequent and proper cleaning is therefore important in order to prevent infection.
Standard cleaning is carried out in offices and other workplaces. Extended cleaning is carried out in common areas, premises for teaching, and reading rooms. The services of the Cleaning Section is described in the catalogue of services (Norwegian).
The cleaning of user equipment and materials that are shared must be done by the users themselves. Protective equipment is not needed for cleaning, but hand washing should be done after cleaning, even if gloves are used. It is not necessary to use disinfectant routinely. If disinfectant is still used, visible dirt must first be wiped off with a cloth or paper towel, otherwise the disinfectant will not work. Relevant disinfectants are alcohol-based disinfectant (70%) and chlorine (4% sodium hypochlorite).
The individual unit must itself assess the need for local infection prevention measures, such as disinfection of meeting rooms and workplaces after use. Based on the local assessment, the individual unit must make its own local plan which clearly describes what must be done and who carries it out, as well as who will ensure that detergents and any disinfectants are available. It is not preferable that units purchase and install wall dispensers themselves.
Reduced contact with others will reduce the risk of infection spreading from people who do not know that they are infectious.
To reduce the spread of infection, social distancing is required as well as reducing the number of people allowed to gather. Students and staff must, as far as possible, keep at least 1 meter distance from each other when working in the same room. Also, keep social distancing in mind when traveling to and from UiO. Avoid using public transport if possible, or travel outside rush hour. If you have to travel by public transport, follow the rules that apply to the use of public transport and keep as much distance as possible from other travelers.
- Meetings must still be digital where possible
- Groups working together should as far as possible be small and fixed
- Use larger premises where possible
Efforts should also be made to avoid working in different workplaces on the same day.
Flexibility and exceptions to core regulations also apply to those who do not have a home office, but who must be physically present in the workplace. In order to avoid public transport during rush hour, facilitation has been made possible so that employees can start work at an earlier or later hour and end work accordingly early or late. This must be clarified with the line manager.
The use of premises for teaching students is prioritised before meetings, courses and seminars for employees or other types of events.
Premises for teaching
- There must be a distance of at least 1 meter between people in teaching rooms at UiO. Each individual teaching room must be checked for this before being put to use.
- If several people are to be able to use the same space on the same day, disposable washcloths must be available so that the user of the space can clean the space before use.
- There must be a distance of at least 1 meter between people in reading rooms. Reading room spaces that are not to be used must be clearly marked.
- For reading rooms without fixed places, a time and place must be booked by the user so that UiO can assist with information about who has been sitting nearby if there is a need for infection tracking. Maps of reading room spaces must be made to facilitate infection detection.
- If several people are to be able to use the same reading room space on the same day, there must be disposable washcloths available so that the user of the space can clean the space before and after use.
Rooms for colloquiums and for practice/rehearsal
- There must be a distance of at least 1 meter between people in rooms for colloquiums and practice/rehearsal.
- Colloquium rooms and practice/rehearsal rooms must be booked by the user so that UiO can assist with information about who has used the rooms if there is a need for infection tracking. The person who books the premises is responsible for ensuring that infection prevention measures are maintained during the use of the premises.
- If several people are to be able to use the same space on the same day, there must be disposable washcloths/cleaning agents available so that the user of the space can clean the space before use.
As a general rule, there must be a distance of at least 1 meter between people attending art education at UiO.
For rehearsals and performances carried out as part of teaching, exams, or research under the auspices of UiO, the practitioners are allowed a distance of less than 1 meter when necessary based on the uniqueness of the art. For each individual case, a risk assessment must be carried out, necessary infection control measures must be put in place, and the activity must be approved by the faculty.
For teaching purposes, the distance between teacher and student can be less than 1 meter if the nature of the teaching so requires. A risk assessment must be carried out for this type of teaching and the necessary infection control measures must be put in place.
Events can be held with up to 200 participants if this takes place on UiO's premises or in another public place. For each event in a public place, the following must be ensured:
- A responsible organiser who is present throughout the event
- A risk assessment must be carried out and measures followed up
- Premises or outdoor areas at UiO must be booked through the booking systems
- An overview must be kept of who is present
- Current infection control rules for events (helsenorge.no) must be followed.
The student pubs can be in operation as long as UiO is open. The student pubs adhere to agreements with UiO and must follow operational guidelines set down by the authorities:
Activities organised by students, such as associations, sports, music exercises etc. can be carried out on UiO's premises. The rules and guidelines set down for events (helsenorge.no) must be adhered to.
All work that is to be carried out must be risk-assessed in view of the risk of infection. A list, see appendix, has been prepared for risk assessment of the Covid-19 pandemic and can be used as a support tool. Everyone who is to carry out work at UiO must know the content of the risk assessment for their type of work/workplace before they start working.
3.1 Risk assessment for employees who belong to an at-risk group or who are in close contact with one or more individuals in an at-risk group
UiO employees who are in a risk group or are in contact with individuals in a risk group shall have an individual dialogue with their manager. The manager, in consultation with the employee, must determine whether the employee can come to the office.
The manager should pay special attention to older employees, as age is the most obvious risk factor and risk increases with age, cf. high risk groups and their relatives (helsenorge.no). The assessment of risk for an older employee should occur in an individual dialogue between the manager and the employee. For a comprehensive overview of the various risk groups and the classification of the risk groups (slightly increased, moderate, and high risk), and what advice the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) gives to the risk groups in case of a small or large spread of infection, please refer to NIPH's information page on risk groups (fhi.no).
Employees and students should be trained in implementing the necessary infection prevention measures as described in this guide through a mandatory infection prevention course and through information and training re. current infection prevention rules in the workplace/on the premises. Persons who have undergone other infection prevention training that is equivalent to the infection prevention course offered by UiO, do not need courses. PhD candidates can take the E-learning course for employees or for students. Externals and others who do not have a username at UiO must be given training locally, and the training can be adapted to the scope of presence and local conditions.
At UiO, you can contact the Occupational Health Service Unit (BHT), the local HSE Coordinator or the Unit for HSE and emergency preparedness for assistance in organising infection prevention work. Asides from this, there is a lot of good and quality-assured information on the government's websites.
- Health authorities: Advice to the population at helsenorge.no
- NIPH: Advice to workplaces
- NIPH: Advice to universities, colleges, vocational schools and folk high schools
- The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training: Guide to infection prevention in kindergartens during the Covid-19 outbreak 2020 (Norwegian)
- The Norwegian Directorate of Health: Infection prevention for patients and population
- NIPH: Distance, quarantine and isolating
- NIPH: Advice and information to high-risk groups and their next of kin
- The Norwegion Labour Inspection Authority: Coronavirus: Measures directed at working life
It is recommended that one initially considers the number of people who may return to work, and then dimension the risk assessment(s) accordingly. For example, whether an overall assessment is sufficient, or whether separate assessments should be made for groups/smaller units.
Risk factors that should be considered:
- Employees/students become infected
- Family of employees/students become infected
- Colleagues become infected
- Failure in cleaning routines
- Loss of intangible assets
- Loss of tangible assets
- Damage to the external environment
- Other factors
Points to consider in a risk assessment:
Risk of infection:
- Has everyone in the group completed mandatory training? Either infection prevention course on zoom or through E-learning.
- Is everyone in the group healthy and aware that they must not show up if they have the slightest doubt as to whether they are infected or not?
- Do any employees belong to at-risk groups? As a rule, people in at-risk groups should work from home, unless special circumstances dictate that it is safe for them to come to work.
- Are there employees with close relatives in at-risk groups?
- Can everyone travel to the workplace in a biosecure way? Walking/biking is encouraged, as well as avoiding rush hour if having to travel by public transportation.
- Is everyone aware of the the danger of infecting colleagues?
- Is there a backup in case of critical personnel falling ill? For example, key people are found in different groups or on different premises.
- Is there adequate access to means of disinfecting keyboards/equipment? Routines for local cleaning when changing/rotating workplaces and meeting rooms.
- Are all requirements met re. hygenic standards found in UiO´s guide?
- Are there safe facilities for social distancing, cleaning, and number of people during breaks, including meals? Limit the number of people eating at the same time, for example by rotating the use of canteen/lunch room, or scattering lunch over a larger time interval so that fewer gather at a time. Packed lunches are recommended.
- Is everyone familiar with the routines that shold be followed if illness occurs when at UiO? Students and staff who fall ill while at UiO must go home as soon as possible. If potentially ill, public transport should not be used.
- Other conditions/issues?
- Is the group small and fixed and everyone can keep a social distance of minimum 1 meter? If there are many employees in an office area, consider allocating the days of the week employees meet in the office and when to work from home.
- Is there a plan for interaction between groups present in the workplace? Use video conferencing is possible.
- Are there other groups using the same premises?
- Are there safe routines for using and cleaning equipment such as copiers, kitchens, coffee machines and meeting rooms?
- Should chairs be removed from meeting rooms to ensure adequate social distancing?
- Open office landscapes – recommendations from the health authorities form the premises, and assessments related to common areas must be included.
- Is sufficient social distancing ensured at counters or is there a need for plexiglass?
- Are there areas with frequent queuing that need social distancing markings on the floor?
- Other conditions/issues?