Project news

Starting with health care

The IOM are working for Covid Safe Workplaces, starting with health care.

As part of our project Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Novel Workplace Interventions in Protecting Healthcare Workers from Virus Infection (Covid-HCW), funded by the Chief Scientist’s Office in Scotland, we have implemented a mathematical model of infection risk to health care workers from their work environment. The model incorporates estimated levels of virus in the air and surfaces, and the frequency of workers contacting contaminated air and surfaces to estimate their risk of infection.

We are collecting samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in hospital settings, both in the air and on surfaces, along with details of the tasks that various workers in these settings perform to provide data inputs for this model. We are also collecting information about the effectiveness of various novel interventions that could be applied in these settings to test the potential for infection risk reduction in hospitals. While we are currently focusing on the health care sector, we hope to be able to adapt this evaluative model for other workplace settings to help inform risk management decisions.

Blog written by Dr Miranda Loh


Ventilated headboards

Hospital patients with Covid-19 can contaminate the room air and surfaces with the virus. Healthcare workers have had to rely on personal protective equipment (PPE) to try to protect themselves from being infected. One alternative way to reduce the risks for workers is to use a ventilated headboard on the bed.

Ventilated headboard
The prototype ventilated headboard

These headboards are designed to extract air contaminated with Corona virus from behind the patients head. The air is passed through a high efficiency filter before being discharged. The original design was published by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health nearly ten years ago, but the system has still not been commercialised. However, the researchers provided a set of DIY instruction to build the system.

The researchers list a number of advantages for their design, including:

  • Proven design that successfully captured and removed over 99% of airborne infectious-sized aerosol in a laboratory test
  • Cost-effective system, where the cost per isolated patient is much less than traditional airborne infection isolation rooms
  • Healthcare workers operate outside the “hot zone” of infectious aerosol
  • Easy patient access
  • Scalable from one to many units
  • Highly adaptable to fit most sizes of hospital beds
  • Quick and easy installation
  • Easily dismantled for storage

Watch a short video about the system on YouTube.

While the researchers demonstrated the system has a very high effectiveness we believe that it is unlikely to achieve such performance in real healthcare situations. It seems more realistic to assume that a ventilated headboard could reduce SARS-CoV-2 aerosol emissions from an infected patient in hospital by around 90%


Dungi S, Ghia U, Mead K, Gressel M. (2015) Effectiveness of a Local Ventilation/Filtration Intervention for Health-Care Worker Exposure Reduction to Airborne Infection in a Hospital Room. Published by ASHRAE.