In our previous blog post, Developing a Customized Reopen Process Guided by Science, Medix examined the role of occupational healthcare professionals in the current COVID-19 climate. This was the first in a new series of communication designed to help businesses safely adapt their environments so they can reopen and workers can return to their jobs. In this second post, we will examine a critical area where these experts can play an invaluable role – temperature screenings.
Why Check Temperatures?
Because fevers are one of the more common COVID-19 symptoms, temperature checks can be a useful tool for presenting a snap-shot of an employee’s health condition. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that employers may screen employees for fever during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also provided guidance on how to do so in a manner that is consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations for keeping workplaces safe. Because an employee may be contagious without an elevated temperature, it is also advised that preventative measures such as social distancing, face covering and hand washing remain in effect.
Medix’s credentialed occupational health consultants, Scarlet Spain and Kathy John, are well-versed in these guidelines and have been instrumental in developing mass temperature testing processes for businesses. Below is a brief look at some best practices they have created for Medix’s clients.
Use an Expert to Develop a Customized Temperature Screening Process
Occupational health professionals are uniquely qualified to design a temperature screening process because they use a scientific approach to help prevent the spread of disease. They can help businesses design a detailed strategy that works for their unique situation and ensures that the screens are conducted safely, in a non-discriminatory manner and in adherence to state mandates. Here are some examples of where their expertise would be valuable:
Choosing Who Gets Screened: All employees and contract workers should be screened to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Additionally, some businesses may choose to screen others entering the workplace including customers, suppliers, cleaning staff, to name a few. Occupational health professionals can provide advice on who to screen and develop a plan for providing them with advanced notification of the new policy and a clear explanation of the process. They can also help decipher federal, state and local laws that may require that employers pay employees for screen and wait times.
Identifying Where Screenings Occur: Optimally, screening locations should be close to an entrance or entrances. Occupational health professionals can help identify the ideal space and how it should be configured. Some options include a temporary structure inside the building, a trailer or tent outside, a drive-thru screening set-up in a parking lot or a combination of different arrangements. In all cases, physical distancing of six feet must be measured and clearly marked by tape on the floor, cones or another easily understood method.
Determining Hours of Operation: Setting up clear hours of operation is critical for creating an efficient process and preventing employee confusion. A business may also need help if they have multiple locations and need to schedule different hours of operation at each screening site due to the nature of the business, parking, entrance locations and number of employees reporting to work.
Maintaining Privacy Throughout the Process: Occupational health professionals can help ensure all communication between the employee and temperature screener is secure. Additionally, they can devise a system that keeps employees with a fever in a private space while they wait for rescreening or for further instructions. This area would need to be at least six feet away from others and shielded with a wall or temporary privacy screen divider.
Developing Protocol for Employee Fever: In consultation with occupational health professionals, employers can develop a clear plan for when an employee has an elevated temperature. This can include taking a rescan, sending them home if their temperature does not decrease, instructing them to call their healthcare provider or urgent care facility and developing a return to work plan.
Collecting and Documenting Data: A plan for how temperature data is collected and secured needs to be developed and included in the company’s policy. It should also be clearly communicated to employees in advance, and state and local laws should be consulted as they may dictate that written notices be posted on entrances and other conspicuous areas such as break rooms and kitchens.
Temperature screenings are just one tool for assessing an employee’s health and are not a definitive indicator of COVID-19. For employees that do not have an elevated temperature, occupational health professionals may be able to identify other symptoms the CDC has identified including cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain and a new loss of taste or smell.
Medix is committed to helping you reopen safely and will continue to bring you information, tools and talent that help you get your business back on track. If you would like more information on how to conduct safe and effective temperature screenings, our “Client Guide to Temperature Screenings” is available through your Medix representative or you can click here to request a copy.