Advice and information for researchers visiting STFC facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) during the Covid-19 period
03 Nov 2020
- Philip King



This page gives key information for researchers physically coming for experiments to RAL, and has been agreed by ISIS, CLF and Diamond.



​ISIS is currently operational, but with very few visiting researchers (users are sending samples in to be run by ISIS scientists).  Users are able to come physically for experiments, where that physical presence is essential for the running of the experiment. Numbers will be limited, and authorisation from ISIS is necessary for any user to come for an experiment.

Responsibilities of visiting researchers and their employer / host institution

Whether you are visiting RAL from the UK or overseas, your employer remains responsible for your health and safety while you are undertaking work at RAL. You should ensure that your employer has pre-prepared plans to support you should you become ill while working at RAL, whether COVID-19 related or not. For overseas visitors, it is up to the employer to ensure that you are adequately covered by insurance in the event that medical treatment is necessary in the UK (whether Covid-19-related or not).  Your employer may wish to see risk assessments for your visit to RAL, and there is a link to the ISIS general covid-19 risk assessment below​. You should consider doing your own risk assessments for your travel to and from RAL.

STFC will not provide quarantine facilities if it is a requirement for researchers from overseas to isolate for 14 days once they enter the UK. Researchers must check immediately prior to travel the quarantine status of the bridge between their home country and the UK, and if they choose to travel to the UK under these conditions, they must arrange their own accommodation for quarantine and cannot visit RAL until the quarantine period is over.

Overseas travellers should cancel their travel plans if showing symptoms of Covid-19 before travel. In the event of a visitor becoming ill whilst at RAL, and / or testing positive for Covid-19, then STFC will allow the visitor to remain in their booked accommodation (at Ridgeway House or the Cosener's House) - please see further details below.  ISIS will cover food and accommodation costs for UK users during a self-isolation period; repatriation expenses incurred as a result of the visitor having Covid-19 symptoms must be paid by the visitor's employer.

Please see the section below for more detailed instructions on what to do if you feel ill whilst at RAL.

Health and Safety is our key priority

We have introduced new systems and ways of working to help protect staff and visitors at STFC facilities during the Covid-19 situation.  These include 1-way or prioritised routes around buildings; hand sanitiser readily available; signs and notices to remind everyone to socially distance at 2m; occupancy limits on cabins, experimental areas, etc. 

It is our policy that face coverings or masks should be worn in all inside​ communal areas, including corridors and when walking in the ​experimental halls. Masks should also be worn when doing a task with one or more other people. ISIS has disposable masks that it can provide you with - they are available when you enter ISIS buildings.  Masks are not a substitute for maintaining social distancing at 2m or more, or for good hand hygiene.​

From 3 December 2020, all visitors to the RAL site, including ISIS users, will be required to have their temperature taken on entry to the site (or at Ridgeway House).​

You will be required to take the STFC training in advance of your visit to site – you will not be allowed on site until you have seen this and completed the short on-line test. You will also be required to have facility-specific training, and will receive further guidance from your local experiment contact.

You will have a risk assessment and method statement for your experiment which will include matters related to Covid-19.  Please remember that all the normal hazards found at STFC facilities still exist and should be carefully considered in your work, in addition to Covid-19.​

If you choose to travel off the RAL site during your visit, e.g. shops or a pub, you should observe all precautions (face coverings, social distancing) that are required, along with regular hand-washing and use of hand sanitiser.​

As a guide for visiting users, here is a video walk-through of the target stations, showing the new measures that have been put in place.

If you need to show our current Covid-19 risk assessment and working practices to your host institution, to get permission to come to ISIS, you can use the following:

- ISIS general Covid-19 risk assessment and working practices

- Working practices in the ISIS experimental halls.

Booking visit​s to RAL

The ISIS and CLF User Office, and the Diamond User Office, remain in operation (although staff are working from home for most to the time), and can be contacted through the normal email addresses.  The process must be followed in order to visit RAL for experiments until further notice:

  • All visits to RAL must be authorised by the relevant department. We will need to know that you have permission from your host institution to travel to ISIS.  
  • ISIS or CLF will inform the Facilities User Office of your visit – this is required at least two weeks in advance of your visit, so it is essential to discuss your visit with your facility contact as early as possible. 
  • The User Office will then send you an invitation email.
  • Following this, you should submit the details of your visit through our online visits system at least one week in advance of your visit.  Please do not do this until you have had an invitation from the User Office.
  • Once the online visit request has been received, and it has been confirmed that all relevant safety training has been completed, the User Office will issue a site pass for you to collect from the RAL Security lodge.

It is very important that you do not come to RAL without having arranged your visit through the User Office and completed the online training – you will not be allowed on site if you have not done this.

Restaurants, and Ridgeway and Cosener's House

The restaurant at RAL is open for take-away meals, and has been reconfigured to allow socially-distanced seating (although this is suspended during the current national lock-down). There are two separate routes through the restaurant – one for hot food, one for cold.  Only card / contactless payments are being taken – no cash. The coffee lounge and café in building R1 are currently closed.  Vending machines in the experimental halls are being checked and stocked regularly.

You can see a short video showing what the R22 restaurant is like at the moment. Since the video was produced, the seating area of the restaurant has been re-opened to allow a limited number of guests to eat meals with appropriate social distancing.

Ridgeway House is now open for guests, with Covid-19 measures in place – please see and scroll down for the 'Covid User Guide'.  A boxed breakfast is being left for each occupied room each day, and a cooked evening meal can be ordered.

The Cosener's House is also open, and further details can be found at:

If you become unwell whilst at an STFC site

If you become unwell during your stay, and particularly if you show symptoms of Covid-19, you should follow the procedure below:

  1. You should inform your home institution, your local STFC local contact (by phone) and your accommodation provider.
  2. You should self-isolate in your accommodation straight away. You should inform the accommodation reception team by phone. If you have not checked in to your accommodation you should contact the User Office to arrange a room for you to self-isolate in. Talk with your local contact if you are not sure how to do this, or contact the ISIS main control room if your local contact isn't available.
  3. You should make arrangements via NHS 111 (you can find details of the NHS 111 service here ) to arrange a Covid-19 test through the UK NHS. Users can request an NHS home test kit to be delivered to the accommodation.
  4. You can remain at STFC accommodation for the period of self-isolation.
  5. The ISIS local contact will identify and inform the other team members that may also need to self-isolate.
  6. The ISIS local contact will have regular contact with you by phone or video to check if you need further assistance.
  7. If symptoms worsen then your circumstances should be discussed with an appropriate health care professional.

Whilst you are isolating, rooms will not be cleaned during your stay.  Meals will be served to your room and will be left outside the room door, and disposables will be used for cutlery, etc. Fresh linen and towels will be provided as required and will be left outside the bedroom door. Linen bags and additional waste bags will be provided for used linen and rubbish, and all should be retained in the room until a negative Covid test or checkout when it will be left for 72 hours before cleaning or disposal.

If you show symptoms, or have a positive test, in the days following your visit to RAL you should inform us so that we can investigate whether self-isolation of those you were working with is necessary, and whether any areas where you were working need particular cleaning.

Closing notes

Due to the extra procedures in place during the Covid-19 situation, and because not all facility staff will be on site as normal, you should plan for tasks to take longer than normal to perform.  Facility staff may not be available to solve problems as quickly as normal, and a greater degree of flexibility may be needed around what is possible when running your experiment. We ask that you be as understanding and patient as possible if things are not able to happen as you would normally expect.