Skip to main content

Personal Safety Practices

Posted by on Thursday, June 11, 2020 in .

In addition to these personal safety practice applying to on campus behaviors, they also apply to students when they are off campus.


Face masks/coverings (e.g., disposable masks or cloth face coverings) must be worn by all individuals on campus at all times in public indoor settings (e.g., common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, break-rooms, restrooms, etc.).

Beginning in January, face shields alone will no longer be allowed while teaching per the university’s updated campus protocols. Faculty must wear face masks/coverings while teaching and while following other classroom protocols.

If physical distancing is possible, individuals working in private offices that do not otherwise require face masks/coverings may remove their face masks/coverings while in such spaces.

Physical distancing must be maintained at all times when outdoors. Face masks/coverings must be worn at all times when outdoors, with the following limited exceptions:

    1. While engaged in vigorous solo outdoor recreation, such as biking or running, or under the supervision of relevant recreation staff or instructors, such as an outdoor fitness class through the Recreation and Wellness Center
    2. While actively engaged in eating/drinking outdoors, so long as physical distancing is maintained

Appropriate use of face masks/coverings is important in minimizing risks to the wearers and those around them according to both CDC and ACHA guidance. You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. The face mask/covering is not a substitute for physical distancing. This applies to off-site and leased building space, as well as on the main Vanderbilt campus, both indoors and outdoors.

An individual who is having difficulty wearing a face mask/covering should contact Occupational Health (faculty, staff, postdoc) or Student Health (student) for direction. A faculty member, staff member, or postdoc who cannot wear a face mask/covering because of medical or other reasons should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity office for possible accommodation measures.  Students should contact Student Access Services for possible accommodation measures.

Type and Intended Use of Face Masks/Coverings

Each faculty member, staff member, postdoc and student will be provided with one cloth face covering. Individuals and departments can contact their assigned building manager or liaison in their college, school or department to acquire cloth face coverings.

Disposable masks will be provided, if needed. A disposable mask must not be used for more than one day.

Staff face masks/coverings are work attire. Face masks/coverings must be clean, plain and free of writing, logos or images other than those of Vanderbilt University. Departments may have additional face masks/coverings guidelines. 

Based on CDC guidance and recent updated studies, face masks/coverings need to fit the following criteria:

  • Face masks/coverings must adhere to CDC guidance.
  • Cotton face masks are allowed as long as they have multiple layers.
  • Any face mask/covering with a one-way exhalation valve is prohibited. These masks allow the wearer to directly exhale into the air, and do not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others.
  • Neck gaiters are not recommended.  The fabric used in neck gaiters has demonstrated through various studies as not being effective. Many neck gaiters are stretchy knit, synthetics or fleece. Those are the least tightly woven fabrics which are least likely to provide a high filtration efficiency. A mask should have a tight weave and low porosity. Other studies can be found here, here, here and here.
  • Scarves and bandanas are not recommended, as based on studies they do not provide enough layers to be effective.
TypeCloth Face CoveringDisposable MaskMedical-Grade Surgical MaskN95 Respirator
DescriptionHome-made or commercially manufactured face coverings that are washable and help contain wearer’s respiratory emissionsCommercially manufactured masks help contain wearer’s respiratory emissionsFDA-approved masks to protect the wearer from large droplets and splashes; helps contains wearer’s respiratory emissionsProvide effective respiratory protection from airborne particles and aerosols; helps contain wearer’s respiratory emissions
Intended useRequired for campus community use in all settings (common workspaces, public spaces, hallways, stairwells, elevators, meeting rooms, classrooms, breakrooms, campus outdoor spaces, in restrooms, etc.) Not required when working alone and physical distancing is possible.These masks are reserved for healthcare workers and other approved areas with task-specific hazards determined by OESO.

Use and Care of Face Masks/Coverings

Putting on the face mask/covering

  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer prior to handling the face mask/covering.
  • Ensure the face mask/covering fits over the nose and under the chin.
  • Situate the face mask/covering properly with nose wire snug against the nose (where applicable).
  • Tie straps behind the head and neck or loop around the ears.
  • Throughout the process: Avoid touching the front of the face mask/covering.

Taking off the face mask/covering

  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the face mask/covering.
  • When taking off the face mask/covering, loop your finger into the strap and pull the strap away from the ear, or untie the straps.
  • Wash hands immediately after removing.

Disposal of face masks

  • Keep face mask stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Disposable face masks must not be used for more than one day and should be placed in a trash receptacle.
  • Dispose of a face mask if it is visibly damaged (e.g., stretched ear loops, torn or punctured materials), dirty or visibly contaminated.

Care, storage and laundering of cloth face coverings

  • Keep face covering stored in a paper bag when not in use.
  • Cloth face coverings may not be used longer than one day at a time and must be washed after use.
  • Disinfecting method: Launder cloth face coverings with regular laundry detergent before first use and after each shift. (Disposable masks are not washable.)

Gloves are not necessary for general use and should not replace good hand hygiene. Washing your hands often with soap and water is considered the best practice for common everyday tasks. Please speak with your supervisor to determine if gloves are necessary.

Goggles/Face Shields

Individuals are not required to wear goggles or face shields as part of general activity on campus. Good hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face are generally sufficient for non-health care environments.


Maintaining space between you and others is a best practice according to the CDC and is required on the Vanderbilt campus to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus and slow its spread. Because people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay away from others whenever possible, even if you have no symptoms. Physical distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk. Individuals on campus should follow these physical distancing practices:

  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people.
  • Do not gather in groups.
  • Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings.

For individuals in a private setting and not wearing a face mask/covering, the CDC recommends to always cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or using the inside of their elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.


The CDC recommends that community members should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after they have been in a public place or used the restroom; after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing; and before and after eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Individuals using hand sanitizer should cover all surfaces of their hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.


Custodial crews will continue to clean offices and workspaces, classrooms and public spaces based on protocols developed with CDC guidance in mind, and individuals should take additional care to wipe down commonly used surfaces after use. It may not be possible for the university to provide product for personal use, but before you leave any room in which you have been working or eating, it is recommended that you swab down all work or eating areas with EPA-registered disinfectant. This includes a private workspace or any shared-space location or equipment (e.g., computers, A/V and other electrical equipment, copiers, desks and tables, chair arms, light switches, doorknobs, handles, etc.). To the best of your ability, you should clear desk and table surfaces in personal offices and workstations to aid in thorough cleaning. Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol is also effective after contacting commonly used surfaces.


It can be uncomfortable to ask a fellow Commodore to put on their mask or to move 6 feet away. You may feel nervous or embarrassed to confront others—yet you feel compelled because you want to protect yourself and our community.

There are techniques that you can use to encourage compliance by others. The keys to success are to first approach someone with respect and kindness, and not make assumptions about why they are not complying. Here are some tactics or phrases you can use to encourage compliance:

  • Let people know that Public Health AmbassaDores can provide masks.
    Example: “I notice you’re not wearing a mask. Do you need one?”
    Details: There are Public Health AmbassaDores who can provide masks. To find a PHA, contact the AmbassaDore Compliance Hotline at 615-343-1352. It is good to know where your local PHA is located so you can prepare ahead of time. Contact the hotline to find out who is closest to you.
  • Tell them who you mask up for.
    Example: “Could you wear a mask when you are near me? I wear a mask to protect my family.”
  • Let people know how their choices impact you.
    Example: “I feel protected when you wear your mask. Could you put one on?”
  • Provide positive reinforcement that will also encourage others.
    Example: “I really like your mask. Where did you get it?”
  • Kindly encourage people to wear masks correctly for effective protection.
    Example: “Could you please put your mask over your nose and mouth?”
  • If a person is within 6 feet of you, back up and tell them why.
    Example: “I want to be sure I stay 6 feet from you so we both are protected.”
  • If a person continues getting too close to you or others, respectfully request distance.
    Example: “Please take a step back. I think you are too close.”

If a person ignores your concerns or becomes aggressive, leave and call the AmbassaDore Compliance Hotline at 615-343-1352.