New NIOSH Study Questions Non-Healthcare Workers on COVID-19 Exposure at Work

New NIOSH Study Questions Non-Healthcare Workers on COVID-19 Exposure at Work

One in five respondents said they were exposed to COVID-19, according to the study’s findings.

A new study shows that nearly one in five employees who worked in settings other than healthcare or their home were exposed to COVID-19.

The study, from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), surveyed 1,111 people aged 18-64 in California, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The respondents all tested positive for COVID-19 from September 2020 to June 2021.

A total of 19.4 percent of respondents said they had been exposed to the virus while at work, according to a news release about the study.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to collect detailed information about work-related exposures and risk factors from people with COVID-19 employed in non-healthcare settings,” said Hannah Free, MPH, NIOSH technical information specialist and lead author of the study, in the news release. “These results highlight the differences in exposures among different worker groups, which can help identify populations with the greatest need for prevention interventions.”

Although the overall exposure risk depends on many factors, such as the industry employees work in, the study included additional data on some workplace settings. A higher percentage of respondents reported being exposed to COVID-19 when they interacted closely with “more than 10 coworkers” (33.7 percent) or “more than 10 customers or clients” (28.8 percent). Of respondents who worked as police officers, security guards and in other “protective service occupations,” 48.8 percent said they were exposed to the virus.

“We found exposure to COVID-19 at work was common among survey respondents,” Free also said in the news release. “Despite not being in healthcare, many of the workers that were surveyed who contracted COVID-19 had in-person contact with coworkers or the public.”

About the Author

Alex Saurman is a former Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety,who has since joined OH&S’s client services team. She continues to work closely with OH&S’s editorial team and contributes to the magazine.

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