Consideration for public health and social measures in the workplace in the context of COVID-19

Can COVID-19 be transmitted at the workplace?

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets or contact with contaminated surfaces. Exposure can occur at the workplace, while travelling to work, during work-related travel to an area with local community transmission, as well as on the way to and from the workplace.

What is the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace?

The risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace depends on the likelihood of coming within 1 metre of others, in having frequent physical contact with people who may be infected with COVID-19, and through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.

How can people assess the risk for exposure to COVID-19 in their workplace and plan for preventive measures?

Managers with the support of an occupational health and safety advisor should carry out rapid risk assessments to determine the possibility of exposure risk in order to put in place preventive measures. This should be done for each specific work setting and each job.

Low exposure risk

Jobs or work without frequent, close contact with the general public or others. Workers in this group have minimal occupational contact with the public and other co-workers. Examples of such jobs may include remote workers (i.e., working from home), office workers without frequent close contact with others and workers providing teleservices.

Medium exposure risk

Jobs or tasks with close, frequent contact with the general public or others. This risk level may apply to workers who have frequent and close contact with the people in high-population-density work environments (e.g. food markets, bus stations, public transport, and other work activities where physical distancing of at least 1 metre may be difficult to observe), or tasks that require close and frequent contact between co-workers. This may also include frequent contact with people returning from areas with community transmission. Examples of such jobs may include frontline workers in retail, home deliveries, accommodation, construction, police and security, public transport, and water and sanitation.

High exposure risk

Jobs or tasks with close contact with people who may be more likely to have COVID-19, as well as contact with objects and surfaces possibly contaminated with the virus. Examples include transporting people known or suspected to have COVID-19 without separation between the driver and the passenger, providing domestic services or home care for people with COVID-19, and having contact with the deceased who were known or suspected of having COVID-19 at the time of their death. Jobs that may fall under this category include domestic workers, social care workers, personal transport and home delivery providers and home repair technicians (plumbers, electricians) who have to provide services in the homes of people with COVID-19.