Article Text

Adjusting working conditions and evaluating the risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic in different workplace settings in Germany: a study protocol for an explorative modular mixed methods approach
  1. Esther Rind1,
  2. Klaus Kimpel2,
  3. Christine Preiser1,3,
  4. Falko Papenfuss2,
  5. Anke Wagner1,
  6. Karina Alsyte2,
  7. Achim Siegel1,
  8. Antje Klink2,
  9. Benjamin Steinhilber1,
  10. Johanna Kauderer2,
  11. Monika A Rieger1
  1. 1Institute of Occupational and Social Medicine and Health Services Research, University Hospital Tübingen, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
  2. 2Medical Services, Robert Bosch GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany
  3. 3Coordination Centre, Core Facility for Health Services Research, University of Tübingen, Faculty of Medicine, Tübingen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Esther Rind; esther.rind{at}


Introduction Currently, many countries, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, discuss how the ‘lockdown-restrictions’ could be lifted to restart the economy and public life after the first wave of the COVID-19 disease has subsided. This study protocol describes an approach designed to provide an in-depth understanding of how companies and their employees in Germany deal with their working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also interested in how and why the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 could vary across different professional activities, company sites and regions with different epidemiological activity or infection control measures in Germany. We expect the results of this study to contribute to the development of working conditions protecting the health of employees during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods and analysis An explorative multimodal mixed methods approach will be applied. Module 1 comprises a document analysis of prevailing federal and regional laws and regulations at the respective location of the participating company. Module 2 includes qualitative interviews with key actors at different companies. Module 3 is a repeated standardised employee survey designed to capture potential changes in the participants’ experiences and attitudes towards working conditions, occupational safety regulations/measures, and infection control measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Module 4 comprises SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence testing. This is carried out by the medical service of the participating company sites as a voluntary offer for employees. Qualitative data will be analysed through document and content analysis. The complexity of the quantitative analysis depends on the response rates of modules 3 and 4.

Ethics and dissemination The approval of the study design was received in June 2020 from the responsible local ethical committee of the Medical Faculty, University of Tübingen and University Hospital Tübingen (No. 423/2020BO). The results will be presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.

  • COVID-19
  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • infection control

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the development of the study design. ER, CP, AW, AS, BS and MAR conceptualised modules 1-3 and KK, FP, KA, AK and JK had the initial idea for module 4. ER and MAR were involved in obtaining approval from the Ethics Committee of the Medical Faculty, University Hospital of Tübingen. ER is the primary investigator and drafted the manuscript. All authors provided critical feedback on the manuscript, read and approved the final version.

  • Funding The testing of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 (module 4) will be financed by the participating companies themselves. The work of the Institute of Occupational and Social Medicine and Health Services Research Tübingen is supported by an unrestricted grant of the Employers’ Association of the Metal and Electric Industry Baden-Württemberg (Suedwestmetall: D30.11909). The authors gratefully acknowledge support by the Open Access Publishing Fund of the University of Tübingen.

  • Disclaimer The funding sources had no role in the design of the study and will not be involved in the conduct, collection, management, analysis, interpretation or dissemination of any data or results of the research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.