February 18, 2021

Researchers Examine Required and Voluntary Use of Hazard Controls for COVID-19

A new report by NIOSH researchers characterizes the use of hazard controls like physical barriers and masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces outside of healthcare. The report, which appears in the Feb. 19 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, examines required and voluntary occupational use of hazard controls for COVID-19 prevention and is based on survey data collected in June 2020.

At the time the survey was conducted, only about 45 percent of non-healthcare worker respondents reported the use of hazard controls in the workplace. Among this group, about 55 percent of respondents said that their employer required the use of COVID-19-related controls, while the others (540 workers) reported voluntary use of controls. Approximately 29 percent of workers for whom use of hazard controls was voluntary said they used them. According to the NIOSH report, “voluntary use was approximately double (22 percentage points higher) among workers whose employers provided hazard controls than among those whose employers did not.” The survey results also showed that lower-income workers were more likely to be unable to obtain occupational hazard controls for COVID-19 prevention or be prohibited from using them.

More than three-quarters of the workers who reported not using COVID-19 hazard controls on the job said that they did not believe they were needed. Other workers who reported not using hazard controls said that they were prohibited from using them (about 8 percent of this group), and nearly 15 percent of workers indicated that they could not obtain them.

For more information, including a discussion of NIOSH’s findings, see the full report.