Background: The recent global survey promoted by the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) Taskforce on COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) described staff rostering and organization as significant operational challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: A discrete event simulation was used to explore the impact of different permutations of staff roster, including the number of shifts per day, the number of staff on duty per shift, overall number of staff accessible to work in the laboratory (i.e. overall staff pool), the frequency of shift changes (i.e. number of consecutive days worked), fixed work-rest days and split team arrangement on workplace transmission of COVID-19 by a simulated index staff who acquired the infection from the community over 21 days. Additionally, the impact of workplace social distancing (physical distancing) and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) were investigated. Results: A higher rate of transmission was associated with smaller overall staff pool (expressed as multiples of the number of staff per shift), higher number of shifts per day, higher number of staff per shift, and longer consecutive days worked. Having fixed work-rest arrangement did not significantly reduce the transmission rate unless the workplace outbreak was prolonged. Social distancing and PPE use significantly reduced the transmission rate. Conclusion: Laboratories should consider organizing the staff into smaller teams/shift and reduce the number of consecutive days worked. Additionally, our observation aligns with the IFCC biosafety recommendation of monitoring staff health (to detect early infection), split team arrangement, workplace social distancing and use of PPE.
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