Health and safety

Professional Services colleagues, working with schools, have been co-ordinating plans for how students and staff return to the University of Sussex campus in stages, so that it is a safe place to work, study, socialise and live.

The Health and Safety Committee, chaired by Chief Operating Officer Tim Westlake, has trade union representation and is meeting at least every two weeks to consider these matters. 

Restarting life on campus is not a straightforward process: it is clear that a number of measures - including social distancing and travel restrictions, in some form or another- may be in place for some time.  You can read the government's Local COVID alert levels: what you need to know information, including what they mean, why they are being introduced and what the different levels are.

Campus re-opening is taking place across three broad stages:

  • Stage 1 focused on the initial re-opening of campus over the summer, in July and August
  • Stage 2 is running from the start of the 2020/21 academic year in September
  • Stage 3 will begin in January 2021

Health and safety guidance for staff

If you are returning to campus during Stage 2, please make sure you have familiarised yourself with all the available health and safety guidance for staff. 

Offices: If you are working in an office space, you should ensure you have read the Health & Safety guidance for working in office and low hazard spaces [PDF 836KB]. This includes guidance on determining the distance between colleagues in offices and use of other spaces.

Labs: If you are working in a laboratory,  you should also read the relevant Health and Safety guidance [PDF 950KB]. 

Teaching spacesHealth and Safety guidance for teaching staff [PDF 840KB]

Campus buildings and risk assessments

All University buildings have now re-opened with the required assessments completed.
As part of the phased re-opening of campus, guidance on risk assessments as well as assessments for the general use of teaching and office space are available to understand and view. Risk assessments have been reviewed by members of the University’s Health & Safety team.
These risk assessments are all now available on the Health & Safety Covid-19 resources page (at the end of the accordion). You can also access a detailed paper on the University’s ventilation surveys and checks.

FAQs that relate to risk assessments can be found below.

Senior Safety Adviser Alistair Hardwick explains some of the control measures that have been put in place.

Our campus community

We care passionately that the University of Sussex environment, both online and on campus, is a warm and welcoming place where everyone feels safe, supported and included, and that all our staff and students are treated with dignity and respect.

At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, before lockdown measures were introduced and the campus was full, the support for everyone in our community was extremely strong – especially those students who had recently travelled from other parts of the world.

We will continue to emphasise the need to show respect, kindness and compassion for all during this uncertain time. We will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour or harassment of any kind; action will be taken, as well as support offered to anyone who has concerns.

Our community understands that some people prefer to wear face masks at all times and we welcome you to do what feels best for you.

Reporting symptoms and self-isolation

If you experience symptoms associated with Covid-19, you must leave work immediately and inform your line manager, either by email or phone. You should also complete the Covid-19 symptoms or self isolation reporting form

Working with the local Health Protection Team (HPT)

The University is in direct contact with the Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Team (often referred to as HPT). The Health Protection Team informs the University if any of our community has tested positive for Covid-19 (and by return we inform them of any that are notified to us directly).  The HPT might also give us advice if they consider that action needs to be taken, particularly if there is concern that a rise in cases is emerging.

What happens in the case of a positive test?

If a student or staff member does test positive, they will need to quarantine normally for ten days from the onset of symptoms.  You will be given the exact number of days to quarantine by the NHS – and of course it is critical that you do this.  In addition, all members of the household (or student accommodation) will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the onset of the infected person’s symptoms. The isolation period is longer than for the affected person because the incubation period can be up to 14 days.
Working with the HPT, the University will be able to assess the risk level for any positive cases, and determine what other measures may need to be taken.
If a staff member has been on campus in the days before becoming symptomatic, the University will liaise with the HPT to ascertain at the earliest opportunity the risk level and inform colleagues or students as necessary.

The number of positive cases at Sussex

To protect the wellbeing of those people, we won’t be sharing any more details of who they are. 
This means that as well as the students who are positive, all of their housemates are also now in self-isolation, as per the Government guidance.
I can assure you that we have taken every measure required of us to ensure our staff and students’ health and that of our community is protected and that the risk of transmission is minimised.

How we will continue to adapt and respond

The level of positive cases in our campus community, whilst obviously concerning for their welfare and of others, is not at a level whereby it should change our current mode of blended learning for students.
However, if the number of cases rises to a point that we feel that we need to restrict movement around campus, such as reducing the number of indoor spaces where people mix (even with face coverings on) we will do that. 
We have a clear plan in place for a range of potential changes, which is in line with guidance from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the Department for Education (DfE).
Please do understand we are not at that place.  However, we will of course move to that position if we are advised to do so by the authorities, or before then, if we feel that based upon the evidence, we need to do so.

Information on positive cases within the University community

In the interest of full transparency we are providing you with details of confirmed positive cases amongst our community on a regular basis, on our website. This is to give you reassurance on our approach to openness, as well as to ensure that there is not misinformation about the number of cases. 
To protect the welfare of our staff and students, we will not be sharing any further details on the identity of those who have tested positive, or the location of residences if they are on campus. 


Do the risk assessments mention aerosoal as a vector for Covid transmission?

The building and general teaching or office space risk assessments have considered the controls in place to reduce transmission by contact, airborne and droplet routes and have taken into account students and staff as separate groups that may be affected.

The checks have been completed by SEF, which is part of the building sign-off prior to building handover. 

The controls in place include:

  • A check on all ventilation systems in accessible areas, in line with the guidance from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE);
  • The installation of one-way systems, classroom layouts and occupancy limits for rooms to enable social distancing;
  • Rules and guidance on the use of face coverings for staff and students;
  • Provision of wipes and hand sanitiser, and instructions on their use.

 This is also mentioned on the Health and Safety web page with the link for the risk assessments.

I am worried about the build-up of aerosol concentration in rooms with continuous occupancy of classes and limited ventilation.

The question assumes that there will be a build-up of Covid-19 in a room, which itself would require all or most of the students using the room to be infected and not to be using control measures such as face coverings. It is highly unlikely that all or most of the students using a room will be infected but, additionally, we have clear requirements with regard to control measures such as face coverings. We therefore do not consider that there is a risk of contaminated aerosol build-up.

The ventilation systems of all campus buildings have been assessed; these assessments consider all accessible areas. Details of air changes are available on the Health & Safety Covid-19 resources page.

Should there be risk assessments for individual rooms?

The University has completed risk assessments for all of its occupied buildings, and these have been published and are accessible to all staff. A number of area-specific guidance documents discuss the principles of protection used. Where the principles apply to a range of spaces, e.g. teaching rooms, these are set up using a standard approach.

Individual room assessments or activity assessments are completed where the activity or space is unique and non-standard controls are required, e.g. a chemistry laboratory. The room layouts for general teaching spaces are individually planned by Estates and SEF, and laid out accordingly. In addition, each room has had its own assessment of ventilation by SEF.

Specific assessments of an individual room would be completed only where the measures used to control the hazard do not provide an adequate level of control. These controls are in line with the University guidance documents. Where there are concerns about individual spaces – either due to the nature of the space or the activity within the space – we have spent a lot of time with Schools resolving specific issues; examples include the use of music and media studios.

I wish to go abroad for personal / recreational reasons and the current government guidance requires me to self-isolate for 14 days when I return. What will this mean for my work at the University?

It is likely that many staff who have booked holidays abroad will have had these cancelled but, if you are planning to take leave outside the UK, please contact your manager in advance to agree the arrangements to accommodate current requirements for self-isolation on your return. If you have been granted annual leave for your trip and will be able to work from home, there may be no implications for your work. You will simply continue to work from home, but your manager will be aware that you will be unable to attend your place of work during this period. If you have on-site teaching or other requirements during the self-isolation period, you will need to speak with your manager so they can arranged for these to be covered. 

You will be required at all times to act in accordance with the latest government guidance on re-entering the country.

If you are unable to carry out your normal work from home, and you cannot be allocated alternative work that you can carry out from home, you should discuss the impact of this with your line manager before you book your annual leave and travel abroad. The alternative options that might be available to you regarding the 14-day self-isolation period include:

  • If you have sufficient annual leave, you may apply for a long enough period of leave to cover both your trip and the required period of self-isolation on your return. (Exceptionally you may be able to make a local arrangement to bring forward some of your 2021 leave allowance to cover this period.)
  • If you do not have sufficient annual leave, you may apply for annual leave for your trip and additionally for a period of unpaid leave to cover your self-isolation on your return.
  • It may alternatively be possible for you to make up the time required during the three months following your return to work and, where practical and possible, your manager should support this.

Should you develop symptoms of COVID-19 at any point, you must follow the relevant Government guidance with regards to getting tested. Any period when you are unwell should be registered as sickness absence.

Government guidance continues to evolve and may override University guidance at any time.

What will the University be doing about cleaning regimes, hand wash and hand sanitiser?

PHE guidance stressed the critical importance of observing the basic hygiene principles: Catch it, bin it, kill it – and always wash your hands. A key element of a safe return to campus will be our COVID- response cleaning regimes, including areas such as receptions, computer cluster rooms, handrails, door handles, light switches, etc. Hand sanitiser will be available in key areas and we will ensure supplies of hand wash.

How will the University implement social distancing?

The University has put in place measures to support social distancing, such as distance markings at suitable locations within buildings. All individuals on campus need to follow the requirements, and encourage and support others in doing so, as part of a collective responsibility for the health and safety of themselves and others in our buildings. 

A pragmatic approach to enforcement of social distancing will be necessary which is principally peer led (i.e. all staff and students have a responsibility to follow the requirements, as well as to remind others to do so), with any ongoing concerns raised with line managers or security staff. The Government recommendations do enable us to use a social distancing of 1m + mitigation (with additional factors being considered and control measures being applied where applicable). This principle will be in place in spaces such as some corridors and some general teaching space, where 2m is not possible. In all of these situations where we are using the 1m+ distancing, all staff and students should wear face coverings in communal areas. This does not apply to offices, where other mitigating measures are in place.

My line manager has confirmed I am not in an essential role and will therefore be working from home until January 2021 and I do not have suitable equipment, what can I do?

If you are concerned that your remote working environment is not safe or adequate for any reason, you need to highlight this to your line manager immediately.

If your concerns are linked to your IT equipment, e.g. laptops, your manager can make an assessment of your needs and make a request to ITS for equipment to be considered. Smaller, one-off, peripherals listed below can be purchased using a University purchasing card (through Amazon Business) if necessary, by Heads of School or Directors of Professional Service. If you require any further guidance, please contact the ITS Service Desk.


Max guide price


Headsets (USB)



Webcam (HD)


webcam should at least be HD

Keyboard (wired or wireless)


Check connections

Mouse (wired or wireless)


Check connections

Mouse mat



Wrist support





check your connections to ensure


If your concerns are linked to your furniture (e.g. desk and chair), a few are options available to you. You could consider returning to work on campus, as we will be able to provide a suitable workstation for you, meeting all H&S requirements. This workstation may not be in your normal area of work, but we will do our very best to find a suitable place of work for you temporarily.

What is the University’s position on face coverings?

The University has reflected on the Government’s guidance on the wearing of face coverings in the context of our return to campus.

We recommend that you carry a face mask with you at all times when on campus and would also recommend that you wear a face mask in any built-up or communal areas where it is difficult to keep up to 2m apart. Common areas include foyers, corridors, toilet facilities, stairs, lifts and when queuing for food and beverages, etc. where social distancing of 2m may be difficult to achieve. This will not apply in offices, where other mitigating measures are in place.

There will be some areas where you will be asked to wear a mask and these areas will be identified through signposting. These include areas such as shops, take-away food areas, teaching rooms and the Library.

We recognise that the wearing of face coverings is not appropriate for all and have started the work to find an appropriate means of indicating this exemption.

As a member of staff, do I need a face covering?

Whether you need to use a face covering, surgical mask or visor in your work area will depend upon the risk assessment for your work area. Where effective social distancing can be maintained, the risk assessment may indicate no coverings are required, but in others this may not be the case and surgical masks and visors may be mandatory. Such areas will provided with suitable signage.

In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something that safely covers the nose and mouth. Face coverings may be reusable or single-use. A scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering that securely fits round the side of the face is also a face covering. It is a matter of personal choice for staff and students which form of face covering they choose to wear.

See full details of Government guidance on the wearing of face coverings.

Colleagues are also reminded of the need to only wear face coverings where necessary and to remove them if safe to do so in order to reduce the impact on those who may lip read.

As a member of staff who is working face to face with students, will the University be providing me with a face covering?

The University has procured a large number of disposable face masks that will be available for staff who need to be face to face in their interactions with students or colleagues. Other protective measures have also been put in place in many areas, such as Perspex screens. We do recommend that staff and students carry their own personal face covering with them at all times when on campus, as you would do in any situation these days that might mean you are mixing with people not normally in your household or bubble.

I would like to see what the work space looks like before I have to return to working on campus; is this possible?

Yes, and we would encourage you to do this through your line manager, who can arrange for a safe tour of the area. It may help to make you feel more reassured about the preparations that have already been made and are ongoing to make campus safe for return. The calendar of events include webinars, campus tours, and informal coffee and cake events.

What should staff do in the event of a fire alarm?

In the event of a fire alarm, evacuate the building via the normal route and disregard one-way systems that have been put in place. The priority is to calmly exit the building; social distancing should resume once the building has been cleared. Lecturers and teaching staff should control their classes’ movement to the assembly point.

What is planned for contact tracing?

We are not establishing our own track and trace system. We are supporting the national NHS track and trace requirements and we are encouraging people to use the national NHS contact-tracing app.

How are we contact tracing in lecture theatres and seminar rooms?

We have limited resources and we are not trying to supplant the national Track & Trace system, but to support it. We therefore generally rely upon the NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app in areas such as lecture theatres and seminar rooms. They all have QR codes and all staff and students are strongly encouraged to use the app.

If a student or lecturer tests positive this should be recorded on the app and if – as hoped - the lecturer/student also has the app switched on, they will be notified via that if they were in close enough contact for there to be a transmission risk.

The small team that we have running our own contact tracing is focused upon the close contacts made in the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms in social groups where the risk of transmission is very much higher (because the mitigation in place for lectures/seminars tends not to be observed/in place).

All of that said, if from discussions with a positive case it was revealed that the student had been in close contact with a lecturer away from the general teaching process, e.g. in a one to one tutorial, then that lecturer would be contacted by us.

Please do dowload and use the NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing app.

What procedures have been put in place for robust testing and surveillance of the university body?

Brighton & Hove City Council will soon have three testing centres which you will be able to walk, cycle or drive to. 

We have explored the options of testing on campus, which would include asymptomatic testing. As the Life Sciences labs on campus would not be part of the Government scheme, these test results would need to be validated and that could overburden the NHS and testing facility.

We will keep testing under review; this subject is discussed frequently, both within the University and with our community partners.

How will ventilation be managed in teaching spaces?

The SEF team worked hard to ensure all campus spaces have adequate ventilation and provided assurance to the Health & Safety team that ventilation in accessible areas meets the CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) standards. These measures include:

  • Checking all accessible spaces against existing health and safety requirements to provide adequate supplies of fresh air
  • Air condition filter units have been changed and units have been set to bring in air from outside where possible
  • Some windowless rooms (e.g. lecture theatres) have air-handling systems that provide ventilation which is not immediately apparent
  • Areas where this cannot be confirmed or that develop faults may be closed

An additional health and safety  control to ventilation is face coverings.