Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for laboratories and research facilities

Guidance for laboratories and research facilities, including those on university campuses, on safer working during the coronavirus pandemic.

29 page PDF

927.2 kB

29 page PDF

927.2 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for laboratories and research facilities

29 page PDF

927.2 kB


This guidance is for all laboratories and research facilities in Scotland, including those on university campuses.  It came into effect on 29 June 2020 and extends until further notice.  It will be reviewed in line with the First Minister’s regular  review of Coronavirus restrictions. The guidance was last updated on 01 December 2020.

It is one of a set of Scottish Government sectoral guidance on Safer Workplaces applicable as we progress through the phases of our route map.

As set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s Strategic Framework, to best tackle the virus, and protect people, we are moving to an approach based on five levels of protection. This allows for a rapid and proportionate response to be taken – locally or nationally – using a transparent range of measures and options.

At each level, working from home, where possible, remains the default position for research. Where this is not possible, both essential and non-essential work can take place in laboratories and research facilities (following this guidance) in localities that are subject to protection levels 0-3 in the Strategic Framework.

In areas at the highest level of the strategic framework, protection level 4, only essential work should take place in laboratories and research facilities. For a definition of what is deemed essential work in laboratories and research facilities see the  ‘where we are now’ section below.

Further information on the Scottish Government’s approach to returning to work safely.

We have worked with employers and trade unions from universities and the life sciences and other science-related sectors to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic.  As each workplace is different, it is for individual organisations to work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.

This guidance is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between organisations and their workforce, staff and students.  Throughout, the terms organisations and trade union or workforce representatives are used in that context, acknowledging that organisations have a legal responsibility to maintain workplace health and safety and must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by staff.  Employers cannot decide who the workforce representative will be. 

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplaces should it not be possible to work from home, which remains the default.  This guidance sets out our expectations on what laboratories and research facilities of all sizes, sectors and disciplines need to consider as part of their planning for continued working in the context of national and local restrictions.

This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice.  Individual facilities or institutions may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements. 

The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking robust and ongoing risk assessments with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workers, staff and students continue to feel, and be, safe.

This guidance is based on the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): a framework for decision making and our long-established commitment to fair work, which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement with the STUC (which we have taken into account when developing this guidance).

The scope of this guidance covers all indoor research environments including:

  • research and testing laboratories
  • engineering centres
  • clean rooms
  • prototyping centres
  • wet laboratories
  • wind tunnels
  • computer laboratories
  • simulators
  • material development laboratories
  • specialist testing rooms
  • field research centres
  • all similar workplaces

These environments are in a variety of organisations, such as life sciences and other science-related businesses, universities, colleges, innovation centres and research institutes.  They are collectively referred to as “organisations” throughout this guidance.

Universities should also consider the Scottish Government’s guidance on universities, colleges and student accommodation providers.

Organisations working in multi-purpose sites, for example those in the life sciences sector, may also find it useful to consider the Scottish Government’s manufacturing guidance.

If appropriate, laboratories and research facilities may also want to consult Health Protection Scotland’s guidance on Covid-19 sampling and laboratory investigations.

Laboratories and research facilities may also wish to consult policy guidance on support for CSO funded research projects.  This includes a framework published by NIHR for restarting research activities paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The remainder of this guidance sets out our minimum expectations across five key areas that organisations will need to consider as part of their planning for restarting or adapting activity, while minimising the transmission of the virus:

  • assessing risk – involving the workforce, staff and students in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace
  • workforce planning – supporting those who should come to work and those who should not
  • operational guide and checklist – changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce, staff and students
  • deliveries, distribution and visitors – protecting your workforce, staff and students and those who come on-site
  • training and compliance

First published: 1 Dec 2020 Last updated: 1 Dec 2020 -