MU, UHDS leadership discuss safety precautions to protect staff

The Memorial Union and University Housing & Dining Services will be implementing safety precautions for their staff amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sukhjot Sal, News Contributor

Oregon State University will implement safety precautions in the fall that depend heavily upon the work of maintenance staff, food service workers and other staff whose jobs include managing maintenance of buildings, cleaning spaces and making food. These are jobs especially in need of safe, healthy and clean working environments.

Deb Mott, the director of the Memorial Union at the OSU Corvallis Ore. campus, commented on the concerns maintenance staff have about working through COVID-19.

“Initially we had to operationalize the guidance coming from the governing agencies. The question being: what does our work really look like during a pandemic? The Memorial Union has stayed open allowing our teams to enact processes that follow safety and hygiene guidelines. Currently, our concerns are less about the work that happens and more about how we take care of each other during difficult and confusing times,” Mott said in an email.

According to Mott, MU staff are appropriately responding to guidance, plans, policies and needs to work safely and change their plans and actions as need arises. She identified a few plans the Memorial Union has already implemented to protect its staff.

“We have staggered schedules to lessen the number of staff in one place at certain times. We have personal protective equipment for all staff,” Mott said.

In regards to new routines staff have had to learn recently, Mott said plans for keeping their facilities open and clean are extensive and driven by what phase is in place at any given time.

“All of our planning is based on appropriate physical distancing and wearing face coverings given our new policies. Some of these precautions may hold over in the future but only time will tell as we navigate life on our campus,” Mott said.

Cindy Garmon, the operations specialist at the Memorial Union, has worked there for 12 and a half years. In an email, she said her concerns about working during the pandemic are minimal and she will continue to work from home until campus is opened fully.

Garmon cited “social distancing, personal protection—face mask—and disinfecting surfaces” as a few of the new routines she and her colleagues have had to implement because of COVID-19.

Stephen Jenkins, associate vice provost for Student Affairs and executive director of University Housing & Dining Services, said in an email OSU and UHDS work collaboratively and closely with all staff in developing practices and procedures that maximize the safety of students, faculty and staff.

“When and if a staff member raises a concern of any kind, they are empowered and encouraged to work with their supervisor to seek out alternative approaches and alleviate the concern,” Jenkins said.

According to Jenkins, fall preparations in UHDS are informed by Governor Brown’s executive orders, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Oregon Health Authority and the Benton County Health Department. 

“We also work closely across campus with Environmental Health and Safety and Student Health Services, among others, to implement measures that improve the safety of work environments across our department and institution,” Jenkins said.

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