5 Things You Need to Know Before You Launch Employee Health Screenings

By Chip Phillips on May 8, 2020

Employee health screenings for coronavirus are vital for companies who are returning to the workplace. But it’s not enough to just screen as you see fit; following best practices for these screenings can greatly reduce exposure risks to your staff and customers.

We previously discussed employee health screenings, their importance, and provided some information about how to implement them. Now we want to get more specific about conducting the screenings from a practical standpoint. 

1. Picking the Right Type of Health Screening

As you prepare your business to conduct health screenings, consider what type of screening will be best for your team and processes.

There are two general methods of employee health screenings:

  • Self-reported Health Screenings: Each employee will perform and submit their own screening data from their mobile device, typically from their place of residence.

    A Self-reported Health Screening App can be deployed to each team member’s mobile device and may be preferred by businesses without a central worksite (or where people visit customers directly), such as contractors or home inspectors.

    • Pros:
      • No need to set up a screening station or have a designated screener.
      • Saves time at the start of each workday by having employees submit data before starting their shift.
      • Reduces exposure risk by identifying high temperatures and symptoms before employees arrive at work.
    • Cons:
      • Requires additional information and training to every staff member.
      • Potential for inaccurate or inconsistent screening methods across individuals.
      • Employees must be trusted to conduct fresh, honest testing every day and report accurate results.
      • Difficult to ensure compliance of screening tools across individuals.
      • Requires all employees to have appropriate equipment, including thermometers, which can be difficult to source quickly.
  • Administered Screenings: Many organizations opt to have a set of designated screeners who collect and submit health information for multiple employees in one place.

    An Administered Screening App can be deployed to a company tablet, then performed at a workplace entrance or a single check-in station, where proper PPE and training is provided to the screening staff.

    This type of screening is ideal for businesses with a central worksite (or multiple group worksites), like in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and grocery stores.

    • Pros:
      • Ensured accuracy of screening methods and tools.
      • Only select staff require training to perform screenings.
      • Consistent data submitted from company maintained devices (no need for individual troubleshooting).
      • Proper PPE can be provided to all employees at screening station, ensuring proper usage.
    • Cons:
      • Check-in stations must be established, staffed, and regularly sanitized.
      • Potential loss of time, as employees have to be screened before starting their shift (lines and crowds are possible).
      • Increased risk of exposure as a symptomatic employee may come to the workplace before being screened.

For either method, it is important to capture consistent and comprehensive data for every employee before entering the workspace. This can include their name, work location, temperature, symptoms, and travel history. 

Ideally, you will want to use digital means to screen employee health. Using employee management apps that can be sent to an employee’s phone or a company tablet will reduce exposure risks from paper forms and multiple points of contact.

2. Types of Thermometers

Capturing accurate temperature readings is a key component of employee health screenings, but is something completely new to most organizations. To capture accurate vitals, it is worth consulting any applicable state or local emergency orders, as some recommend certain thermometers, typically one of these types: 

  • Digital Oral Thermometers: Digital thermometers are regarded as the fastest and most accurate type of thermometer. Readings are taken from under the tongue. You can find digital oral thermometers in most local pharmacies. 
  • Electronic Ear (tympanic) Thermometers: These use infrared technology to get their temperature reading. Electronic ear thermometers are less accurate as if there is too much wax in the ear it can give an incorrect reading. Despite being expensive, they are easier to use on babies and young children, as it can be hard to get children to sit still for long enough while using digital thermometers.
  • Forehead (Temporal Artery) Thermometers: These thermometers also read heat using infrared, and are placed on the temporal artery. Forehead thermometers are also not as reliable as digital thermometers. 

Each different type of thermometer works differently and has different instructions. Per the Cleveland Clinic, here is how to accurately collect temperature data using each different type of thermometer: 

  • Using a Digital Oral Thermometer:
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.
    • Use a clean thermometer, one that has been washed in cold water, cleaned with rubbing alcohol, and then rinsed to remove the alcohol.
    • Do not eat or drink anything for at least five minutes before you take your temperature because the temperature of the food or beverage could make the reading inaccurate. You should keep your mouth closed during this time.
    • Place the thermometer tip under the tongue.
    • Hold the thermometer in the same spot for about 40 seconds.
    • Readings will continue to increase and the F (or C) symbol will flash during measurement.
    • Usually, the thermometer will make a beeping noise when the final reading is done (typically about 30 seconds). If you are keeping track, record the temperature and the time.
    • Rinse the thermometer in cold water, clean it with alcohol and rinse again.
  • Using a Tympanic Thermometer: 
    • Pull gently back on the top of the ear to open the ear canal.
    • Place the protective cover on the tip of the thermometer.
    • Gently insert the thermometer until the ear canal is fully sealed off.
    • Press and hold down the button for 1-2 seconds until you hear a beep (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
    • Remove the thermometer, discard the cover, and record temperature and time.
  • Using a Temporal Artery Thermometer
    • Turn the thermometer on.
    • Place the protective cap on the thermometer.
    • Sweep the thermometer gently across the forehead so the infrared scanner can measure the temperature of the temporal artery.
    • Record the temperature and time.
    • Remove the protective cover and dispose of it.

3. Frequency of Health Screenings

Employers should measure employee temperatures and assess symptoms prior to starting work every day. 

Instituting a daily pre-shift health screening will prevent potential exposure risks by identifying symptomatic team members. Regular health screenings are also an opportunity to provide the latest CDC updates and necessary PPE to each employee, ensuring proper usage and further reducing risks. 

4. What to do with Health Screening Data

Once health screenings are implemented, you should store and review that data on a regular basis. Maintaining an employee screening log is helpful for protecting your employees and customers, identifying health trends, and taking measures to act against them.

The screening data can also serve as a means of contact tracing within your organization. On a larger scale, contact tracing involves public health staff working with a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 to help them recall everyone with whom they have had close contact during the timeframe while they may have been infectious.

In the case of employee health screenings, contact tracing can include identifying which team members had close contact with symptomatic employees and alerting these team members of potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible. 

Contacts can be provided with information and support to understand their risk and identify what they should do to separate themselves from others who are not exposed. Then they’ll need to monitor themselves for illness, as there is the possibility that they could spread the infection to others even if they do not feel ill.

5. What to do if People Appear Sick

Employee Health Screenings reduce employee risk by rapidly identifying signs and symptoms of the Coronavirus. People who are experiencing symptoms should not be in the office or interacting with customers. This means conducting health screenings as needed are another way to help protect your staff and customers. 

If an employee has a high temperature or is showing symptoms, they should be sent home and closely monitor their symptoms once they are identified. Any workspace where they have been should be sanitized according to enhanced cleaning and disinfection guidelines.

Conducting these screenings also helps your team know when to contact their doctor (before showing up at their office), or to reach out to their local or state health department for recommendations. 

Help keep your staff informed and safe by following best practices for employee health screenings.