Exposure to a SARS-CoV-2 infection at work: development of an international job exposure matrix (COVID-19-JEM)

Karen M. Oude Hengel*, Alex Burdorf, Anjoeka Pronk, Vivi Schlünssen, Zara A. Stokholm, Henrik A. Kolstad, Karin van Veldhoven, Ioannis Basinas, Martie van Tongeren, Susan Peters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective This study aimed to construct a job exposure matrix (JEM) for risk of becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an occupational setting. Methods Experts in occupational epidemiology from three European countries (Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom) defined the relevant exposure and workplace characteristics with regard to possible exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In an iterative process, experts rated the different dimensions of the COVID19-JEM for each job title within the International Standard Classification of Occupations system 2008 (ISCO-08). Agreement scores, weighted kappas, and variances were estimated. Results The COVID-19-JEM contains four determinants of transmission risk [number of people, nature of contacts, contaminated workspaces and location (indoors or outdoors)], two mitigation measures (social distancing and face covering), and two factors for precarious work (income insecurity and proportion of migrants). Agreement scores ranged from 0.27 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.25–0.29] for ‘migrants’ to 0.76 (95% CI 0.74–0.78) for ‘nature of contacts’. Weighted kappas indicated moderate-to-good agreement for all dimensions [ranging from 0.60 (95% CI 0.60–0.60) for ‘face covering’ to 0.80 (95% CI 0.80–0.80) for ‘contaminated workspaces’], except for ‘migrants’ (0.14 (95% CI-0.07–0.36). As country differences remained after several consensus exercises, the COVID-19-JEM also has a country-axis. Conclusions The COVID-19-JEM assesses the risk at population level using eight dimensions related to SARSCOV-2 infections at work and will improve our ability to investigate work-related risk factors in epidemiological studies. The dimensions of the COVID-19-JEM could also be valuable for other future communicable diseases in the workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-70
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

KOH received funding from a VENI grant from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), project number 451-16-031.
The development of this JEM was conducted within the scope of OMEGA-NET, supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), project
CA16216: Network on the Coordination and Harmonisation of European Occupational Cohorts. This study is partly funded by EPHOR (the European
Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874703). The UK contribution to this work was supported by
funding from the PROTECT COVID-19 National Core Study on transmission and environment, managed by the UK Health and Safety Executive on behalf of HM

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Nordic Association of Occupational Safety and Health. All rights reserved.


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