COVID back-to-work questions

Brad WalchukUncategorized

We’ve been hearing many questions and concerns from members regarding the back-to-campus protocols that are in place (and, in many cases, that are absent). The Union has a number of health and safety related questions in light of the return-to-work in the midst of the pandemic that we posed to Human Resources. The question are below, with the topic bolded, and HR’s answers to the questions are below, in italics.

Among other things, your union remains concern with the lack of distancing in learning spaces (permitted, sadly, by our provincial government) and that fact that McMaster has enforced anything more stringent. We are also concerned by the cleaning schedule of common office spaces that many of our TAs and Sessionals occupy. We believe that the university’s once-per-week cleaning schedule is insufficient.


air filtering-what, if any, updates to air filtering have occurred at McMaster?

Earlier this summer, Facilities Services reviewed campus ventilation systems to inform McMaster’s updated ventilation plan and implementation for the fall. McMaster’s Utilities team is working closely with Environmental & Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) to ensure that the university ventilation systems are functioning as designed and that any additional ventilation guidelines from Public Health are implemented.

The government of Ontario has recommended that elementary and secondary learning environments adopt the approach of installing standalone high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units in buildings without a mechanical ventilation system.  McMaster is updating its ventilation plan for the fall to include this approach.

This is in addition to: assessing and making any required updates to the ventilation systems in buildings on campus; maximizing fresh air and keeping air recirculation to a minimum in all buildings with mechanical ventilation systems; and installing high standard air filters (called MERV-13 air filters) in all buildings where air is recirculated before in-person learning begins.

Here is a full list of buildings on campus noting their ventilation type.

Detailed information is available here: and here:

cleaning schedule for shared office space-what is the current schedule/frequency of cleaning for classrooms and shared office space (ie/ TA and sessional offices)?

McMaster has a comprehensive cleaning plan in place for the Fall. As part of this plan, Custodial Services will clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, like door handles and light switches, in high traffic areas with increased frequency. Classrooms and lecture halls will be cleaned nightly and then treated with electrostatic disinfectant spray. Public washrooms will be cleaned twice daily at a minimum. Every evening, common spaces like libraries and eateries will be cleaned. Meeting spaces will be cleaned once per day and offices will be cleaned once per week. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are provided in classrooms and common spaces for personal use.   

Facility Services cleaning information is available here –

More information is also available here:

PPE (in particular eye shield)-what is the status of freely available PPE for staff, including eye shields?

Masks are available from your department if you do not have one.  Information on mask guidelines are located at this link:

A face shield is not equivalent to a face covering.  If you are working with someone within 2 metres and they are not able to wear a mask due to an exemption, then you should also wear safety glasses along with your mask.   For work purposes those safety glasses would be supplied by the University.

virtual office hours-we are hopeful that, whenever possible, virtual office hours will be permitted and encouraged in an effort to reduce contact in small spaces? Is this something that has been passed on to employment supervisors?

There are virtual office hours for many staff and faculty, and in-person discussions are encouraged by appointment so planning can be undertaken to prevent congregating, and also planning with respect to use of MacCheck and ensuring all parties are cleared to be on-site if meeting in person.

Outdoor spaces have been equipped with additional seating and increased Wi-Fi capacity to provide more opportunities to safely learn, study and collaborate in the fresh air.

percentage of in classes online-on a faculty-specific level, what is the percentage of classes being offered remotely?

As discussed at LMC, there are in person parts of many courses. There are approximately 50% of classes that have in person components for the fall term – either as a requirement or an opportunity – labs are in person, lectures are online for example. It is expected that on campus presence will be increasing into the winter term, staying closely aligned to health and safety direction from the province and public health.

Plexiglass shields-are Plexiglas shields set up in classrooms in front of the primary speaker? If not, what is the process to obtain these?

Plexiglass is not set up in individual classrooms in front of the primary speaker as this is not recommended. All individuals in classrooms are required to wear masks or face coverings.

More information is available here:

Availability of sanitizers in campus building- to what degree are sanitizers available in buildings and in individual classrooms?

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are also available in each classroom.

More information is available here:

Masking- Avenue’s “Back to Mac” training says that level 1 surgical masks are required where physical distancing of 2 meters can’t be maintained. Will the employer be providing these to folks who may need them? How/where will these be obtained?

If physical distancing cannot be maintained in a space that requires it, due to the type of work that is being performed, the surgical masks can be ordered from the FHS Scientific Stores.   If this is part of an employee’s work it would be supplied by University.

Numbers of campus- what is the number of CUPE 3906 members who are expected to come onto campus for work this term?

This is not tracked centrally – each department is supporting employees on in person needs and is expected to vary day to day based on operational requirements.

Capacity- what is the percentage-based capacity for in-person classes?

The province permits instructional spaces without physical distancing; however, at McMaster larger classrooms are being used for in person learning, where available.  Specifically, only 2% of in-person class components have between 51 and 100 students and most are in rooms where the room capacity has been kept under 50% allowing students to spread out.  The University adjusted room assignments in September to have as many classes as possible in larger rooms. Almost 60% of classes with on campus classrooms have enrolments of less than 25.  In addition, lecture halls have been fitted with tools that allow students to attend remotely, even if the class is being offered in person. 

Relocating- is the employer willing to move tutorials out of small basement rooms into larger rooms not in use if members find those rooms to be unsafe? What is the process for this?

Classes / tutorials have been arranged based on available rooms, and the specific teaching and learning needs for students.  The health and safety of each space on campus has been reviewed and confirmed. If there are specific questions regarding health and safety of specific spaces, please advise and they will be reviewed by the EHOSS and facilities teams for response.

Distancing- since physical distancing measures have been reduced, what is the science that supports that change in health and safety controls/protocols?

The University is following direction from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities with respect to physical distancing requirements – both where they are required, and where they are not required. Please also see additional information above regarding current capacity considerations for the fall term.

Ill-effects of vaccination- should someone get sick from receiving their first or second does of vaccination, what is the employer’s process? What is the employer’s process for long-term illness from the mandated vaccination?

It remains a personal decision whether to get vaccinated and which vaccine may be most appropriate for the individual’s unique circumstances. If employees have questions about what it will mean for them from a health perspective, they should speak with their healthcare provider about their circumstances.

Exemption requests based on human rights grounds, including medical / disability will continue to be reviewed even if submitted beyond the deadline – they may require additional time for consideration given volume of requests received. Information regarding the exemption process can be found at:

Vaccination Record Access- Will front-line (or direct) employment supervisors have access to an employee’s vaccination record or test results as a part of the operation of this policy?

Supervisors do not / will not have access to an employee’s vaccination record or test result as a result of the MacCheck digital tool. They will only see “cleared” or “not cleared” to attend on-site.