Abstract Background It can be suspected that work in child care facilities is associated with an elevated exposure risk towards SARS-CoV-2 infections. It is still unclear under which conditions employees in those facilities can safely pursue their work. Preventive workplace-related measures to reduce transmission dynamics in this work environment need to be developed. These measures need to build on a solid scientific foundation and be ready for practical use at the same time. Therefore, the aim of the study is to present a participatory approach to identify, minimize, and eliminate workplace-specific COVID-19 transmission within child care. The approach presented combines quantitative as well as qualitative elements and includes a screening of critical workplace conditions and the development of preventive measures to foster a safe workplace design. Methods First, 428 employees of different child care facilities in a large German city reported their subjective risk of infection, fear of infection, and support received by the employer. Second, the participants commented in detail about high risk conditions during work. Third, employees provided suggestions for preventive measures. We conducted a qualitative analysis of free text answers to evaluate which aspects are perceived as critical from an employee perspective. Results Participants provided valuable and practicable ideas on how to design and improve preventive measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission in child care dealing with structural conditions, the interaction with the parents, the implementation of preventive measures and recommendations for policy makers. Conclusions These new insights help to organize pandemic risk management in order to align theoretical based measures with the practical realization. We encourage researchers to adapt the approach presented to other work areas in order to foster participation of employees in work design to reduce COVID-19 transmission.