This research revealed that several other occupations in education and healthcare were also at a heightened risk of serious illness due to the virus.
The researchers meticulously analyzed a substantial amount of data, specifically 552,562 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 5,985 cases of severe COVID-19 infection, from various registers.
This data, encompassing hospitalizations from October 2020 to December 2021, was then cross-referenced with the occupations of the individuals from November of the previous year.
The researchers compared occupations that required close contact with others and those that did not require significant interaction with colleagues or the public.
The results showed that bus and tram drivers had a 98% increased risk of hospitalization for severe COVID-19.
The study also exposed an elevated risk among staff at after-school clubs (72% increased risk), registered nurses (68% increased risk), compulsory school teachers (60% increased risk), and preschool child minders (60% increased risk).
The study uncovered interesting disparities between men and women in several occupations. A 53% increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalization was observed among specialist doctors of both genders. However, when focusing solely on female specialists, the increase in risk jumped to 105 percent.
“When looking at specific occupations, interesting gender differences emerge,” said Maria Åberg, professor of General Medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
“Among women, there are increased risks for specialist doctors, nurses, midwives, and preschool staff. Male occupations that carry higher risk include bus and tram drivers and security guards. This also reflects the fact that we have a gender-segregated labor market.”
The research team hopes that these findings will serve as a wake-up call for employers, highlighting the urgent need for better risk assessment and preventive measures across various sectors, not just in healthcare. The results of the study indicate a work-related contagion in several different types of contact professions.
“The workplace is also an important arena for informing about and carrying out vaccination,” said Kjell Torén, professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy.
“Over the course of our research, we have come to the strong conclusion that workplaces or employers need to be involved in getting these high-risk occupations access to vaccination, for example by allowing them to be vaccinated during working hours or by organizing vaccination sessions at their place of work. And occupational healthcare has an important role to play in making this happen.”
“We know that vaccination protects against severe COVID-19 and we believe that vaccination in high-risk workplaces during working hours would further reduce the risks,” said Professor Åberg.
“This applies in particular to bus and tram drivers and preschool staff. Healthcare workers were usually offered vaccination during working hours, but perhaps additional measures could have increased vaccination uptake.”
The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, was a collaborative effort with Karolinska Institutet.
High-risk workplaces are environments where employees are more susceptible to contracting infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, due to the nature of their work, which often involves close contact with others.
The recent study conducted by the University of Gothenburg highlights that not only healthcare settings but also several other sectors, including education and transportation, fall into this high-risk category.
Bus and tram drivers, for instance, were found to have a 98% increased risk of hospitalization for severe COVID-19. This is particularly concerning given that public transportation is a vital service, and its operators are exposed to a large number of people on a daily basis.
It is crucial for employers in these sectors to acknowledge the heightened risk faced by their employees and to implement comprehensive preventive measures to protect their workforce.
These measures may include regular testing, enforcing mask-wearing, maintaining physical distance wherever possible, enhancing ventilation, and encouraging frequent hand hygiene.
Additionally, vaccination plays a pivotal role in mitigating the risk of severe illness. Therefore, employers should actively facilitate vaccination for their employees by allowing them to get vaccinated during working hours or by organizing vaccination sessions at the workplace.