BMJ Open. 2021 Jan 20;11(1):e042270. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-042270.
OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic is demanding for occupational medicine and for public health. As healthcare workers (HCWs) fight impacts of SARS-CoV-2 on front lines, we must create safe work environments through comprehensive risk assessments, evaluation and effective implementation of counter-measures. We ask: 'What does current literature report on health risks at workplaces regarding COVID-19?' and 'What do current studies report on the effectiveness of enacted preventative recommendations?'
METHODS: As a snapshot of early HCW research, on 26 April 2020, we conducted a rapid systematic literature search in three databases (PubMed, Web of Science and PsycInfo) for COVID-19-related health outcomes and preventive measures in healthcare-associated workplaces.
RESULTS: 27 studies were identified as relevant for exploring the risk of infection, 11 studies evaluated preventive measures. The studies described that SARS-CoV-2 impacts significantly on HCW's health and well-being, not only through infections (n=6), but also from a mental health perspective (n=16). 4 studies reported indirect risks such as skin injuries, one study described headaches to result from the use of personal protective equipment. Few studies provided information on the effectiveness of prevention strategies. Overall, most studies on health risks as well as on the effectiveness of preventive measures were of a moderate-to-low quality; this was mainly due to limitations in study design, imprecise exposure and outcome assessments.
CONCLUSIONS: Due to widespread exposure of HCW to SARS-CoV-2, workplaces in healthcare must be as safe as possible. Information from HCW can provide valuable insights into how infections spread, into direct and indirect health effects and into how effectively counter-measures mitigate adverse health outcomes. However, available research disallows to judge which counter-measure(s) of a current 'mix' should be prioritised for HCW. To arrive at evidence-based cost-effective prevention strategies, more well-conceived studies on the effectiveness of counter-measures are needed.