The number of contaminated and deaths due to COVID-19 still continues to grow globally, although some countries have achieved significant results or progress, others are still hostages of the virus and demonstrate low and effective results in the control of environments or means of transmission and Consequently, it arrives affecting the health of the population. In this blog we will discuss COVID-19 airborne transmission in the workplace.

HE FIOCRUZ in Brazil, it shows that on 07/23/2020 there were more than 2.2 million accumulated cases and 84.2 accumulated deaths, which shows that the Brazilian population remained exposed to the evident risk of contamination by the COVID-19 virus.

World Health Organization (who) has been studying various modes of potential transmission of COVID-19, including airborne or aerosol droplets, but also other means or channels of transmission, such as from mother to child and from animal to human.

The virus can affect anyone, from newborns to the elderly. And, as the isolation is reduced and the number of people that circulates is greater in the means of transport, factories, commerce, supermarkets, Malls, parks, beaches, parties, among other places, also increases the probability of contamination.

To reduce the spread and acknowledge that there is an airborne transmission of COVID-19, 239 scientists from 32 countries published an open letter (Time to board the airborne transmission of COVID-19) a who for the entity to officially recognize significant potential that it is necessary to inhale the virus in short and medium distances (1 to 2 meters) or even several meters indoors and without ventilation.

Scientists point out that research shows airborne transmission is the most likely mechanism that explains infections in different places with crowded people and inadequate ventilation. The research indicates that at typical air speeds in an indoor environment, a 5 μm drop will travel dozens of meters and settle at a height of 1.5 m from the ground. The probability of contamination also increases when there is a prolonged period of exposure to the virus.

Distribution of respiratory microparticles in the indoor environment with (a) inadequate ventilation and (b) adequate ventilation – Source: Lidia Morawska and Donald K. Milton (2020)

In other words, in addition to continuing personal hygiene practices (hand washing), use of alcohol gel, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection of places, social distance and use of cloth masks, among other practices. It is necessary to adopt adequate procedures and mechanisms to promote efficient ventilation in place and to block the transmission of COVID-19 through the air.

Recommended measures to block

Taking measures to prevent pollution in the workplace is essential for the safe return of our workers to the workplace. The measures must be prepared to meet the diverse demands or needs of workers, from daily monitoring of health conditions to external support for work in situations that may manifest the occupational disease COVID-19.

It is a context that must also be associated with the need to resume economic activities to reduce negative impacts on society in the coming days, such as, for example, the growth of unemployment rates, the increase in the informal economy, the increase in of the underreporting of occupational accidents. worsening the mental health of the economically active population and the quality of life of the population over 65, among other aspects.

At this time, the precautionary principle should be adopted to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals should take the lead in developing and implementing preventive measures in the workplace. The researchers note that measures to be taken to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 airborne transmission include:

  • Provide sufficient and effective ventilation, particularly in public buildings, workplaces, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
  • Replace air conditioning ventilation with mechanisms that replace ambient air with clean air using, for example, high-efficiency exhaust fans and filters and germicidal UV lights.
  • Avoid overcrowding or crowding, especially in public transportation, public buildings, or spaces with low levels of air circulation.
  • Adopt procedures to open and maintain doors and windows to increase air flow or circulation in the work environment.
  • Avoid the use of mechanical air circulation systems for heating, ventilation and / or air conditioning, as recommended or declared by international agencies of the United States (ASHRAE) and Europe (REHVA)

The introduction of these practices and the strengthening of other actions that are simpler and easier to implement and control, previously recommended by the company itself. who To avoid transmission between workers or the population, they remain essential, among which the 8mm IdeasTeam reinforces:

  • Identify suspicious cases as soon as possible, test and isolate all cases (infected people) in the appropriate places.
  • Identify and quarantine all contacts close to infected people and test those who develop symptoms so they can isolate themselves if they are infected and need treatment.
  • Use of precautions for contact and drops by health professionals who care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and use of precautions for aerosols when performing procedures that generate aerosols.
  • Continuous use of surgical masks by health professionals and caregivers who work in all clinical areas, in all routine activities during the shift.
  • Continuously practice frequent hand hygiene, physical distance, when possible, and respiratory etiquette;
  • avoid places with crowds of people, places where there is close contact and confined or closed and poorly ventilated spaces; wearing cloth masks when indoors and crowded to protect others; and to guarantee good ventilation of the environment in all closed places and adequate cleaning and disinfection of the environment.

The balance between population health and economic survival is a challenge for everyone. concerned parties (actors) of the government systems that involve the federal, state and municipal government. It is also the responsibility of companies, workers, investors, agencies, banks and economic development councils. It is with the collaboration of all that it will be possible to establish a collective action plan that is truly effective in guaranteeing the health of the population and the economy.

Adopting these measures also ensures more security and gains in importance as countries begin to open or reopen economies and people return to the workplace and students and universities return to classes. We hope that SSO professionals consider the information to add new preventive measures that can save lives and reduce the negative impacts of the pandemic.

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