Screening Employee’s… What’s your best option?

Screening Employee’s… What’s your best option?

With many workplaces beginning to re-open or have gradual phased return to work the question is which technology, if any, do you use to assess infection in returning staff?

Many companies have opted to use temperature and moreover an abnormal rise in ‘core’ temperature to highlight possible cases of COVID-19.

If you are going to use temperature as a guide then you should be aware of the shortcomings so we’ve used peer reviewed evidence to give you the information you need.

So… what is normal ‘core’ temperature? The reality is, there isn’t one exact “normal” body temperature, so be prepared for a range of “normal”. However, the NHS consider a fever is usually when your body temperature is 37.8 C or higher.

Measurement of core temperature, if you want to be super accurate is best done using pulmonary artery catheterization as it is the reference standard to measure core body temperature, however we would not suggest you use this in the workplace…. “don’t do this at home folks”. Then of course there is the use of rectal and oral thermometers, which moderately correlates to core temperature but is also a tad invasive.

The tympanic (in your ear) infra-red thermometer frequently used in patient care has been shown to correlate with core body temperature and could be self administered to adhere to distancing guidance.

Handheld cutaneous (skin) infra-red thermometer is popularly used to screen large numbers of individuals due to it’s portability and that it does not require contact or cause discomfort to the individual being assessed, however there is little data to support its use.

Among common cutaneous infra-red thermometers evaluated for their ability to measure temperature traceable to the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90), the majority performed outside the accuracy range stated by the manufacturers and the medical standard. (Fletcher et al 2018).

The handheld cutaneous infra-red thermometer was less accurate than the tympanic thermometer and other infra-red thermal systems for temperature measurements and fever detection. (Bijur et al, 2016, Lui et al, 2004, Hausfater et al, 2008 and Tay et al 2015).

The study by Tay et al 2015, showed that the handheld infra-red thermometer had a low sensitivity of 29.4% when compared with the oral thermometer to detect fever.

The performance of the hand held cutaneous infra-red thermometer is operator-dependent, as the thermometer is aimed at the temple or forehead, and distance between the thermometer and skin may affect its accuracy. It is not unlikely that sub-optimally trained operators, shying away from close contact with those being screened, hold the thermometer further away than the required proximity and thus compromise its effectiveness.

In a pandemic, a false negative is a false reassurance and a potential future infection cluster (Aw, 2020)

Information taken from The Journal of Hospital Infection.

AW, J. 2020. The non-contact handheld cutaneous infra-red thermometer for fever screening during the COVID-19 global emergency. The Journal of hospital infection, 104, 451-451.

HSE: Regulating occupational health and safety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

HSE: Regulating occupational health and safety during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

As Britain’s statutory regulator of occupational health and safety The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken action to ensure that our important role continues effectively as the COVID-19 situation unfolds. These actions are being guided by the specific needs and characteristics of the various sectors we regulate and in line with advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Health Protection Scotland.

HSE recognises the threat presented by COVID-19 to industry, our staff, and the broader community and in recognition of this we have transitioned our workforce to operate remotely.

HSE’s staff and inspectors remain contactable and we continue to engage with duty holders and other stakeholders with teleconferencing and other tools in place of face-to-face meetings.

Despite the demanding circumstances, compliance with occupational health and safety legal requirements remains with duty holders and HSE will continue its regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk and based on our available regulatory capacity.

Our regulatory approach will take a flexible and proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic.

As a consequence, HSE:

  • has suspended targeted inspection activity of high-risk industries that are not part of the major hazard sectors, including construction and manufacturing
  • has carried out a short pause on our offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industry inspection activities so we can give duty holders time to overcome various immediate pressures and challenges and we will then focus our regulatory work so it is re-prioritised onto critical areas and activities. We will continue to regulate major hazard industries throughout this time undertaking regulatory functions remotely
  • will endeavour to undertake regulatory activities which do not require site visits as normally as possible, for example Approvals and Authorisation work for biocides and pesticides, Statutory Permissioning activities such as Licensing, Safety Case / Report Assessments, Thorough Reviews, Combined Operations Notifications, Wells Notifications, Land Use Planning Applications, Hazardous Substances Consents etc
  • will, across all sectors, continue to investigate work related deaths, the most serious major injuries and dangerous occurrences and reported concerns from the workforce or the public where people are being exposed to risks from work activities and we will still take action to secure compliance with the law. We will conduct as much of our investigation activity using technology as possible, without compromising the collection of evidence and our ability to secure effective control of risk and, where appropriate, justice
  • will do as much of our regulatory intervention work as we can remotely, but we will still mobilise to site, including offshore, where it’s necessary to provide public assurance that hazards are being effectively managed and to secure compliance with the law. Where a site visit is required social distancing guidelines will be followed.

Source: HSE