The Marl Chemical Park is one of the largest chemical sites in Germany and also Evonik's largest production site. Around 10,000 employees work on an area of six square kilometers. Around 100 production plants are closely linked in terms of materials and energy, and most of them operate around the clock. "Of course, these plants cannot be controlled from the comfort of your living room at home; they require a presence on site - even in the event of a pandemic," explains the head of the plant medical service at Marl Chemical Park, Dr. Andreas Paassen.
Together with his team and Prof. Dr. Laura Anderle from the Department of Informatics and Communication at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences, he has developed an extended isolation and quarantine management system for in-house pandemic management based on epidemiological modeling and programmed Excel tools to support implementation. The results of this work have now been prepared in a scientific article and submitted to the Zentralblatt für Arbeitsmedizin for review and publication. In order to make the findings and tools available to others as quickly as possible while the pandemic is still ongoing, the publication is being made available here in advance as a preprint.
"We want to share our findings and empower colleagues to deal professionally with a pandemic, because our strategies are transferable to other operations and sites," Paassen says. "The two most important pillars of pandemic management in the company are minimizing transmission risks through effective protective measures and efficient isolation and quarantine management." This is the only way to ensure the protection of employees, which is the highest priority, and at the same time the continuation of business activities.
With high infection numbers in the catchment area, it is particularly important to avoid intra-company infection chains. "The new virus variants with their ability to cause eruptive outbreaks require a more advanced risk strategy in this regard, " says Dr. Paassen. Targeted measures and a very short response time to initiate action have proven to be key success factors - especially when municipal structures are overloaded. "Since official contact tracing can often only begin with a critical time delay in practice, immediate early intervention close to the workplace represents a decisive improvement in the rapid containment of outbreaks."
Based on these and other findings, the expanded isolation and quarantine management system for workplaces was eventually developed and is presented here. To date, it represents a very important aspect of effective pandemic management at Marl Chemical Park, is based on epidemiological modeling, and also takes into account the changing infectivity of new virus mutations. It was developed and tested as part of the management of more than 200 individual cases of infection among employees during the second wave at Marl Chemical Park. Centrally managed by Evonik's plant medical service, however, it involved not only the park's own employees but also the entire structure of the chemical park – and thus a large number of companies, firms, and subcontractors operating there. A fundamental part of this was the establishment of a digital process management system, the "Corona Control Center". "You can think of this as a kind of internal company health office," explains Dr. Paassen. "Everything comes together here: current figures and developments, scientific data and findings, strategies and measures."
We publish the scientific article on operational SARS-CoV-2 risk management here as a preprint. Furthermore, we provide the described ChainCUT quarantine calculator as well as an aerosol indoor simulator developed in the context here for free download.