As we head into 2021 with a pandemic in full swing, we’re seeing communities all over the country rolling out reopening efforts that include the use of non-contact temperature assessment devices. Non-contact temperature assessment devices also referred to as non-contact thermal imaging systems or infrared thermographic systems, are used at entry points to detect elevated temperatures in order to identify potentially contagious individuals infected with COVID-19.
Non-contact thermal imaging systems are being used at hospitals, schools, fire departments, police departments, and businesses to quickly measure the temperature of multiple individuals simultaneously.
- Scientific studies demonstrate that, when used correctly, thermal imaging systems generally measure surface skin temperature accurately
- Thermal imaging systems may measure surface skin temperature faster than the typical forehead or oral (mouth) thermometer
- The person operating the device may be in another room altogether
- Minimal cleaning between uses
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued guidelines on the proper use of thermal imaging devices. However, these systems are not without their limitations in terms of their impact in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections.
TEMPERATURE IS NOT ALWAYS INDICATIVE OF COVID-19
Most notably, these devices are unable to detect infections that are not accompanied by a fever, which is a problem given the many people who are asymptomatic. The inconsistency in the way symptoms presents themselves among various individuals infected with COVID-19 is the reason it’s so challenging to prevent the spread of this virus. In addition, these devices fail to account for the fact that other infections or conditions may also cause elevated temperatures. Plus, if the person is taking fever-reducing drugs, they may go undetected.
From a legal standpoint, employers need to consider whether the use of thermal cameras to record the temperatures of employees and customers implicates privacy laws. Although there is no federal “data” collection law in the United States, in some states like California, thermal cameras may implicate state privacy laws. For instance, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires businesses to provide notice to consumers about personal information the business collects about them.
At a federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently approved checking temperatures of employees and potential job candidates as a qualifier, even going as far as to allow the suspension of job offers to individuals who have a temperature that exceeds 100.4 degrees. The EEOC’s justification of the use of such measurements is due to the “direct threat” of COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic. What’s unclear is how long that justification will remain valid. In the meantime, employers should follow proper guidelines when it comes to keeping their workplace safe.
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR THERMAL CAMERAS AND COVID-19 IN THE WORKPLACE
- Identify who needs to be checked and how, including if such screening is required by local or state order
- Disclose the use of the systems with proper signage and/or acknowledgment forms
- Communicate with employees regarding the need and reasoning behind the temperature check
- Obtain consent from those being tested to the use of these systems
- Implement policies and procedures for dealing with out-of-range temperatures and situations where someone is suspected to be at risk for the coronavirus
- Keep the results confidential as required by law
When used appropriately under the right circumstances, non-contact temperature assessment devices can be an efficient and effective tool in detecting COVID-19.
To learn more about Non-Contact Thermal Imaging Systems, give Higgins a call, toll-free, at 1 (800) 486-1312.