It holds true for all occupational safety and health and infection control measures: implementing them correctly is always crucial to their success. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) publishes practical guidance documents on ventilation, the correct operation of air purifiers and ventilation/air conditioning systems, and the selection of suitable masks.
SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted by airborne droplets and aerosols emitted from the respiratory tracts of infected persons. On account of their weight, larger droplets fall to the ground or onto surfaces within a short distance after they have been expelled. What is known as "droplet transmission" therefore occurs above all when someone comes into close contact with an infected person, if social distancing guidelines are ignored for example. By contrast, aerosols are relatively small, which means they can remain suspended in the air, staying infectious for several hours and spreading over greater distances.
Ventilation works by diluting aerosols, so reducing the number of virus particles in the air people breathe. The risk of infection therefore goes down. This is why regular natural ventilation through windows and doors, and the correct operation of ventilation/air conditioning systems and mobile air purifiers make important contributions to workplace infection control.
At the individual level, filtrating facepiece (FFP) masks can complement technical and organisational protective measures, thus reducing the risk of infection at work. Fundamentally, their effectiveness depends on whether these masks comply with general safety and health requirements.
Even today there is still some uncertainty about the conformity and safety of the different types of mask that are available. BAuA offers practical guidance intended to support organisations in selecting suitable masks for their employees.
The guidance documents on ventilation and the selection of suitable masks are only available in German.