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.

30 page PDF

938.4 kB

30 page PDF

938.4 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for laboratories and research facilities
Where we are now

30 page PDF

938.4 kB

Where we are now

On 23 October, the First Minister announced the introduction of the Strategic Framework, which sets out our approach to suppress the virus in Scotland to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. This represents an approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection (the Protection Levels Framework) and the ability to impose restrictions nationally or locally. The five protection levels consist of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or 'Level 0'). The Strategic Framework and levels approach came into force on 2 November. Additional lockdown measures came into force on 5 January that go beyond the current Framework. These were further strengthened on 13 January.

Physical distancing requirements are set out in the schedules of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.  A person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s and NHS Scotland’s business and physical distancing guidance which still applies.

Following the First Minister's statement to Parliament on 15 October, regulations were introduced to bring the rules on wearing face coverings in workplace canteens into line with rules in restaurants and cafes.  From 16 October, anybody in a workplace canteen will have to wear a face covering when they are not seated at a table - for example if they are queueing, or are entering or leaving the canteen or going to the bathroom. A further change took effect on Monday 19 October, requiring face coverings to be worn in communal areas (in general terms, any area where a person is not at their workspace and may mix with others), such as corridors.

Protection Levels for laboratories and research facilities

Level 0

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Open – WFH default where possible

Open – WFH default where possible

Open – WFH default where possible

Open – WFH default where possible

Permitted: Essential workplaces Outdoor workplaces Construction Manufacturing

Non-essential work in laboratories and research facilities resumed in phase 2, including research libraries and research archives.  This remains the position for all areas in Scotland that are subject to Protection levels 0-3 described in the Strategic Framework. However, in areas that are subject to Protection Level 4 or lockdown, only essential work should be carried out in laboratories and research facilities, similar to the situation in phase 1 of the route map.

Essential work in laboratories and research facilities

Laboratories and research facilities located in areas subject to protection level 4 or lockdown should only carry out work that is critical and essential.

Critical and essential work is defined as an activity that

  • cannot be delayed until the protection level for the area has been lowered
  • cannot be carried out at home or outdoors
  • is safe for the people involved (based on risk assessment)

and falls within at least one of the following categories:

  • any activity, in any discipline, that is directly or indirectly related to any of the following:
    • medicine
    • human health and wellbeing
    • public health
    • health and safety
    • healthcare, social care or self-care
  • any indoor activity that is needed to enable or support outdoor experiments, surveying, sampling, field trials or other field work
  • any activity on long-term experiments, surveys, analysis or trials, the disruption or delay of which would have long-term negative research impacts that could not be easily undone at a later stage
  • any work carried out by a postgraduate student, research student, apprentice or trainee, the disruption or delay of which would delay or endanger obtaining their degree or certification
  • any activity needed to look after living organisms or parts thereof on-site, or any other type of collection, machinery or other resource that needs regular attention on-site, or any other activity needed to safeguard health & safety or animal welfare on-site
  • any short term activity (such as testing, analysis, short experiments) that contributes to protecting, supporting or enabling any of the following:
    • national security
    • national critical infrastructure
    • a criminal or judicial investigation or process
    • any other official process, investigation or certification
    • biosecurity, plant health or animal health and welfare
    • food security or food safety
    • environmental protection or nuclear safety
    • international trade
    • construction or manufacturing industries
    • a legal or statutory duty
  • any activity needed to enable or support any of the above.

Use of libraries and archives in Level 4 or lockdown

Access for essential research to libraries and archives can be arranged by exception only where resources are not available online or via click and collect. There should be no access for research activity unless it meets the criteria of “essential” as defined above.  

Business support

There has been an unprecedented package of support announced from both the Scottish and UK Governments to support businesses. This support should help many employers preserve their business, maintain jobs and pay their workers throughout this crisis.  Information on business support is available through We urge all businesses to make use of this. In the event of closures for businesses involving laboratory and research work, all available support measures must be utilised to protect the jobs and incomes of the sector.

First published: 15 Jan 2021 Last updated: 15 Jan 2021 -