Guidelines and Procedures for RMFI Field Crews in Response to COVID-19

Guidelines and Procedures for RMFI Field Crews in Response to COVID-19

March 30, 2020 by Jennifer Peterson

This document was most recently updated on May 11, 2020.

PURPOSE:

Under the authorization of the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) has been permitted to provide essential park maintenance operations pursuant to Executive Order D 2020 017 (Ordering Coloradans to Stay at Home Due to the Presence of COVID-19 in the State) and Amended Public Health Order 20-24 (Implementing Stay At Home Requirements - Sections IIIC.3, IIIC.9, IIID.1) through April 27, 2020. RMFI will continue to operate under the updated Executive Order D 2020 044 and Public Health Order 20-28 (Safer at Home) through May 26, 2020. RMFI is authorized to complete trail and restoration work by the following public land management agencies in 2020: Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services; Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office; El Paso County Parks; U.S. Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District and Saguache Ranger District. In delivering these essential services, RMFI will keep the health and safety of our employees and community as the first priority. 

The purpose of this document is to provide RMFI employees with operating procedures to abide by CDC guidelines and government issued orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring a productive, positive, and safe work environment.

THESE GUIDELINES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE AND MUST BE FOLLOWED AT ALL TIMES TO ENSURE EMPLOYMENT.

GENERAL INFO AND GUIDANCE:

All RMFI seasonal employees must remain vigilant in following all CDC guidelines and complying with all government issued orders AT ALL TIMES. This document is subject to change contingent on the latest pandemic information, best practices, and updates to local public health guidelines.

Social Distancing: 

  • If you are feeling unwell, do not come into work! Self-isolate and follow CDC’s Steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick
  • If you come into contact with someone who is sick with the virus or someone who has been in contact with a confirmed case, notify your immediate supervisor and do not come to work!
  • All staff must remain a minimum of 6’ apart from each other and any member of the public at all times during the workday. 
  • Do not participate in gatherings (for work or for personal matters) of more than 10 people. 
  • Reduce group size whenever possible.
  • Avoid public transportation.
  • Avoid long distance travel.
  • Avoid anyone who may have COVID-19 or may have come in contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
  • Do not touch domestic animals in a public setting (Animals are not known to be carriers, but could have the virus present on fur from infected people).
  • Limit your exposure by minimizing the number of trips to obtain essentials for RMFI (i.e. hardware, fuel, etc.) and your personal needs (groceries, etc). Use online ordering services whenever possible to reduce in-person interactions at retail venues.

Screening: 

  • All field staff must self-certify before each workday that they are symptom free using the following checklist based on CDPHE Safer at Home guidelines:
    • Take temperature
      • Temperature of 100.4 °F is an automatic “No GO.” Staff should notify their supervisor and should stay home from work. . 
      • Temperature of 99.2 °F or higher, but less than 100 °F, staff should begin monitoring their temperature twice a day for a minimum of 7 days.
    • Assess for symptoms 
      • If the person answers affirmatively to a combination of two of any of the following, the person should immediately notify their supervisor and should stay home from work. If illness occurs during working hours, the affected staff member should leave the project site and fill out an incident report form included in RMFI site notebooks.
        • Dry Cough 
        • Sore Throat 
        • Shortness of breath
        • New loss of taste or smell
        • Headache
        • Chills
        • Repeated shaking with chills
        • Muscle pain
        • Fatigue
        • Diarrhoea
        • Nasal congestion
        • Runny nose

Hygiene: 

All staff are required to practice good hygiene on the job and encouraged to maintain these practices while off duty:

  • Frequently wash hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds especially when preparing food, before eating, after coughing or sneezing, or touching any potentially contaminated surface.
  • Use alcohol based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.
  • Disinfect high traffic, communal surfaces both at work and at home.
  • Avoid touching face, nose, and eyes.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Leather work gloves: Do not share your work gloves. Disinfect with an aerosol spray once per day on-site after the conclusion of the workday.

  • Eye Pro: Do not share eye protection with anyone. Disinfect once per day.

  • Non-sterile nitrile gloves can be used under work gloves or when touching communal or public surfaces (i.e. gas station pumps) at workers’ discretion and when disposing of communal waste (i.e. trash, gray water from hand washing stations).

  • Face Masks

    • Respirators and face masks are only recommended for healthcare professionals, individuals who are either sick, or caring for someone who has COVID-19 by the CDC.

    • Use

      • Based on the latest CDC guidelines and State of Colorado Safer at Home Orders, RMFI requires DIY face masks or cloth face masks to be worn at all times during the workday! Mask wearing is especially important when social distancing is difficult ( i.e. in areas of significant community-based transmission), when dealing with communal waste, and disinfecting surfaces. DIY face masks can be made from household materials - cotton or cotton blend is believed to provide the best protection. A buff, bandana or similar device can also be used as a back up if available cloth masks become damaged or soiled. Maximize layering of fabric while still allowing for breathability. 
    • Putting on (Don) masks
      • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering  
      • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin 
      • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face 
      • Make sure you can breathe easily
      • Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead 
      • Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, clean your hands
    • Taking off (Doff) masks
      • Untie the strings behind your head or stretch the ear loops 
      • Handle only by the ear loops or ties 
      • Fold outside corners together
      • Wash hands
    • Pacing and taking breaks:
      • Staff should take as many breaks as needed to avoid overexertion when wearing masks
      • If a mask must be removed due to difficulty breathing, staff should distance themselves before doing so.
    • Cleaning:
      • Wash face masks frequently with warm soap and water after each workday.
      • OR fumigate by placing masks in a ziplock bag.  Saturate a cotton ball or gauze with 10 drops of isopropyl alcohol and insert into a ziplock with masks.  Seal the bag, the isopropyl will evaporate and fumigate.  Before wearing, allow isopropyl to evaporate by letting it air dry for a few minutes.   You can always have a mask in fumigation while wearing another.
      • OR launder masks
    • Storage: 
      • Store masks with personal items in sealable plastic bags.
    • Replacement:
      • RMFI will supply each field staff with a minimum of 2 cloth face masks. Dispose of face masks that become damaged and notify PM - Operations to request a replacement.
    • See CDC FAQs for additional information.

Cubbies:

  • Until further notice, staff are not to use cubbies to store personal items. 

Trucks:

  • Only 1 staff may be in a RMFI vehicle at any given time, unless an emergency evacuation is required or if short duration carpooling is authorized by program staff. In the event carpooling is required, staff must wear masks, have windows rolled down, and space as far apart as possible in the cab.

  • One RMFI truck will be assigned to one Stewardship Crew. The Crew will continue to use this same truck every workday until further notice.

  • Disinfect all frequently touched surfaces routinely using the disinfection kit located within each vehicle.

  • Use nitrile gloves when fueling vehicles.

Trailer: 

  • Only 1 staff member may be in the trailer at any given time.

  • Disinfect locks, handles, and other high traffic surfaces frequently using the disinfection kit located with the trailer.

  • Trailer can be designated to a Stew Crew for a given week to minimize tool sharing between crews.

Shipping Container: 

  • Only 2 staff members may be in the shipping container simultaneously, adhering to social distancing as much as possible. 

  • Keep the door ajar to ensure fresh air flow.

  • Disinfect locks, handles, and other high traffic surfaces frequently using the disinfection kit located on the workbench.

Warehouse:

  • Only 2 staff can be within the warehouse at any point.

  • Disinfect locks, handles, and commonly touched surfaces using the disinfection kit located at the entrance of the warehouse.

RMFI Office: 

  • Staff should wear masks while at the RMFI office. Ensure 6 foot spacing among all staff and other building tenants.

Pre-Field Workday Preparations 

Field Coordinators (FCs):

  • FCs are to meet each morning at the RMFI office at 7:00 am to plan workday activities and prepare all necessary equipment for each Stewardship Crew. This includes all required equipment (first aid kit, GPS, Site Notebook, PPE, signage, etc.) along with applicable site specific tools and materials. 

  • FCs should help each other prep to maximize efficiency and ensure resources are properly allocated to each respective Stew Crew. As much as possible, FCs will adhere to social distancing practices when preparing for each workday.

  • If an FC is unable to work that day, a returning staff member on the absent FCs team will be charged with workday prep.

  • When more assistance is needed in workday preparations or routine operations tasks at the RMFI office (i.e. vehicle checks), 1-2 additional Field Staff may be assigned at the discretion of the PMs ONLY. The beginning of each week is typically the most intensive in preparing tools and checking vehicles.

  • At no time should the number of staff exceed 10 individuals at the RMFI office grounds. Staff should communicate to stagger schedules when more staff are needed at the office grounds for workday preparations, break-down, and general operations.

Stewardship Crews:

  • All field staff not involved in preparations at the RMFI office will drive personal vehicles to the assigned project location and track mileage to and from the worksite. Mileage will be reimbursed at the Federal Rate each paycheck and noted on the mileage tab for the specific project in the individual employee’s timesheet. 

  • Staff will keep official RMFI signage in personal vehicles to designate their vehicle as an authorized vehicle on RMFI business. 

  • To prevent unnecessary exposure of the virus, all Stew Crews will be composed of the SAME staff every day, and for the foreseeable future, until public health conditions improve to a point where mixing of crew members is permitted. 

  • Field staff will move to a regular work schedule of Monday-Friday to avoid working on weekends when parks and open spaces are expected to be more crowded.

Pandemic Specific Field Supplies:

  • At all times, crews will have a printed copy of both the Executive Order D 2020 017 (Ordering Coloradans to Stay at Home Due to the Presence of COVID-19 in the State) and Amended Public Health Order 20-24 (Implementing Stay At Home Requirements) until orders expire. Individual staff members will also have an authorization letter from Jennifer, RMFI’s Executive Director, in their vehicles at all times

  •  authorizing the staff to travel to/from various RMFI worksites to provide essential services.

  • FCs are to work with Alex Hladkyj, PM - Operations, to ensure adequate hygiene and cleaning supplies are available. 

  • Handwashing Station:

    • Each day, a handwashing station must be prepped at the worksite consisting of:

      • 7 gallon water jug 

      • A dromedary may be used to have better control on the flow rate.

      • Hand soap

      • Paper towels

      • A sealable bucket for waste water 

        • Waste water should either be brought back to the office and dumped down one of the toilets or disposed of in a sump hole at the project site. When disposing of wastewater use a face mask and nitrile gloves.

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Disinfectant (Wipes, spray)

  • Face shields to be available for delivery of first aid only.

  • Signage

    • Use provided signs in yellow sandwich boards with COVID-19 specific messaging at each project site to best communicate our presence and professionalism while completing stewardship work on public lands.

    • Place signs far enough from both ends of the worksite to give the public and your team adequate time to allow safe passage.

Field Procedures

Social Distancing:

  • Some project objectives may not be feasible while maintaining compliance. PMs and FCs will determine on a case-by-case basis what projects need to be postponed or altered until the pandemic is under control in collaboration with project partners. 

  • Disperse crew members as much as possible on projects. 

  • Avoid having multiple folks working within a close proximity.

  • Consider using Walkie-Talkies to stay in communication with teammates when dispersion is beyond ear shot. Disinfect after each use.

  • Guidelines 
    • Moving Rock: 
      • Rock bars are exactly 6’ - this means only rocks that can be stretcher-carried with 2 people can be moved at a time.
      • Use the rock dolly whenever possible with proper 6’ spacing.
      • Use the largest rocks that can be hand carried safely by one individual.
    • Moving Timber:
      • Timbers are typically 6”x6”x8’ and can be carried safely in teams of 2 with one person on each end of the timber.
    • Fencing:
      • Avoid fencing when possible. When installing fencing is critical to projects that can’t be postponed or rescheduled, use face masks or buffs and limit to 2 people.
    • Trail Construction and Maintenance and Restoration:
      • Spread teammates out.

      • Minimize sharing tools - bring extra tools or assign a specific job to each crew member for a shift.

      • Work at a pace that ensures social distancing and avoids overexertion.

Public Interaction and Communications:

  • With many public lands remaining open, RMFI is likely to see a surge of visitation at front country project sites. It is imperative that we maintain compliance with authorities while in public spaces to ensure everyone’s safety and to uphold RMFI’s reputation for professionalism. FOLLOW ALL GUIDELINES.
  • Trail Users:
    • When a trail user is approaching the worksite, acknowledge their presence in a friendly manner while maintaining distance and notify the crew to cease work and step off of the trail. 

    • Spread out to ensure 6’ distance is maintained.

    • Be prepared to discuss RMFI’s procedures that ensure public safety during this time. Refer them to our website describing our operating policy or to call the Jennifer Peterson’s number (979-575-6848) and email ([email protected]) located on worksite signage with any questions you do not feel comfortable answering

      • "Under the authorization of the (insert land management agency name) , Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) has been permitted to provide essential park maintenance operations. . We are continuing to work on critical project objectives on public lands while following CDC recommendations of limiting staff group sizes, maintaining at least 6 ft. distance between staff members at all times, driving to site locations in separate vehicles, and following health and sanitary guidelines by washing our hands frequently throughout the work day, wiping down potentially shared surfaces with disinfectants, and not sharing gloves, eye protection, or any additional PPE."

  • Volunteers:
    • At this time, RMFI has cancelled all volunteer events scheduled through May. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust future volunteer days as needed.

Tool Use:

  • Minimize sharing tools whenever possible! Bring a surplus of tools to ensure each staff has access to their own set for the workday. 

  • Designate tools that are essential for each staff member to have at any point. Consider temporarily marking each tool with duct tape and initials to prevent exchanging tools throughout the day/week. 

OR

  • Consider appointing a set of tasks that limits the number of tools needed by each person to minimize the number of tools each individual may need in a given shift.

  • If sharing tools is unavoidable, disinfect before exchanging and at the end of each workday.

  • Avoid exchanging tools between Stew Crews by keeping hand tools in designated trucks overnight. Be sure to lock vehicles!

PPE:

  • Do not share any PPE (gloves, eye pro, hats, lip balm, buffs, sunscreen, ect.). All PPE is to remain on your person.

Hygiene:

  • Staff must wash hands and/or use hand sanitizer before and after eating.

  • Follow all other guidelines located at the beginning of this document

First Aid:

  • FCs or project leads will be designated as safety officers for each crew. They will be responsible for handling, distributing, and restocking first aid supplies to the greatest extent possible. 
  • Staff must wear masks, gloves, and face shields when treating a patient. Face shields must be disinfected after each use.
  • Staff must maximize social distancing when treating patients in first aid by delegating as much care as possible to be completed by the patient themselves.
  • Staff must use discretion to prioritize first aid treatments vs. COVID-19 exposure risks.
  • If an emergency, call 911.

Post Workday

FCs:

  • FCs will individually drive RMFI trucks back to the RMFI office. If an FC is not available to perform this function, a veteran staff member will be tasked with wrap up duties by the FC or PM.

  • FCs will direct end of day activities and confirm meet up time for the next day and any other pertinent plans.

Stew Crew:

  • Additional staff may be assigned to drive to the RMFI office in personal vehicles to help with putting away tools, tool maintenance, and disinfecting surfaces as long as the total number of staff does not exceed 10 at the RMFI office.

  • Remaining staff are to drive their personal vehicles off site once field work is completed and keep track of mileage. Mileage will be reimbursed at the Federal Rate each paycheck. 

Documentation:

  • Until formal training can be initiated for field staff new to RMFI in 2020, FCs (or other returning staff if an FC in unavailable to perform this duty for whatever reason) are required to complete all post-workday documentation including:

    • Photos

    • Work Log

    • Registrations

    • GPS

    • Equipment Log 

    • Feelings Sheet

  • FCs or returning staff without access to home internet and a home computer will be permitted to use the field office computers for post-day documentation. Please wipe all keyboards, mice, and desks after each use. 

  • FCs are required to ensure documentation is being completed at the end of each workday with the support of PMs. When documentation is getting completed remotely, extra attention must be paid to ensure completion. 

  • All documentation that can be completed remotely from home is strongly encouraged. With the NAS moved to Google Drive, staff with a personal computer and access to WIFI can complete all documentation besides GPS remotely. You may encounter a Security Alert the first time you attempt to log-in from home. If this happens, Jennifer is the one that can provide access - please text or call her to ask for the access code (979-575-6848).

Disinfecting:

  • All surfaces touched by staff during the workday must be disinfected. These include but are not limited to:

    • Trucks (tailgate handles, topper handles, steering wheels)

    • Tools 

    • Trailer

    • Warehouse

    • Computers 

    • Doorknobs

    • Use discretion to determine items that may not be listed here

Executive Orders

Resources

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CAMPING GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES FOR RMFI FIELD CREWS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Purpose:

The purpose of this document is to provide backcountry and camping specific guidelines and procedures for RMFI Staffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. All procedures outlined in associated documents (RMFI COVID-19 Operating Procedures and COVID-19 Volunteer Day Guidelines) must still be followed with no exceptions.

These guidelines are subject to change contingent on individual land manager specifications.

Campsites:

  • Social Distancing
    • Staff are required to abide by all social distancing guidelines detailed in RMFI’s COVID-19 Operating Procedures and Volunteer Day Guidelines documents.
    • No group gatherings of greater than 10 people for the foreseeable future.
    • Maintain a minimum of 6’ distance from other staff and members of the public. If unable to adequately social distance, masks/face coverings should be worn at all times. 
    • Masks/face coverings should be worn at all times to the greatest extent possible.
    • To prevent unnecessary exposure of the virus, all Field Crews will be composed of the SAME staff every hitch to the greatest extent possible.
  • Screening:
    • All field staff must self-certify before each workday that they are symptom free using the following checklist based on CDC and CDPHE Stay Safe at Home guidelines:
      • Take temperature using RMFI provided infrared temple thermometer. Disinfect between each use. 
        • Temperature of 100.4 ℉ is an automatic “No GO.” Staff should notify their supervisor and should stay home from work. 
        • Temperature of 99.2 °F or higher, but less than 100 °F, staff should begin monitoring their temperature twice a day for a minimum of 7 days.
        •  
      • Assess for symptoms 
        • If the person answers affirmatively to a combination of two of any of the following, the person should isolate and evacuate the project site. An incident report form should be filled out and a supervisor notified in the event of evacuation due to suspected COVID-19 illness.
          • Dry Cough 
          • Sore Throat 
          • Shortness of breath
          • New loss of taste or smell
          • Headache
          • Chills
          • Repeated shaking with chills
          • Muscle pain
          • Fatigue
          • Diarrhoea
          • Nasal congestion.
          • Runny nose
        • If evacuation of the sick staff person is required, but they are too sick to drive themselves, a RMFI staff member will drive them using the following protocols: 
          • Both staff members must wear masks
          • Maximize distancing within the vehicle is required
          • Keep windows open and do not recirculate air using AC system
          • Follow all RMFI SOPs for evacuation in addition to these guidelines.
  • Hygiene
    • All staff must practice exceptional hygiene during camping hitches. 
      • Frequently wash hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds especially when preparing food, before eating, after cleaning kitchenware, personal care such as brushing teeth, using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, or touching any potentially contaminated surface.
      • Use alcohol based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.
      • Disinfect high traffic, communal surfaces.
      • Avoid touching face, nose, and eyes.
  • Location:
    • Campsites should maximize social distancing by being located as far as possible from areas of high traffic (roads, trails, bathrooms) and other campsites used by the general public.
  • Signage:
    • RMFI will post signs around the perimeter of campsites with COVID-19 specific messaging requesting social distancing to RMFI crews.
  • Tents:
    • All staff and program participants will be assigned a tent for the duration of each hitch by PM - Operations. If staff are scheduled on a specific project for multiple back-to-back hitches, they will be assigned the same tent for that duration.
    • When camping with volunteers, participants will be required to bring their own tents with an exception for participants in RMFI’s Earth Corps field studies program. 
    • Tents must be disinfected after each hitch or between occupants. Clean using diluted soap, water, and cloth. Dry completely before storage.
    • Only 1 staff member or participant per tent.
    • Tents should be spaced at least 6’ apart to maximize social distancing.
    • Large communal tents (stronghold) should be avoided unless absolutely critical for the project. If large communal tents are unavoidable, crews must wear masks while inside, limit to 2 individuals at a time, and disinfect touched surfaces after each use. 
  • Sleeping Pads:
    • Staff must provide their own sleeping pads if at all possible. 
    • Loaner pads can be checked out with the PM-Operations
    • Disinfect loaner pads after each hitch
  • Personal Items
    • Staff should maximize using as much clean clothing as possible during a hitch
    • Use trash bags to contain dirty clothing in tents.

Travel:

  • Crews should minimize stops while traveling to worksites whenever possible. If stopping is unavoidable, wear PPE and wash hands or use hand sanitizer at each stop.
  • While pumping gas, staff should wear nitrile gloves and a face mask.

Cooking:

  • PPE
    • Staff must wear masks and nitrile gloves while shopping for food, preparing food and during post-meal clean-up.
  • Youth Corps & Volunteers
    • RMFI will not share meals with or prepare food for volunteers or Youth Corps.
    • RMFI and Youth Corps will have separate kitchen set ups and storage of food. 
  • Water
    • Staff will filter their own water 
    • Or wear masks and nitrile gloves while preparing communal water sources.
    • Staff will disinfect communal water sources and filters after each use.
  • Kitchen Gear
    • Staff will cook communally using the following risk management measures:
      • Utilize click-list and online food shopping platforms whenever possible.
      • No more than 2 staff conducting food shopping at a time. Wear gloves and masks while grocery shopping.
      • Washing hands before, during, and after meals.
      • No more than 5 crew members served from the kitchen set up. 
      • Spread out camp tables 6’ apart to maximize distancing during meal prep and cleanup (i.e. stove on one table, food stuff staging and preparation on another).
      • PPE while preparing food including masks and gloves.
      • No more than 2 staff preparing food each meal.
      • Staff will not share utensils or plates - use personal cups, plates, and utensils or use an assigned RMFI set for the season.
      • Eat at least 6’ feet apart.
      • Clean their personal set of kitchenware individually using RMFI’s hygienic 4 bucket system - items must dry in separate dish nets.
      • Disinfect all communal surfaces (stove, camp tables, etc.)
  • Meal Types:
    • Minimize the consumption of hand-held foods. Examples include sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and other foods that require eating directly with hands.
    • Minimize meals that require frequent touching of ingredients during meal preparation. 
  • Hand Washing Station
    • There will be no more than 5 people to a handwashing station.
    • Staff will regularly sanitize the frequently used surfaces. 
    • Masks and gloves will be worn when replacing and disposing of water.

Waste

  • WAG System
    • No more than 5 individuals per wag setup
    • RMFI and Youth Corps must have separate WAG setups. 
    • Staff will:
      • Sanitize all touched surfaces of WAG set up after each use and wear PPE while disinfecting items (i.e. buckets, gri-gri, carabiners, bear mace bathroom key)
      • Wash hands before and after using the WAG system
  • Communal Waste
    • RMFI staff will wear PPE while handling and disposing of communal waste. 
    • RMFI and Youth Corps will have separate communal waste receptacles. 

Worksite

  • Tools 
    • RMFI crews will minimize sharing tools whenever possible. When sharing tools are unavoidable, disinfect before exchanging. 
    • Staff and Youth Corps will not share tools 

      See RMFI COVID-19 Operating Procedures for more detailed instructions on work site protocols. 

Post-Hitch Derigging

  • Camping Equipment:
    • RMFI crews will disinfect all communal gear used throughout the hitch. Standard COVID-19 PPE must be worn at all times. Items to clean include but are not limited to:
      • Tents
      • Coolers
      • Kitchenware
      • Tools
      • Trucks
      • Trailer
      • Staff should use their discretion to include additional items not listed here.

      See RMFI COVID-19 Operating Procedures for more detailed instructions on post-workday procedures.