ULFA Health and Safety Meeting Report

On July 26th 2021, the Health and Safety Advisory Committee had an extraordinary meeting to discuss the planned return to campus and start of classes in September 2021. In addition to the regular members, Miles Fletcher (OH&S) and Dr. Trushar Patel (Chemistry and Biochemistry, Return to Campus Coordinator) were present to give support and additional information. The main item on the agenda was the discussion of a draft of a proposed University of Lethbridge Safety Plan and the associated Pandemic Plan Revisions. In addition, the committee discussed concerns and questions brought by ULFA and GSA.

The main take-aways of the meeting, from the perspective of ULFA representative Kat Stevens, are the following:

  1. The proposed University of Lethbridge Safety Plan is being drafted by Wim Chalmet and Trushar Patel, the Return to Campus Coordination Leads. At the moment, it is in draft stage, but should be completed soon. Changes are still possible. Both showed great interest in the concerns and questions brought by both ULFA and the GSA and appeared to take  them seriously. They repeatedly asked to be informed about COVID related concerns from the faculty as soon as they arise. They both have provided their email addresses in a recent first email communication about the plan to re-open. Faculty should email either ULFA (officer@ulfa.ca) or them (trushar.patel@uleth.ca;  wim.chalmet@uleth.ca) with concerns. Time is of the essence, so waiting is counterproductive. Emailing or ccing ULFA might be a good idea because it will enable us to bundle concerns and send them on.
  2. There will be an extensive mask-mandate on campus. It will be reviewed on a weekly basis, but at the moment masks are required in all spaces where physical distancing cannot easily be achieved at all times. Discussion showed that how to enforce the mask mandate is still a question and needs to be worked out. ULFA suggested having signage that makes clear that by entering University spaces, people consent to wearing masks and confirm that they are free of COVID symptoms, making enforcement easier. The reaction to this suggestion was positive. At the moment, there is a plan of a combination of a daily health check, signage, spot checks and an enforcement campaign. It is not yet clear what the consequences of non-compliance will be. ULFA also emphasized repeatedly how important it is to give faculty very clear guidelines on how to behave in the face of non-compliance and is, at the moment, working on its own policy and recommendations. This was acknowledged and we are assured that decisions will be made and communicated very clearly.
  3. There was an emphasis on the importance of informing everyone about plans for rapid responses in cases of illness on campus. Every case of illness needs to be reported through an incident report. ULFA suggested that finding the place to report incidents should be made as easy as possible and there was general agreement that the link that leads to the webpage where incidents can be reported should be multiplied and placed all over the University’s webpage. Incident reports can be made here: https://www.ulethbridge.ca/campus-safety/safety-reporting.
  4. ULFA raised concerns about badly ventilated, small classrooms that might be booked at capacity for long classes (e.g. three hour seminars). Wim Chalmet asked for a list of classrooms that ULFA is concerned about. Please check out your classroom and email us with concerns (officer@ulfa.ca).
  5. All frequently used spaces in the University will be cleaned daily. The cleaner used is AIRX44 Plus. This is an aerosol cleaner that also cleans the air. In order to use it, the room needs to be evacuated. It is safe after 15 minutes. Management claims that it has  been used for the last 16 months with great success. ULFA found this website about the cleaner: https://wegreer.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Airx-44plus.pdf
  6. As in the years prior to COVID, ULFA Members have the right to determine the best medium for delivering their course material, including synchronous, asynchronous, in-person, or remote.  Without prejudice to this position, ULFA did enquire about administration policies surrounding the ability to move classes online temporarily, for example because the instructor has to isolate, or has to care for a dependent who has to isolate. Management has not developed a final position about this. ULFA pointed out that instructors have a very strong work-ethic that, in the circumstances of COVID, can itself become a health risk: There is a risk that instructors will underestimate symptoms and come to work if there is no clear messaging that moving classes online temporarily is encouraged in the relevant circumstances. This re-framing of being able to move classes to online temporarily as a safety issue was treated as useful and ULFA’s concern appeared to be taken seriously.
  7. The Health and Safety Advisory Committee will have another extraordinary meeting in the middle of August. Members are encouraged to send concerns and questions to ULFA (officer@ulfa.ca).