Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2023;49(4):259-270    pdf full text

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.4086 | Published online: 13 Mar 2023, Issue date: 01 May 2023

The impact of occupational exposures on infection rates during the COVID-19 pandemic: a test-negative design study with register data of 207 034 Dutch workers

by Eekhout I, van Tongeren M, Pearce N, Oude Hengel KM

Objective This study aimed to investigate the effects of occupational exposures on the risk of a positive COVID-19 test, and whether this differed across pandemic waves.

Methods Data from 207 034 workers from The Netherlands with test data on COVID-19 from June 2020 until August 2021 were available. Occupational exposure was estimated by using the eight dimensions of a COVID-19 job exposure matrix (JEM). Personal characteristics, household composition and residence area were derived from Statistics Netherlands. A test-negative design was applied in which the risk of a positive test was analyzed in a conditional logit model.

Results All eight dimensions of occupational exposure included in the JEM increased the odds of a positive test for the entire study period and three pandemic waves [OR ranging from 1.09, (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.02–1.17) to 1.77 (95% CI 1.61–1.96)]. Adjusting for a previous positive test and other covariates strongly reduced the odds to be infected, but most dimensions remained at elevated risk. Fully adjusted models showed that contaminated work spaces and face covering were mostly relevant in the first two pandemic waves, whereas income insecurity showed higher odds in the third wave. Several occupations have a higher predicted value for a positive COVID-19 test, with variation over time.

Discussion Occupational exposures are associated with a higher risk of a positive test, but variations over time exist in occupations with the highest risks. These findings provide insights for interventions among workers for future pandemic waves of COVID-19 or other respiratory epidemics.

The following articles refer to this text: 2023;49(4):231-233; 2024;50(3):168-177
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