COVID-19 Antigen Testing for Workplace Screening

Rapid antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 are a rapidly evolving and useful tool to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 — including screening of employees in workplace settings, according to a commentary in the August Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

"When applied selectively, antigen testing can be a useful, effective part of a comprehensive workplace program for COVID-19 prevention and control," write Paul A. Schulte of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and colleagues. They outline a proposed framework for SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing to break the chain of transmission of COVID-19 in non-healthcare work settings.

Antigen test screening of unexposed, asymptomatic employees enables early identification of those infected with SARS-CoV-2. This allows measures such as home isolation and removal from work to prevent the entry or spread of the virus in the workplace. Although not as sensitive as the tests used to diagnose COVID-19, antigen tests provide quick results and are relatively inexpensive.

The tests can be used in a variety of sample types, including saliva. Some tests have approved for home testing. Antigen tests are being used extensively in schools, sports organizations, and other settings to prevent the "silent spread" of COVID-19.

"Developing an antigen testing program for workers, along with other preventive measures, would help support safe workplace operation," Dr. Schulte and colleagues write. Their framework addresses key issues in planning and implementation of antigen screening programs, including who should be tested, frequency of testing, actions to take for employees who test positive, and the role of screening as part of the overall workplace prevention and control program.

"Testing alone is not sufficient to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission," Dr. Schulte and colleagues emphasize. "Because of the potential for false negative results, antigen testing could be conducted as part of a comprehensive workplace program of COVID-19 prevention and control that would provide protection even if an infected worker is present in the workplace."
About the Author
Dr. Schulte may be contacted for interviews at
ACOEM (, an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Schulte PA, Piacentino JD, Weissman DN, et al. Proposed framework for considering SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing of unexposed asymptomatic workers in selected workplaces. J Occup Environ Med. 2021;63(8):646-656.