As different parts of the world are planning to re-open their economies after a total lock-down lasting several weeks, organizations are facing an extreme amount of uncertainty. No one can predict the full outcome, but one outcome is certain: we will come out of this pandemic and we will need to be ready – but what do we need to be ready for? 

Government plans to lift lock-down vary from country to country, depending on several variables. However, policy leaders around the globe seem to have some key consistent features: contact tracing, intensive screening, testing of individuals, and implementing health and safety best practices to avoid the spread. For example, here are the recommendations published by the CDC on Covid-19 mitigation strategies in the workplace

Firstly, a concise policy, shared with all stakeholders should be published and shared for all to see. Businesses like McKinsey are publishing information on their website to inform their employees, clients, suppliers and stakeholders of the measures that have been put in place to ensure workplace security and employee safety. By doing so, Kruger is demonstrating and reassuring all internal and external stakeholders that measures are being taken with the interest of everyone’s well-being. This is an important first step in gaining the trust of all stakeholders.

Secondly, the use of all preventative measures to avoid exposing your staff, clients and visiting contractors to the virus while on your premises should be taken. Today, organizations do not have the capability of identifying who or who does not have COVID-19.  However, they can screen individuals for symptoms, such as an elevated body temperature, and isolate individuals or groups of individuals to prevent the spread of the disease.  One such way of testing for an elevated body temperature is using a handheld thermometer. Of course, the individual testing the employee will not be able to maintain proper social distancing guidelines and therefore will need to be wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The use of PPE adds another level of complexity and expense for the business to manage, as this equipment will need to be changed frequently to avoid cross contamination.

Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Safety Programs

Although the use of masks is contentious, it is commonly agreed that masks do assist in lessening the chance of an asymptomatic individual from spreading the disease. Different types of masks vary in “protectiveness”, they should be considered as the usage far outweighs risk.   Some countries such as Germany and Austria have implemented mandatory wearing of a face mask.  As of April 24th, 30 countries have mandated face coverings outdoors for the public. Whether your company chooses to make masks mandatory will most likely be a company policy choice rather than a government mandate. If masks are part of your organization’s protection plan, how can you enforce this without having a member of staff watching everyone enter your building?

So where do businesses go from here?

The Food and Drug Administration issued guidance “expanding the use of telethermographic systems for triage use during the public health crisis. Because fever is a common symptom of the virus, FDA says that telethermographic systems, which convert infrared radiation into body temperature measurement, can be deployed to use for initial triage at high-traffic areas, such as airports, businesses, warehouses and factories (…)” Source:  These systems can assist in screening each employee for elevated body temperature.  In some cases, retailers are offering this to shoppers such as T&T supermarket in Canada.  The testing in these environments is a voluntary service.

There are several types of telethermographic systems available.

There are handheld devices, which are the most cost effective, but require an individual to handle them, shown in the T&T example. The individual performing the screening will have to wear PPE and identify and document everyone that exhibits ‘potential’ symptoms and direct them to the nearest clinic or whatever next steps your policy dictates.

The other type of Telethermographic system is “smart”, and more likely to be a viable solution that businesses can use. This solution can run on an organizations’ network or as a standalone device.

Here’s how networked devices work: 

Employees arrive at work and get screened for elevated body temperature at any of the designated employee entrance points to the building. When they enter the building, they will see a tablet style device that they need to walk up to, present their face or palm – both no-touch – which will authenticate who they are. Furthermore, these devices have advanced facial recognition and can determine who the individual is even when they’re wearing glasses, hats, facial masks, or facial hair.  At the same time, the device measures their temperature without any contact or human intervention required. They will then get a green or red indicator on the device indicating a pass or fail.  If the individual fails, meaning exceeds a pre-set temperature threshold, an audible or visual alarm will go off with an email alert to any individual that needs to know.  Some of the more advanced devices can also alert a company of whether an individual is wearing a face mask or not.  This device can also be integrated into an access control system and prevent the door or turnstile from opening if the employee or visiting contractor fails to meet the thresholds or conditions deemed acceptable.

The same device can also work as a standalone system, which will simply screen for elevated body temperatures and masks and give a pass or fail with an audible or visual alarm. Some organizations may choose to use standalone devices in the lobby or where someone can intercede with the individual and direct in the next step in your policy procedure. However, no human intervention is required. When hooked up to a door or turnstile, these devices can prevent entry if the individual presents an elevated body temperature. A photo can also be taken of individuals who exceed the threshold, if desired. 

Keep in mind that this only detects ‘potential’ infection and the directives from your local municipality, council, state, or province should guide your efforts, and social distancing should always be observed. If there are line ups leading up to Telethermographic systems, chevrons should be established so that individuals are evenly spaced the recommended 2 meters or 6 feet apart.

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