By Michael Copp, Executive Vice President
There has been increased interest in temperature assessment devices as part of an overall COVID-19 response plan as businesses begin to reopen. There is some hesitancy in using these instruments because in part as the Federal Drug Administration notes in its article, Non-contact Temperature Assessment Devices During the COVID-19 Pandemic, “Some studies suggest that temperature measurements alone may miss more than half of infected people.” (Retrieved from the World Wide Web on July 23, 2020, here). Christine Berger, an attorney in New Orleans, noted that “It is not as simple as ordering an infrared thermometer off Amazon,” she said. “Before lining up your employees to scan their foreheads,” she cautioned, “consider the safety, privacy and employee relations concerns.” (Retrieved on the World Wide Web on July 23, 2020, here).
There are a number of considerations related to employers who choose to take employee temperatures, as outlined in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) April 30, 2020, article, A Guide to Employee Temperature Checks, written by Allen Smith, J.D. (Retrieved on the World Wide Web on July 23, 2020, here):
- Measuring an employee’s body temperature is considered a medical examination and hence, results must remain confidential
- The CDC recommends that “Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.” Employers may ask “employees to take their temperatures before coming to work and require them not to come in if they have a fever.”
- Employers should consider using devices such as thermal imaging cameras and or non-contact infrared thermometers over invasive oral thermometers that could increase the risk of spreading the virus.
- Those administering the temperature check should be trained on proper procedures to include potential cleaning between uses and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
- Physical distancing and face coverings should be enforced while employees stand in line waiting to be checked.
Temperature checks should be part of a larger inquiry to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- “Asking employees and visitors if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, coughing, shortness of breath).”
- “Asking if they have any other high-risk factors as described by the CDC. Such factors include spending time in close quarters with a person with COVID-19 or having traveled to a high-risk area, as defined by the CDC, in the past 14 days.”
- Following CDC and WHO guidelines in following best practices and preparing and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace environment.
Contractors will have to determine what makes sense for their business regarding temperature assessments and they should consult their human resource and or legal expert to better understand and comply with EEOC, ADA and CDC requirements.