Safety measures Mask use
Masks are mandatory in indoor spaces. KN95 masks are highly recommended, but 3-ply medical masks (minimum ASTM Grade 2) are also acceptable.
Two adjustments have been made to the masking protocol beginning in Fall Term:
- Instructors may choose to remove their mask when actively teaching, provided a 2m distance can be maintained from students.
- Staff may remove their mask when seated at a cubicle-type workspace, provided there is a physical barrier to adjacent workers (e.g., cubicle partition) or a minimum of 2m separation from others.
Masks must be worn in all indoor spaces on UM campuses, including:
- all common spaces
- labs doorways
- work spaces
- all libraries
- all study spaces
UM will supply all necessary masks, both KN95 masks (highly recommended) and the 3-ply medical masks (minimum ASTM Grade 2), which are also acceptable.
Unless you are in a food-designated area, you must keep your mask on and covering your mouth and nose at virtually all times, including:
- indoors even when physical distancing is possible
- trips to the bathroom
- participating in UM-sanctioned activities off-campus at any time when two metres distancing is not possible
You do not need to wear a mask if you are alone in a closed space, consuming food/beverages in a food-designated area, or outdoors.
No eye protection is required except that for specific occupational health and safety requirements outside of the COVID-19 context (e.g. safety glasses in labs, clinical skills sessions).
For up-to-date information on fitness facility protocols, please visit the Recreation Services website.
Mask use and disposal
Please ensure your mask is fitted properly to maintain maximum effectiveness.
Based on medical advice and scientific reports, disposable masks can be effective for approximately 40 hours/five full working days.
It is recommended that after wearing a mask for eight hours (or one day), that the mask is allowed to dry for three to four days until the next use. Some people find it helpful to have a different mask labelled for each day of the week, and cycling between masks, allowing them to dry.
Continued use of a mask is acceptable as long as the mask is not soiled or completely wet. Do not attempt to wash your disposable masks — washing has been shown to considerably reduce effectiveness.
Soiled masks or those that have been completely wet should be disposed of.
UM has mask recycling bins at Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses.
Rapid test kits
The University of Manitoba is partnering with the Province for the distribution of rapid test kits. Rapid test kits will be available at the mask distribution tables until supplies run out.
UM is not mandating a requirement to rapid test but rather providing the UM community with rapid tests to make it easier for faculty/staff/students to test at home if you are feeling symptomatic and therefore not coming to campus sick.
Employees can obtain rapid test kits from their faculties and units, which purchase them by ordering through EPIC.
Students can pick up masks at distribution sites on Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses, which will all be open September 1 to 16 from 7 a.m. to 3 pm.:
- Fort Garry campus: Machray Hall, UMSU Service Centre, Engineering Complex, Drake Centre, Fletcher Argue Building, Extended Education Complex.
- Bannatyne campus: Brodie Centre.
As of September 16, students can still get masks at any UM Library or at the UMSU Service Centre. UMSU Service Centre hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Please visit the Libraries website for the most current hours.
Staff should contact their units, faculties or departments for masks.
Physical distancing is required only in food-designated areas. No physical distancing is required in any classroom or workplace or other general on-campus spaces.
Physical distancing is required in areas designed for food consumption (where masks can be removed while eating and drinking). Mandatory minimum distancing in all lunch and common spaces is two metres. In addition:
- masks must be worn at all times in these spaces (see mask guidance above) while not eating or drinking
- eating outside is encouraged when weather permits
Please connect with your supervisor about how your unit will be implementing a workspace plan that aligns with current public health orders and UM protocols.
Testing and illness
Stay home when you are sick. The health and safety of our UM community remains our top priority. If you are not feeling well, go home immediately or stay home and use the Shared Health Screening Tool to determine if you should be tested. You can call 1-877-308-9038 to access the screening tool in an interactive voice response format (IVR).
Before coming to campus
It is essential that employees and students self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and/or exposures before attending to any on-campus activities.
If the checklist advises you not to enter, stay home, isolate and refer to the:
- Online COVID-19 Screening Tool, or
- Call Health Links – Info Santé at 204-788-8200
- Toll free at 1-888-315-9257 for further guidance
If you need to take a test for COVID-19, rapid tests are available through units. Inquire with your supervisor or dean.
UM will no longer be collecting or reporting data on COVID cases on campus. Individuals had been asked to report if they tested positive, but were not required to do so. As a result, the numbers are not a complete and accurate representation of actual COVID cases on campus.
If you receive a positive test result for COVID-19, you must follow all directives from Manitoba Public Health and do not travel to the university until it is safe to do so.
UM does not require you to report your COVID-19 test result. Please contact your instructor or supervisor to make arrangements for your absence.
If you test positive for COVID-19
If you test positive for COVID-19, you must follow all directives from the Manitoba Public Health related to self-isolation. Do not travel to the university.
Please contact your instructor to make arrangements for your absence.
Faculty, staff and instructors
Faculty and instructors teaching in-person should contact their dean or department head to make alternate arrangements for course instruction.
Staff working on campus should contact their supervisor to discuss their absence from work or if possible, make remote work arrangements.
Notifying close contacts
In most situations, public health officials will no longer be notifying close contacts of those infected with COVID-19. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be asked to identify and notify their contacts.
Who is considered a close contact?
Close contacts are the people you were around two days before the start of your symptoms, as well as 10 days after your symptoms develop. This is your period of communicability, when you were most likely to spread COVID-19 to others. For cases who tested positive without symptoms, the period of communicability extends from two days before your lab test to 10 days after you had the test.
Anyone who has shared a space with you during your period of communicability is considered a close contact. Specifically, these are people who were within two metres/six feet of you for a total of 10 minutes over a 24-hour period.
Resources to assist with identifying close contacts
Please use the Province of Manitoba’s Contact Tracing Tool to identify close contacts.
You can also use the Manitoba Government – Close Contact Notification page to learn more about what you need to do to reach out to close contacts and keep our community safe.
Indoor Air Quality at UM
Indoor air quality report
The University of Manitoba recently undertook Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing within a representative sample of learning spaces across the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses.
Environmental consultants from Pinchin Ltd. and UM’s Physical Plant, in collaboration with UM’s Environmental Health and Safety Office, attended the sites to perform the IAQ assessments. A 24-hour assessment was completed for each space, and Pinchin assessed data from both occupied periods as well as the full 24-hour cycle. The work followed the guidance of the most recent IAQ standards for the indicators being assessed.
Results from the 24-hour testing period were within typical and acceptable ranges, indicating good air quality in the buildings for the duration of the testing period.
Information on building ventilation and indoor air quality
UM heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are managed in accordance with the requirements for building occupancy and are maintained regularly for filter and operating conditions.
Well-functioning HVAC systems support overall COVID-19 safety protocols by removing and diluting aerosols that may contain viruses from indoor spaces but it is only one strategy; wearing a well-fitting mask and frequent hand hygiene continue to be important.
Indoor air quality assessments
In fall 2021, UM contracted Pinchin Ltd. to conduct IAQ testing to establish baseline levels. Due to limited activity on campus, this testing was completed in older buildings with older HVAC systems.
In March 2022, UM re-contracted with Pinchin to repeat IAQ testing to account for an increase in in-person activity on UM campuses and changes to fresh air intake into the buildings due to colder exterior temperatures. Read the results in the IAQ report.
Building ventilation at UM
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all UM HVAC systems were set for demand-based operation, where outdoor air intake was based on system need. UM has since enhanced ventilation protocols by reviewing ventilation systems and working to optimize the capabilities of these systems. Some additional measures include:
- All demand ventilation systems disabled to keep the air handling operating at full capacity even during low-occupancy periods
- As seasonal conditions allow, mixed air systems are set to 100 per cent fresh air
- There are several buildings with CO2 monitors built directly into the HVAC system and actively monitored
With these enhancements in place, operations of the university's ventilation systems align with COVID-19 public health requirements and recommendations, as outlined by COVID safety recommendations.
Ongoing ventilation measures
The followin measures are in place at UM campuses:
- Increasing outdoor air intake: As seasonal conditions allow, ventilation systems on campus are optimized within system capabilities to maximize the amount of outdoor air being supplied to classrooms and other building areas. Increased outdoor air supply to building spaces has been identified by COVID safety recommendations as a key measure that may help in reducing the spread of COVID-19 within buildings.
- Increasing air exchanges by extending fan run-times: Operating schedules for ventilation systems on campus extended to include times before and after building occupied hours, and in some cases to run 24/7. This will increase the number of daily air exchanges and ensure that spaces are well-ventilated. COVID safety recommendations recommend this practice to increase the amount of air exchanges within building spaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Filters: To ensure ventilation system filtration is working optimally within system designs, filters are checked frequently as part of the regularly scheduled preventative maintenance routines. Routine inspections and maintenance can be helpful in reducing the spread of viruses. In many cases, pre-filters are used to extend the life of the main filter. The ASHRAE recommendations are reviewed and followed as closely as possible.
- Preventative maintenance: All campus ventilation systems are catalogued within our Computerized Maintenance Management System and receive regular preventative maintenance service routines, including filter changes, inspections and repairs as needed. Filters are checked monthly and can last from 1-2 months to 6-12 months depending on the area and the outside conditions.
Future plans include MERV 13 filter testing on UM buildings, the purchase of equipment to measure air changes in spaces where needed, and improvements to the existing IAQ monitoring program.
Frequently asked questions
What is ventilation?
Ventilation is defined by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) as “(1) the process of supplying air to or removing air from a space for the purpose of controlling air contaminant levels, humidity, or temperature within the space. (2) the process of supplying or removing air by natural or mechanical means to or from any space. Such air may or may not have been conditioned.”
What is HVAC?
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. It refers to the systems responsible for the moving air between outdoor and indoor spaces, and the heating and cooling of this air.
What standards do we use for our ventilation system?
UM HVAC systems meet or exceed the ASHRAE standards for building ventilation and filtration at the time of construction or renovation. These standards are supported by the Government of Canada and are part of the guidance for ventilation created by the Public Health Agency of Canada to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
What changes have been made to the ventilation system since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic?
UM HVAC systems are maintained in accordance with the requirements for building occupancy, and are maintained regularly for filter and operating conditions. The UM HVAC systems meet the standards in place at the time of construction or renovation and provide good ventilation to our campus buildings. There are no known deficiencies with our campus HVAC systems that would prevent them from providing good ventilation, and any issues with the systems are addressed in order of priority.
Any disruptions to good ventilation are communicated to the building occupants through the Service Disruption notices. UM employs a series of HVAC professionals in the Operations and Maintenance (O and M) and Architectural and Engineering Services (AES) departments, and those staff are empowered with managing and maintaining the HVAC systems across UM campuses.
In addition to the general condition of the UM HVAC systems, O and M has implemented some additional measures to increase the amount of fresh air being delivered to UM spaces:
- ongoing filter inspection to ensure they are functioning properly
- all demand ventilation systems disabled to keep air handling operating at full capacity even during low-occupancy periods
- as seasonal conditions allow, mixed air systems draw in as much air as possible, dependent on heating and cooling system capacities
What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and how does it relate to ventilation?
IAQ refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Ventilation and IAQ are closely related, as the ventilation systems play a direct role in supplying air to the building occupants.
What do I need to know about Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings?
MERV refers to the scaled effectiveness of air filters. The scale is designed to represent the “worst-case performance” of a filter when dealing with particles on the ranges of 0.3 to 10 micron. Higher MERV ratings correspond to a greater percentage of particles captured on each pass.
Why does UM not upgrade all buildings to the highest-possible MERV ratings?
Building air handling systems are designed to provide a certain amount of air changes per hour, based on a designed filtration measure. If the filtration level is increased without increasing the speed of the fan or the volume of air pushed through the system, it will result in higher air pressure in the system and less volume of air delivered to the end occupied spaces.
Any changes to filtration level, beyond the designed standard, need to be evaluated to ensure the air changes per hour ventilation level is maintained. Changing the ventilation level may also impact other IAQ indicators to make the overall space less comfortable.
What are the indicators used to measure and monitor IAQ?
Indicators used to measure and monitor IAQ can commonly include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature, relative humidity, particulate matter 2.5 and total volatile organic compounds.
What is the standard air change per hour level in UM buildings?
Different building usages have differing design standards for ventilation rates and air change per hour standards. The ASHRAE recommended that ventilation rates for schools, offices, shops, restaurants and homes vary from 0.35 – 8 air changes per hour.
UM buildings meet the standards at the time of construction or renovation and are maintained regularly by the HVAC professionals within Operations and Maintenance.
How do I report a concern with air quality at UM?
If you are concerned about the indoor air quality in your workspace, contact EHSO@umanitoba.ca and a member of the Environmental Health and Safety Office will connect with you to investigate.
What does UM do when/if a poor IAQ condition is found in a facility?
If a condition of poor IAQ is found in a UM facility, the Environmental Health and Safety Office will take immediate action to ensure occupants are notified and cleared from the location if the condition is at a level of concern for health and safety. The source of the poor IAQ condition will be identified and work will be conducted with Physical Plant to assess potential system changes to operate facilities according to workplace standards.
What do IAQ standards mean to my health and safety?
An Environmental Standard for typical good IAQ indicators (e.g., CO, CO2, VOC) is a limit that signals to environmental health and safety professionals when further investigation into air movement and ventilation may be necessary.
These standards are not points at which your health and safety may be compromised, but indicate that some change in controls may be beneficial (examples of control changes may include ventilation or education). These control changes can ensure the indoor air quality is at optimal levels for comfort and can prevent levels that may cause concern for occupant health.
An Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) is a standard defined under the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act and regulations as the maximum of a chemical or physical hazard a worker may be exposed to for eight hours a day, five days a week.
Ex. CO2 workplace standards
Outdoor Air (ppm) + 700 ppm
American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality [ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62. 1-2019]
Occupational Exposure Standard
ACGIH 2019 Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices as designated in Part 36 of The Workplace Safety and Health Regulations: https://www.gov.mb.ca/labour/safety/occ_exp_limits.html
Safety measures Enhanced cleaning and hygiene
For information about COVID-19 and how it spreads, visit the Province of Manitoba website.
Hand washing: Handwashing posters have been placed by sinks in most bathrooms on campus. All UM members should review proper handwashing technique:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds including palms, backs of each hand, between fingers, thumbs and under nails. Rinse and dry hands well.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Hands should be washed in the following situations:
- Upon arrival in the workplace
- After work in close contact with another employee (less than 2 metres)
- If hands are soiled/dirty
- After using the bathroom
- At the end of the day
- Upon arrival at home
Hand sanitizer stations are available at the entrance of all campus buildings.
When coughing or sneezing:
- cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
- dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a waste basket and wash your hands afterwards
Preparation and prevention
UM’s guiding principles for COVID-19 health and safety
During the pandemic, the COVID Recovery Working Group has established five guiding principles to inform its work:
- The health and safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors is the over-arching priority.
- All students, staff and faculty will work remotely unless approval has been granted to work on campus.
- Any activity on campus, whatever its nature, will be carried out while strictly respecting the constraints of public health authorities and in accordance with government guidelines and directives.
- Recovery of on-campus activities will be gradual and in keeping with the University’s stated principles and recovery plan.
- The University will continue to take into consideration and accommodate special circumstances for staff, faculty and students, including health conditions.