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Best Practices for In-Person Training During COVID-19

Best Practices for In-Person Training During COVID-19

To provide operators with continuing education opportunities during the pandemic, many training providers have adapted their classes to virtual training. These efforts have resulted in new online training opportunities and have allowed operators to earn their much-needed continuing education credits. Despite these efforts, not all training topics can be offered in an online format to all operators. Some training topics require equipment demonstrations and hands-on practice. In addition, some operators have limited internet access or may find it difficult to learn in an online setting.

For these reasons and others, some training providers have returned to an in-person training format. In this post, we have summarized COVID-19 safety trends our staff have observed from training providers as they resume in-person training. Using these trends, as well as CDC guidelines, we have provided a compiled set of recommendations to protect operators registered for in-person training.

Looking through training registration webpages and memos posted regarding the resumption of in-person training, the bulk of training providers have noted that they intend to follow local, state, and federal safety guidelines during class and in preparation of the class. This generally includes social distancing, the requirement of masks, and a restriction on the number of registrants per class. Many providers will also require students to fill out a COVID-19 screening checklist as well. Training providers of colleges or areas with higher infection rates trended to have stricter and more detailed guidelines. Classes developed around the use of hands-on equipment such as backflow prevention workshops, developed specific guidelines for how equipment will be maintained during the course.

The most thorough training providers include safety information about instructor requirements, student requirements, and facility requirements. Some of these trainers designated their own hotline to report cases or ask additional questions about COVID safety.

Based on our review of these recommendations, we have put together “best of” guidelines that training providers can use to protect their operators.

Classroom Preparation:

  • Training will follow federal, state, and local guidelines
  • Prepare the facility according to CDC Facility Disinfection guidelines
  • All employees should be trained and certified on personal hygiene and surface sanitation/ disinfection procedures. See the Disinfecting Your Facility guidance by the CDC.
  • Instructors are to remain at least 6 feet away from students
  • Set up the chairs or workstations no less than 6 feet apart
  • Provide hand sanitation stations throughout training facility
  • Place posters in popular areas that encourage hand hygiene
  • Specify entrances and exits through signs or floor tape
  • Ensure that the check-in table provides a notice to:
    • Require mask use and proper hand hygiene
    • Inform of hand sanitizer stations
    • Prohibit handshakes, encouraging other noncontact greetings
    • Direct employees to visit the CDC’s coughing/sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage
    • Inform guests of specified entrances and exits visible for the use of classes
    • Request students fill out pre-screening questions
  • Training will be rescheduled or moved if the host site experiences an active COVID-19 case within the 2 weeks of class

Classroom Maintenance:

  • Disinfect common surfaces (doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, classroom tables, chairs, etc.) before class, once mid-morning, once mid-afternoon, and after students leave for the day
  • Limit bathroom use to one or two people at a time to maintain social distancing
  • Suspend food consumption or drinks inside classroom
  • Suspend food service or offer pre-boxed meals during breaks
  • Require students eat outside or in designated areas set up for social distancing.

Student Requirements:

  • Students should be directed to review safety requirements and pre-screening questions prior to the training
  • Upon arrival Students should be directed to fill out a liability waiver acknowledging the measures taken by the training provider to prevent the spread of COVID-19, their compliance, and who should be held liable if illness occurs. An excellent example of this waiver was developed and used Arkansas Rural Water Association. Such waivers can require that:
    • Students must wear a mask according to CDC guidelines
    • Additional PPE, including protective gloves, may be required during certain tasks
    • Students must follow social distancing guidelines to maintain 6 feet of distance between the instructor and other students
    • Students will wash hands frequently for 20 seconds avoiding contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth
    • Students follow appropriate coughing etiquette
    • Students must refrain from eating or drinking in the classroom
    • Students will adhere to all safety guidelines set by training provider
  • Upon arrival Students should read and sign a prescreening questionnaire that certifies:
    • I am not experiencing any symptom of illness such as cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell
    • I have not traveled internationally or out of state within the last 14 days
    • To my knowledge, I have not been exposed to someone with a suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 14 days
    • I have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • If resources provide, students will have their temperature checked before entrance. Students with temperatures above 100ºF will be denied.
  • Students should bring their own writing utensil, books, paper, and calculator. No sharing is permitted.
  • If diagnosed with COVID-19 or exhibiting symptoms within 2 weeks of the training or if exposed to COVID-19 during the training, students must notify the training provider

Equipment Expectations:

  • Instructors observing student(s) must remain 6 feet away from the testing station and student
  • When hands on equipment is used, attendees will get their own piece of equipment that stays in class
  • Each cart and testing station will be routinely cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected before the start of class and after each session
  • All tools and test kits will be routinely cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected before the start of class and after each student has complete

While continued training opportunities are important, the health of our essential workers must be priority. WaterOperator.org hopes that all training facilities offering in-person classes are taking every possible to protect their students.

A note to our operators: If you’re looking to attend an in-person training, investigate the training provider safety measures before registration. If these measures aren’t available online, it’s always best to call ahead. WaterOperator.org lists live, online and in-person training opportunities in our national training calendar.


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