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December 19, 2022
NIOSH reveals occupations with highest COVID-19 infections

Recent research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health revealed the six occupations with the highest levels of COVID-19 infections during the first months of the pandemic: massage therapist, food-processing worker, bailiff or correctional officer, funeral service worker, firstline supervisor of production and operating workers, and nursing assistant or psychiatric aide.

The five major occupational groups with the highest test positivity rates (17%–14%) were in production, building and grounds, cleaning and maintenance, construction and extraction, healthcare support, and food preparation and serving, according to the study recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

NIOSH researchers examined the results of a nationwide, online survey administered by the Delphi Group at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, according to the institute’s December eNews. From September 8 through November 30, 2020, nearly 3 million U.S. adults responded to a survey via a Facebook banner.

Because the survey was conducted before COVID-19 vaccination was available, the results were not influenced by differences in vaccination rates between occupational groups.

NIOSH also reported that while 2.5 million people work in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector, there have been few studies into the risk of fatigue in the sector and how to prevent it. In research recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, institute researchers reviewed 407 scientific studies published from 1990 through 2019, but only 96 met the study requirements for final review.

Agriculture made up more than two-thirds of the included studies, one-fourth were in fishing or seafood processing, and the rest were in forestry. The studies showed a relationship between fatigue and work-related illness and injury, but the extent of any causal relationship was unclear. Long hours, sometimes as many as 16 or more per day, were common among the studies. Working more than 40 hours a week also appeared to increase the risk of fatigue.

Shift work or working at night frequently occurred, especially among workers in seafood processing and forestry. The groups of workers facing a greater risk of fatigue-related injury included those who were newly employed, older, younger, female workers, and those born outside of the country.

Few studies examined interventions designed to decrease worker illness and injury.

The review article was part of the American Journal on Industrial Medicine’s special issue on Working Hours and Fatigue: Meeting the Needs of American Workers and Employers.

NIOSH also announced the release of several new publications, including the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) report “Occupational Fatalities in Kentucky.

Separately, NIOSH announced the release of the new video Challenges and Tactics for Fighting Row House Fires, which highlights tactics firefighters should follow when fighting row house fires, making them aware of the potential for fire to expand based on features specific to row houses. The video was developed by NIOSH’s Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program.

In September 2020, NIOSH released guidance for firefighters responding to row house fires after the institute completed a firefighter fatality investigation of a career lieutenant killed while fighting a row house fire.

Row houses were built in many large cities from the late 1800s to early 1900s, often located on narrow streets. Row houses often run an entire block and may include 30 to 45 occupied units. While row houses may have brick exterior walls, they typically have wood framing, floor joists, and roof rafters.

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