1 Jun 2020

Can temperature screening reduce the risk of COVID-19 at work?


In the current COVID-19 climate, businesses of all sizes have and will need to implement changes quickly to replace old working patterns in response to the governments social distancing measures and advice around returning to work.

A large aspect of the ‘new normal’ has been working from home, however not all workers are able to do there their jobs without attending a ‘place of work’.  Employers therefore need to adopt sensible precautions in the first instance to ensure they are compliant with the current government guidance and rules.  Also, you must look to the future and how the potential easing of some restrictions and not others will impact working life should be top of the agenda.

As an employer, you have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for your employees. Implementing Temperature Screening questions and temperature screening solutions are reasonable methods to protect a workforce from a potential outbreak of COVID-19 and offer important peace of mind to any users of that place of work.


What are the government guidelines?

The guidelines offered are typically vague, but we must understand the government cannot be overly prescriptive as not all businesses will be in a position to financially adhere to detailed and prescriptive guidance, as a minimum the government say you must:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in line with HSE guidance.
  • Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
  • Help people to work from home
  • Maintain 2 meters (or 6ft) social distancing, where possible
  • Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

The detail is available from The Government’s 5 Steps to Working Safely and you can also find the HSE guidance around a successful risk assessment from the HSE website.


What facts do we know about COVID-19?

The speed and scale of the R&D response to COVID-19 is unprecedented in human history. Of the 13 vaccines that have gone into testing, it is unlikely to hear results of efficacy before the end of the year; which is before we understand the immunogenicity, the actual safety and scale it out into the population, realistic suggestions put a vaccine for COVID-19 at 12-18 months away, and natural or ‘herd’ immunity at least 2 years away.

We know at least 89% of cases of COVID-19 present with an elevated body temperature of above 38˚C (100.4˚F).  Other likely symptoms are flu-like in nature, and include coughing, shortness of breath and generally feeling unwell and recently added to the list of symptoms is a loss of taste or smell.

COVID-19 is highly contagious and therefore coming into close contact with anyone who has or is presumed to be suffering from the virus exponentially increases the likelihood of contagion.

Guidance tells us that the bet methods of containing the virus are self-isolation and of course social distancing. When returning to the workplace, maintaining this social distancing can be tricky in areas such as toilets and break areas and it is currently thought that the virus can survive for up to 72 hours on some surfaces.


How can you offer peace of mind to your staff?

Employers are required to provide a safe workplace for employees to return to.  In some instances, they have spent 10 weeks at home, not seeing friends and family.  To return to work and have this sacrifice undone.

As a minimum requirement, the 5 steps put forward by the government must be observed but additional suggestions that have been advised such as:

  • Increase and amend cleaning schedules to a ‘COVID conscious’ one
  • Make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available where possible
  • Sufficient access to hand sanitiser for all employees and visitors
  • Temperature screening solutions of all workplace users at access points.

Taking these additional precautions are some of the short-term steps that will begin to alter our behaviour into the longer term.  The current strategy to combat this virus is to drive down cases as much as possible and the Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Chris Whitty, when asked what his exit strategy was, said “Long term, clearly a vaccine is one way out of this and we all hope that will happen as quickly as possible.” and that “globally, science will come up with solutions”.

In the meantime, waiting for a full set of facts to emerge before determining what to do is a common mistake made during the current pandemic. There are many unknowns, surprises and facts may not become clear within necessary decision-making time frames. However, doing nothing is not the answer.  So, taking reasonable steps as advised by the government, and offering your employees the peace of mind that you are following the current Government guidance is the best option available.


What are the practicalities of temperature screening?

Temperature screening solutions can be regarded as a controversial method of detecting COVID-19. Temperature screening solutions are being widely used already across Asia in places like airports and is one of a variety of tools available to a company to prevent and control the spread of the virus in the workplace.

It is possible for individuals to have an elevated temperature even if they are not ill, such as people who have had a high level of exertion on the way to work.  However, thermal screening solutions are:

  • Non-invasive
  • Produces objective and instant results
  • Tests for the primary symptom of COVID-19
  • A reasonable method of mitigating the risk of an outbreak within your workplace

With socially distanced queuing, staggered start times and a suitable camera, temperatures can be taken at range, accurately and in less than a second. If any of your employees, visitors or contractors presents with a high temperature a short cooling off period, reduces the likelihood of a false alert.  On showing an elevated temperature, questions within your temperature screening solution workflow around symptoms and potential exposure should be asked by a nominated employee.

Temperature screening all who enter each time they enter the building is one of the most robust methods available to you, and your business to say with confidence that no one has entered the building while displaying the most common primary symptom of COVID-19 it is a measurable provable step.  This also offers the much-needed peace of mind to your employees and other users of your workplace.

Each workplace offers different challenges and employers should carefully consider what is best for their staff and continuity of trading.  As we saw at Husqvarna in May 2020, after returning to work and implementing social distancing, they suffered an outbreak with 18 employees falling ill with COVID-19, resulting in them having to close their factory down again shortly after re-opening.




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