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An occupational health surveillance system for COVID-19 in Italy

A short report has been published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showing first figures of economic sectors and occupations with high risk levels and high levels of compensation claims for occupational risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authors: Alessandro Marinaccio, Fabio Boccuni, Bruna Maria Rondinone, Adelina Brusco, Silvia D’Amario and Sergio Iavicoli.

https://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2020/09/23/oemed-2020-106844

Surveillance systems to identify occupational risk factors in the COVID-19 pandemic are still lacking. In Italy, each economic sector has been classified in three risk levels, based on three criteria: exposure probability, proximity to others during work, and social aggregations connected to the job.

Next, the Italian Workers’ Compensation Authority introduced the notation of COVID-19 work-related infection as an occupational injury. In this way, data could be collected of compensation claims, stemming from about 85 % of all workers in the entire national territory. Not included were armed forces, firefighters, police workers, air transport personnel, tradespeople, and freelance workers.

In almost 20 % of all cases, according to compensation claims applications, the COVID-19 infection has been acquired at the workplace. When restricting the calculations to the working age population, no less than 30 % of the COVID-19 infected men and women noted work as the origin of the infection. Economic sectors, classified as being high or medium-high in risk, represented about 25 % of all workers remained active during the lockdown period, but were associated with 82 % of all compensation claims for COVID-19.  Mentioned are the sectors ‘human health and social work activities’, ‘activities of households as employers’ and ‘public administration and defense’. But occupational compensation claims also included cases “in meat and poultry processing plants workers, store clerks, postal workers, pharmacists and cleaning workers” .

Conclusions. For the prevention, there is a need to develop and implement an occupational health surveillance system for COVID-19 cases, including an analysis of the conditions in which the infection is acquired.

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