When Marshall Space Flight Center team members return to on-site work, their health and safety will be paramount.
As COVID-19 conditions improve, NASA will conduct a phased and gradual return to work at agency centers and facilities. NASA has updated its COVID-19 response framework to provide clarifications and additional guidance for moving back through stages. Marshall remains at Stage 4.
NASA leadership worked with center directors to develop plans on how to reopen the agency, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a virtual agencywide town hall May 6.
“We as leaders of this agency are putting the health and safety of the workforce No. 1,” he said, “and as we go through this process, we’re going to go slowly. We’re going to go methodically. We’re certainly not going to do anything that puts anybody in danger, and we’re going to have all the mitigating guidelines in place as we move forward.”
At Marshall, planning is underway to transition safely, orderly and transparently as center leadership makes decisions about work that can resume on-site by evaluating local conditions, agency guidance, White House and Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Team Redstone and state guidance.
“The plans will evolve as we learn more about how to mitigate the effects of the virus on our center and community,” Marshall Director Jody Singer told employees in a centerwide message May 8. “The execution of these plans will take time for a reason – it must be a team effort.”
As Marshall restarts on-site work, priority is being given to work that supports critical International Space Station and Commercial Crew Program hardware, tasks on the critical path for the Artemis program, national security and regulatory and other national and international commitments.
Marshall team members should take responsibility for their personal safety. Those who are sick should stay home. Those returning to on-site work should practice social distancing – staying 6 feet apart – and follow other safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Marshall intends to provide a mask for those coming on-site to work. However, center mask supplies are low and Marshall leadership encourages all team members who can bring their own cloth face covering to do so. Team members should wear their mask or cloth face covering when social distancing isn’t possible.
“Your personal responsibility is sometimes staying home, especially if you have symptoms and/or are sick, to make sure that you’re not infecting others,” Dr. JD Polk, NASA’s chief health and medical officer, said during the town hall. “We’ve shown that we can work from afar, and we need to take that into account. So don’t be afraid to pull yourself out and say, ‘I’m having symptoms. I don’t think it’s good for me to go to work today.’”
Team members who don’t feel safe at work, or who identify a need for any accommodations, should notify their supervisor. Alternate work arrangements will be made without reservation or reprisal. Those who can accomplish their job via telework are encouraged to continue doing so, NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard wrote in an agencywide message.
“Your safety is our No. 1, highest priority,” Bridenstine said during the town hall. “If people don’t feel comfortable going to work, either for themselves or for their loved ones at home, we want to do everything we can to accommodate those challenging circumstances.”