Pandemic safety officers to help facilitate COVID-19 safety plan implementation

Masking and social distancing among required safety standards for return to campus; Compliance will be enforced through existing Penn State policies and procedures

Students, employees and visitors are required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks/coverings at all times in campus buildings; outdoors when they cannot be physically distant from others; and whenever state or local laws require. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In preparation for the return of employees and students to Penn State’s campuses for the fall semester, comprehensive safety guidelines have been developed and will be strictly enforced in the interest of the health and safety of the University community.

As part of these efforts, and in accordance with Pennsylvania Department of Health requirements, each college, campus, institute or administrative unit will be required to designate a pandemic safety officer for each work location, such as a building or worksite, to respond to questions about the University’s COVID-19 safety plan requirements. The pandemic safety officer will serve as a first level of contact to help implement COVID-19 safety plans and respond to questions and concerns raised by individual students, faculty and staff within their respective units.

If individuals do not adhere to the University’s COVID-19 safety requirements, then disciplinary measures will be elevated to the employee’s supervisor and human resources representative, or the Office of Student Conduct for students.

Pandemic safety officers, who will be designated by each unit executive, will serve as key resources related to COVID-19 safety standards and for raising individual questions and concerns within a unit. Specifically, pandemic safety officers will:

“The pandemic safety officers will play a vital role in our efforts to protect community health and well-being as we put our COVID-19 safety plans into motion in coordination with the University’s COVID-19 operations control center and our EHS office,” said Jim Crandall, director of Penn State Environmental Health and Safety. “These individuals will be an important on-the-ground resource for faculty, staff, students and administrators alike. In this dynamic environment, we need to be able to quickly communicate and resolve emerging issues with clarity, and use of your pandemic safety officer is the best way to do that.”

Full details about the pandemic safety officer role and responsibilities can be found on the Environmental Health and Safety website.

COVID-19 safety enforcement and reporting

The need for the new pandemic safety officer role was identified in a report from the COVID-19 Safety Standards, Expectations and Accountability Working Group, which details how the University’s COVID-19 safety plan will be enforced, as well as avenues for community members to report safety concerns.

“Compliance with the University’s COVID-19 safety standards is essential to protecting the health of the entire Penn State community,” said Abby Diehl, assistant vice provost for Faculty Affairs and chair of the University’s COVID-19 Safety Standards, Expectations and Accountability Working Group. “Every student and employee will be held individually accountable to these standards, as the success of our return-to-campus planning depends on our collective commitment to wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and looking out for the health and safety of one another.”

Students who do not adhere to Penn State’s COVID-19 safety requirements, including masking, social distancing and testing, will be subject to action under the Student Code of Conduct. Faculty members have been provided with a guidance document that describes the steps they can take to manage COVID-19 safety concerns in the classroom, including dismissing noncompliant students from class and referring them to the Office of Student Conduct. Similar guidance has been issued for when students visit University offices.

In addition, all employees and students are subject to Penn State Policy SY01, which states, “All University employees and students have specific responsibilities to comply with established health and safety policies, standards, rules, procedures and regulations. Compliance with these is essential to create and maintain a healthy and safe environment at all University locations.”

Employee noncompliance with COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be handled in the same manner as any violation of workplace health and safety guidelines. Supervisors and academic administrators should address COVID-19-related health and safety violations by staff and faculty in a uniform and consistent manner, in consultation with the unit’s human resources representative.

Employees who wish to report health and safety concerns within their unit should contact their supervisor, human resources representative, and/or pandemic safety officer. Students wishing to report a health and safety concern should contact their academic unit head (department head, school director, division head, or associate dean for academic affairs) or their unit’s pandemic safety officer. Other reporting avenues include the Office of Ethics and Compliance and Environmental Health and Safety.

For more information on Penn State’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, visit and

Last Updated August 26, 2020