Evidence-based Protective Measures

The more that is known about the effectiveness of protective measures, the more safely organisations can respond when a pandemic breaks out. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) is addressing unresolved questions in the research it conducts so that organisations can be given practical guidance for future pandemics.

Air purifier in an office
© iStock | NongAsimo

Apart from the fundamental rules of hygiene, the key OSH measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic included airing and ventilation for infection control, the installation of screens, the observance of social distancing, the introduction of quick tests, and the wearing of protective face coverings. This held true in particular for workplaces where forms of work like the “home office” were not feasible. 

It subsequently became possible for the interventions made to be customised for specific workplace situations. They also followed the “TOP principle”, meaning technical measures were always recommended first before organisational measures and, lastly, personal measures. BAuA’s experts supported the drafting of necessary recommendations and helped further develop them by evaluating the scientific findings that were available. All information was published continuously for both the expert community and the general public in the form of FAQs, recommendations, and specialist papers, as well as being fed into the knowledge-based policy advice the Federal Institute was providing. In parallel, workplace surveys that were carried out as the pandemic went on allowed researchers to gain a better understanding of how interventions could be integrated into organisations’ practice. 

One thematic cluster under the Infection Control/OSH Interface Focus Programme is dedicated to evidence-based protective measures and is addressing unresolved questions raised by the research conducted during the pandemic in order to drive ahead yet further the development, analysis, and assessment of protective measures in the context of workplace infection control and OSH. The hope is it will be possible to fall back on strategies and interventions that are as solidly grounded and carefully customised as possible in any future events.

Foto der Autor/-innen des Zitats

The BAuA research project Supply, selection and safe use of filtering face pieces (FFP) in infection control is pursuing the question of how reliably FFP masks actually protect against infection and, for example, how important the right size of FFP mask is in this respect. A detailed article about the project can be found on page 5 of baua: Aktuell issue 4/2023 (in German)

Protective measures will be analysed from a broad perspective, with consideration being given to various aspects such as intersections with civil protection, vulnerable groups, the levels of acceptance for protective measures, and the features and usability of protective equipment. Essentially, BAuA will address the particular aspects of OSH provision relevant when assessing risks from infectious pathogens and the efficacy of technical, organisational, and personal measures, which will be researched using the most modern methods. The issues explored will include airing and ventilation strategies for infection control and the usability of protective face coverings. In this context, the analysis of human beings’ role as sources of bioaerosols will play an important part in the research. 

Foto der Autor/-innen des Zitats

When it comes to infection control and OSH, BAuA is intensively examining the generation and spread of airborne human respiratory particles in indoor spaces. The aim is to understand these processes better, allowing more accurately targeted workplace interventions to be devised. A detailed article about this topic can be found on page 6 of baua: Aktuell issue 4/2023 (in German)

The findings arrived at are ultimately to be brought together in practical guidance documents and disseminated through public education work tailored to a range of different audiences. 

Foto der Autorinnen des Zitats

The concentration of aerosol-borne pathogens in indoor spaces can be influenced positively by correct airing and ventilation. But what exactly is meant by airing and ventilation for infection control in the workplace? BAuA wants its research into these issues to aid it in devising evidence-based protective measures and will present the results in forms appropriate for different audiences. Further information about this topic can be found on page 8 of baua: Aktuell issue 4/2023 (in German)

More about Focus: Infection Control/OSH Interface