As COVID-19 arrived in the United States and in our home state, Minnesota, many businesses, including Bailiwick, had to quickly spring into action to administer new safety precautions. Under Minnesota's issued "stay-at-home" order all of Bailiwick's employees who could work remotely, began working from home, but our materials management team continued coming to the office to perform essential work to serve our customers.
The team performs hands-on work to our customers' equipment. They also prepare and ship equipment to customer sites to make installations as "plug and play" as possible. In addition, these teams were working hard to help our customers with their own safety initiatives like the deployment and installation of sneeze guards. Keeping these employees safe as they continued coming to work has been a top priority in Bailiwick's pandemic response efforts.
In addition to other safety precautions, temperature checks were one of the first recommended safety measures for businesses to implement. During the last several months, we have continuously tweaked our process and learned some key lessons. Whether your business or organization has already implemented temperature checks or just beginning to make plans that include this safety measure as a part of a phased return-to-office plan, we hope our experiences can help you as you continue to evaluate your processes and procedures.
1. Understand and select temperature devices with technology and environmental variations in mind
Bailiwick first started its implementation of temperature checks by having a management team member stationed near a key entrance area to test employees as they arrived at work using a touchless thermometer. Key considerations to make when implementing an on-site process include: selecting a high-quality touchless thermometer, maintaining employee privacy, ensuring the interaction is as safe as possible, and making sure the employees understand the procedures and best practices.
As we began our on-site process, we did identify employees who were not aware of their high-temp, which allowed us to be proactive and send them home.
After a couple of weeks of this process, we noticed these thermometers were reading employee temperatures differently than traditional thermometers. In general, touchless thermometers will read about 0.5-1.0°F lower than an oral thermometer. Touchless thermometers can also lead to less reliable readings if an employee, for example, has been in a hot car, recently been in the sun, or wore a hat on their commute to work.
When implementing an on-site process using touchless systems, we would recommend investing in the best temperature technology available to you and making sure employees understand the types of activities that may lead to an inaccurate reading. If someone gets a high (fever) reading, it is also recommended to let them sit for 30 minutes in a quarantine space, then test them again to see if their forehead temperature has returned to normal.
To allow employees to get to work more quickly upon arrival and avoid some of the less accurate readings, Bailiwick pivoted to a self-reported temperature check model. This requires employees to take their temperature at home prior to arriving to work and utilize a text messaging service (Twilio) to collect these readings. The service sends daily reminders to employees.
The State of Minnesota, in partnership with Target Corporation, put together a similar service tool to help organizations collect this information that is available at: MN Safety Council. Collecting temperatures through systems like these requires additional oversight and management follow up for those who forgot to send in their temperature. However, since implementing this process, employees have been able to complete this safety requirement at home and can more quickly identify if they have a high-temperature and need to stay home.
Figuring out the best technology to monitor and capture temperatures is not something you likely have been in the market for in the recent past. Many manufacturers have introduced devices that converge multiple needs into one device. For example, there is new technology that includes temperature scanning, facial recognition/mask detection and time-clock capabilities into one device.
No matter what method is deemed most effective for your business, it is important to develop protocols to ensure all testing and screenings are conducted in a confidential manner. Any information collected must be done so in compliance with all potentially applicable federal laws and any applicable state laws that may provide stricter confidentiality protections. If possible, review your policy and procedure with legal counsel.
Bailiwick can assess your needs, recommend the right solutions, provide asset distribution services and we can do it fast (which counts with COVID-19).
2. Employee temperatures will vary
While most people know that the average body temperature is 98.6°F, normal temperatures can vary for individuals anywhere between 97°F and 99°F. A temperature of 99°F may signal a fever for one person but a normal temperature for another. As you begin to collect employee temperatures, be sure to educate employees and management on this so they watch for variations in an employee's regular temperature to identify a fever.
At Bailiwick, we've employed a "better safe than sorry" approach and encouraged individuals to stay home at any time they believe they have a higher than normal temperature.
3. Follow available guidelines from experts and keep up to date
Utilize the guidelines published by the CDC and OSHA to help establish the policy and procedures your company is going to follow for handling potentially ill employees and allowing people to return to work after illness. Be sure to implement your guidelines consistently with every employee and don't let an individual's workload impact your decision on when they can return to the office.
These guidelines do change, and have over the past several months, so it is important to keep on top of them. Identify key contacts at your organization that will be regularly reviewing the latest guidance and communicate out any changes to others. At one point the CDC recommendation was to keep employees with a fever home for 7 days, but it later changed to 10 days. Use the official government websites to obtain the most accurate information and avoid relying on potentially outdated blogs, news articles, or other third-party sources that are not directly linked to these organizations.
Keeping your front-line workers safe is critical to keeping your operations running and delivering important services to your customers. While temperature monitoring is not the only safety practice to employ, it is a key part of a comprehensive safety program to be sure to keep sick employees home and a proven way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
For additional COVID-19 solutions from Bailiwick, please visit our COVID-19 Solutions page.