KANBrief 4/20

Signposts in the corona jungle

Personal protective equipment, community face coverings, an occupational safety and health standard: the coronavirus pandemic has raised many new questions concerning practices at the workplace. What measures and protective equipment can be used to protect employees? KAN has compiled a range of information obtained from numerous sources on the subject of corona and occupational safety and health.

Germany’s SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Safety Rule, published on 20 August 2020, serves as the basis for occupational safety and health measures in the country during the current pandemic. It supports the SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety and health standard, which had appeared in mid-April 2020. The rule provides a legal basis harmonized at federal level in Germany for protection against infection in companies and institutions. Provided the companies and institutions implement the technical, organizational and personal protective measures proposed in the occupational safety rule, they can assume that their actions are legally compliant. Where equivalent or stricter rules exist, such as those in the German Biological Substances Ordinance (BioStoffV) or relating to protection against infection, their observance continues to be mandatory.

Useful information is also available from other state institutions. The Robert Koch Institute for example provides specific guidelines on test strategies for patients and employees in the medical field, besides extensive basic information on the coronavirus itself. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) provides answers to frequently asked questions on topics such as laboratories, protective equipment, ventilation and special organizational measures.

After the organs of the state, the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions constitute the second regulatory level for occupational safety and health. They maintain dedicated web pages on the coronavirus, containing extensive sector-specific information (on protective measures, behaviour, cleaning and disinfection plans, model risk assessments, etc.). The documents are based on the SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety and health standard, but are geared to the needs of specific sectors. Many of these new rules, instructions or FAQs are already available, in some cases in several languages.

A great advantage of the publications, which are geared to the situation in the field, is that they can be adapted at short notice to the infection situation as it develops – at times dramatically. Although they do not have direct, legally binding force, they support companies and institutions in conducting risk assessments, which are a legal requirement.

As the umbrella association of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions, the DGUV pools the information provided by the individual institutions and publishes further corona-related resources and information, intended for example for educational institutes, together with a catalogue of frequently asked questions. A database of publications contains those of the DGUV together with selected documents from the individual accident insurance institutions (on subjects such as ventilation, PPE, mental stress, etc.).

Employers’ associations and trade unions also provide guidance on practical measures for dealing with the pandemic. Examples of such guidance include the collection of Covid-19 information for companies by the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the Guide on coronavirus prevention at the workplace by the German Metalworkers’ Trade Union (IG Metall).

For the duration of the pandemic, the national standards organizations in Europe are making numerous standards available free of charge. Examples are standards governing medical equipment, PPE, cleaning activities in hospitals and ventilators. The aim here is to support companies seeking to convert their production facilities to the products that are needed. ISO, the International Standards Organization, has also made a number of international standards available free of charge.

In addition, numerous standardization projects relating to the pandemic have been launched or proposed (a selection can be found in the table).

Michael Robert           Sonja Miesner
robert@kan.de           miesner@kan.de

Detailed list of standardization projects




ISO PAS 45005

Safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic – General guidelines for organizations

Working draft stage

CEN CWA 17553

Community face coverings – Guide to minimum requirements, methods of testing and use

To be converted into a technical specification (CEN/TS)


Temporary medical facilities

In preparation

ISO 7101

Health Care Quality Management System


DIN SPEC 91451

Hygiene guidance for the preparation and realization of trade fairs during a pandemic

In preparation

DIN SPEC 91448

Guide on running a hotel and restaurant business in preparation for and during a pandemic

Final draft expected at the beginning of 2021

ISO 5258

Standard protocol of drive-through screening stations

Working draft

ISO 5472

Standard protocol of walk-through screening stations


EN ISO 41017

Facility management — Emergency management of epidemic prevention

In preparation

ISO/NP TS 5798

Detection of SARS-CoV-2 by nucleic acid amplification methods

In preparation


Respiratory mask with active sterilization function by means of UV-C-LED radiation

Project rejected


Building guidelines for emergency medical facilities for infectious of the respiratory tract

Proposal adopted



Storage life, reusability, repairability and sustainability of PPE, medical devices, textiles, etc.

Launched by the European Commission, Small Business Standards (SBS), PPE Sector Forum