Cross sector study

When it comes to controlling workplace transmission of SARS‑CoV‑2, the virus that causes COVID-19, different sectors face different challenges, both in terms of likely transmission routes and which control measures can be practically and effectively implemented.

Since April 2022, we have built on previous sector specific studies which have sought to improve understanding of the risks associated with COVID-19 infection and support these sectors to return to more normal operation.

Sector specific research included in the present study spans the following sectors of interest, for which targeted research reports have already been published:

Sector specific research into the nuclear energy production sector is also being conducted simultaneously at the current time. Findings from this research are being incorporated to enable incorporation of the Energy Production sector as a further sector of interest within this cross sector study.

Work around Enduring Prevalence (involving Directors of public health) was also carried out in Year 2 and is continuing as part of the Greater Manchester case study. This will also inform the cross sector work currently being carried out.

The current work follows on from work carried out in these sectors between 2020 and 2022 by the PROTECT team. As the pandemic evolves, circumstances, risk of transmission and industry challenges for all sectors and their workforce also evolve. Since the start of this cross sector study (April 2022), the majority of mitigations in most sectors have been reduced or removed as the UK government moved into the ‘Living with COVID’ phase of the pandemic. We are therefore returning to a small sub-sample of experts and organisational leaders within the above mentioned sectors to understand what the current situation is now (August / September 2022) and how they are planning for the future.

This cross sector study aims to:

  1. Understand the extent of similarities and differences in sector specific research findings with respect to: risk factors for transmission; barriers and enablers to sectors responding to the COVID-19 virus; implementation of mitigations to prevent transmission; and unintended consequences to mitigation measures put in place.
  2. Understand current approaches being taken in response to government guidance on ‘Living with COVID’ since February 2022 (e.g., mitigations retained, ease of response for future COVID-19 variants and other health emergencies).

For 1) we held a workshop attended by researchers working within 8 work sectors (care homes, close contact retail, construction, energy production, food processing, higher education, logistics and delivery, and public transport). Read about findings from the workshop.

For 2) we have been carrying out a series of qualitative interviews across 6 sectors (construction, energy production, food processing, higher education, logistics and delivery, and public transport) during August and September 2022, to see how things have changed since earlier work was done.

Through this research we hope to enhance understanding of: similarities and differences in mitigations implemented; challenges experienced to implementing mitigations within different sectors/settings; and gaps in knowledge that may influence sector/organisational approaches to ‘Living with COVID’ (since February 2022). Study findings will help generate recommendations to help the government, and the sectors studied, respond more effectively to infectious disease outbreaks and keep services operating. They will also highlight gaps in information resources and where further research is needed.

Project team:

  • Rebecca Canham, Institute of Occupational Medicine
  • Anna Coleman, University of Manchester
  • Katie Clabon, Institute of Occupational Medicine
  • Paniz Hosseini, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine