As businesses plan to resume operations with the easing of lockdown measures, the immediate challenge is to keep employees and customers safe. Organizations of all sizes will need to develop a pandemic preparedness plan to reduce the risk of virus exposure. Temperature screening of employees and customers is a reasonable method to mitigate risks and increase safety.
As new recommendations are published from regulatory bodies like CDC (Center for Disease Control) and local government bodies, an increasing number of employers, business owners and service providers are considering daily temperature screening of their employees and customers to ensure that their environment remains safe for everyone.
However, implementing and conducting thermal screening also raises concerns about safety and employee privacy. So, how do you ensure the safe and effective testing of employees while adhering to privacy standards?
Here are some of the best practices you should consider when building a temperature screening protocol for your workplace.
1. Determine who will be performing the temperature screenings and who will be screened
A third-part contractor with a medical background is ideal. However, even an internal team member can carry out temperature measurements, provided they have been given proper training on how to use non-contact temperature thermometer or thermal imaging cameras. Training must also be given on how to maintain safety and to manage temperature data of employees.
2. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)
If temperature screening is conducted through non-contact thermometer, the team member who will be performing the tests must be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks, surgical gloves, and disposable coats. Ensure that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are available in the testing area.
3. Select the location of conducting temperature measurements.
According to the CDC, screenings should be taken before entry to the location. A drive-thru screening process is possible in these cases. However, people may try to measure temperature through a car window, which will lead to false positives. Ideally, consider a secondary screening area where a person with an elevated body temperature can sit and wait for a few minutes to be re-tested. You must ensure that people waiting in the queue for the test maintain social distancing by remaining at least six feet apart from each other.
4. Think through your response
If someone refuses the test, a procedure must be followed to deny his/her entry within the workplace as it may put the lives of others in danger. Communicate and design this process to all beforehand to minimize the likelihood of having to deal with this situation.
5. Prepare a screening questionnaire
The tester must also ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Besides, the tester should ask if they were recently in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or have shows symptoms of this disease. Consider asking these questions to employees in a private testing area that is at a distance from other colleagues and visitors to ensure privacy. Alternatively, have a provision for moving employees that are not willing to get tested to a private area for further discussion.
6. Keep preventive measures in place
Advise all the employees with elevated temperatures (temperature above 38˚C or 100.4˚F) to stay at home. Employees who answer ‘yes’ to the screening questions must also return to their homes. They must self-isolate and call local public health authority to find out further steps to identify the cause of symptoms and further steps to get proper medical attention.
7. Trace contact for positive cases keeping privacy in mind
It is also crucial to follow-up with the employees sent home to see if any of them tested positive for COVID-19. If that is the case, you must notify only the individuals with whom the employee had contact and not other employees to maintain privacy. Also it is extremely important to coordinate this response with a local health authority.
8. Prepare training and protocols for workers sent home
Prepare a protocol for returning employees who were sent home due to fever or other known symptoms. Ideally, the employee must certify in writing that he/she is not having any symptoms since last three days and must also produce necessary documentation from a medical professional confirming that the employee tested negative for COVID-19 and can return to work.
As a business owner, a safety manager, or even a customer/employee, it is important to acknowledge that although temperature measurement alone won’t eliminate the risk of infection, it is the first step towards keeping your employees protected. Guidelines must be developed to practice other preventative measures as well, such as social distancing, frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers, and disinfecting the workplace regularly.
Still have questions? Get answers with this FAQ on temperature screening.