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McMaster’s Phased Return to Increased Research Activity

McMaster’s Phased Return to Increased Research Activity

The health and well-being of McMaster’s research community are the University’s top priority. While we continue to increase our research activity during the pandemic, we are mindful of the precautions that must be exercised during each phase for a safe return to both on-campus and fieldwork activity. Remote research, when possible, remains our preference, but we recognize that some research cannot advance in a remote manner.

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

March 24, 2020 marked the University’s initial shutdown of research in keeping with public health and government directives. At this point, only research that was COVID-specific; involved clinical trials or intervention studies with patients who required monitoring; or needed to be maintained for health, safety and clinical reasons was permitted. Much of that research, in what is known as Phase 0, continues to be active.

On May 31, 2020, the University moved to Phase 1 – broadening the scope to include those whose research required access to their labs and whose fieldwork would suffer significant consequences. Specifically, it included research that could not be done in a remote manner; involved trained undergraduate and graduate students; and limited fieldwork activity. To date, more than 300 research projects have been approved, bringing some 1400 faculty, students, staff and other research personnel back to campus.

The successful implementation of Phase 1, coupled with the Government of Ontario further easing restrictions, has positioned McMaster to move to Phase 2. Effective August 7, the University will expand both its on-campus and fieldwork research activities to include research that involves training; limited human participants; and stakeholder engagement.

Under Phase 2, remote working remains the preference and, currently, a return to campus remains voluntary for researchers. The research community will be advised if this changes. In keeping with current supervisory responsibilities, researchers will retain responsibility for their research teams. All appropriate safety protocols must be in place before researchers and any required staff return to campus or the field. Full details, along with the application portal, are available here.

Welcome back to everyone who’s returning for the first time. Please refer to the following to ensure your lab and your team are ready for a safe return.


Review “Adjust the Workplace”, “Adjust Work Processes” and “Provide PPE” at Workplace Health and Safety Guidance and Guidelines for Travelling on Campus.

  • One way to adjust the workplace is to employ signage to assist with things such as spacing and directional flow.  Facilities Services will post signage for entrances, exits, stairwell and elevator use and will cover the reasonable cost of signage for individual research labs on campus sourced through Media Production Services.  Floor stickers to indicate physical distancing, directional arrows and handwashing signage for individual labs can be ordered from Media Production Services at Plexiglass is available from Facilities Services. Disinfectant will be provided to your lab. Wipes and sanitizer is available from Scientific Stores.
  • Review the Guidelines for Research Lab Use during the COVID-19 Pandemic. As shown in the hierarchy and in line with Public Health guidelines, physical distancing, and adjusting workplaces and processes, to include staggered work times and days, and frequent handwashing are far more effective than using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to control the spread of COVID-19. Work in the lab should be scheduled accordingly to facilitate these practices with people coming in for research component only and then continuing to work from home for the remainder of their work.  PPE is not a replacement for the other controls and physical distancing and good hygiene practices remain the goal for working during this phase. Consult with Environmental and Occupational Health Support Services (EOHHS) or the FHS Safety Office if you have determined that PPE is required after having evaluated the other hazard control measures.  Detail on obtaining PPE, if needed, can be found at Scientific Stores. Master personnel undertaking research at any of our partner hospitals or at MIP are to follow the directives of that institution.





  • Personnel should review and operate in alignment with McMaster’s RMM304 Working Alone Program.
  • Researchers should complete the Supervisor Checklist and Lab Worker Checklist. This may also be a good time to update the Supervisor Inspection Form – Lab.
  • On a daily basis each person should complete and retain the Employee/Researcher Checklist. This is part of the self-screening process.
  • Complete Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as directed by your Department or Faculty. Note that these plans will need to change over time as phases change and new information is available from Public Health and updated Guidance materials.  Be sure to review health and safety policies and guidelines with lab personnel and establish appropriate protocols relevant to your particular research environment and communicate this information to lab personnel verbally and in writing.


  • If you have questions about access to/signage in buildings or require information on parking, please contact Facility Services.