Returning to Work: The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Screening Your Employees for COVID-19
As we transition back to hybrid or on-site work models, organizations such as the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration ( OSHA), the National Safety Council, the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the CDC have updated their guidelines on if and how we should screen employees for potential COVID symptoms or infection.
This article outlines some of the most recent COVID-screening guidelines and considerations for employers. Also, read how FeverWarn®’s FDA-approved, touchless, infrared thermometer can provide a budget-friendly solution for your employee COVID screening protocols and risk-management reporting.
Why: Now, here’s the classic “no brainer.” Agencies such as OSHA and the EEOC mandate that all employers must provide a healthy, safe work environment. Also, as we transition back to a “new work normal,” employers need to legally protect themselves from the risk of allegations or reports of specifically work-related COVID infections.
Who: Long before your employees return to the workplace, your organization needs to clearly define who will be screened for COVID-19 and how. In turn, this “who” question presents three sub-questions: (a) Who will lead your infection-control and screening process? (b) Who will administer employee screenings and how will that screener be protected with PPE or other safeguards? and (c) Which employees will get screened—including those who have or have not been vaccinated?
On that last issue of who gets screened, the EEOC dictates that all employees must be screened on a non-discriminatory basis—regardless of vaccination status. Also, the results of all work-related screenings must be kept 100% confidential.
As with every other mission critical, organization-wide rollouts, strong leadership will drive success. Typically, your occupational safety and health director, organizational safety committee, risk management, infection control officer, Human Resources and corporate communications departments may collaborate to design, communicate, institute, oversee and report on your COVID screening protocols, including conferring with local and statewide health departments.
Finally, in its guidelines on who should temperature-check employees, the National Safety Council advises using “technology that enables reliable temperature measurement and monitoring with minimal operator intervention or that work as a standalone, hands-free, self-service system.”
Reliability is, of course, crucial. Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases and advisor to the White House, reported that the NIH Clinical Center and the White House have abandoned traditional temperature checks due to their inaccuracy and susceptibility to various ambient (room, weather) conditions. “The temperatures are notoriously inaccurate, many times,” Fauci said.
Check this article for how FeverWarn’s no-touch self-service thermometers can help your organization to provide highly accurate, HIPAA compliant, large-volume and safe temperature screenings for all employees, visitors and customers.
What: To prevent infection, organizations may institute two strategies: (a) An employee temperature screening mechanism and (b) an employee pre-work self-assessment or symptom report. Also, screening protocols are just one component of our workplace infection control protocols and do not replace other CDC and OSHA-approved protocols include physical distancing, face coverings, good hygiene practices, equipment distinction, workplace barriers, improved ventilation, PPE (if needed), and a protocol for isolating workers who are potentially infected.
Where: To avoid potential disease spread, employees must be screened pre-entry to the work site. To facilitate the employee pre-work self-assessment—including the related administrative burdens--the National Safety Council recommends issuing workers with a smartphone application (app) to complete and upload their symptom reports. For temperature check locations, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends employee screenings are done in a private room or in a tent outside the facility.
How: Accuracy, speed, employee privacy, accurate contact tracing and reporting are all crucial to the success of your employee screening and workplace safety. To protect against false COVID negatives or positives, the ADA recommends that all temperature screening tests are research-proven to be accurate and reliable. Based on a certified laboratory study, FeverWarn’s high-accuracy temperature reading is very close (within the 0.5 range) to a clinical (ear, mouth, armpit) temperature reading. Read more on FeverWarn’s infrared thermometer accuracy and our self-service, infrared thermometer with stand.
When: How frequently should you screen employees? Many factors will drive this organizational decision, including known workplace outbreaks within your industry, and the level of community transmission within your town, city or district. However, across industries and based on the COVID incubation period, the CDC recommends conducting screening testing of all employees at least weekly.
For new hires, the EEOC regulations allow employers to temperature screen as part of a post-offer, pre-employment examination. Or an organization may delay a new hire’s start date if that incumbent has active COVID symptoms or disease.