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Conducting temperature checks on employees

In the fight against coronavirus, conducting daily temperature checks on employees before they commence work seems like a good idea. But is it worth the time and money? And does it work?

Recent media reports have focused on the growing number of businesses conducting temperature checks on employees as a preventative measure in managing a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace. While checks have value where workers live together in accommodation (such as FIFO or agricultural workers) or in workplaces where vulnerable people are present, such as hospitals and aged care facilities, it’s our opinion that for many workplaces, there may be little benefit in conducting daily temperature checks on workers or visitors. Why? Three primary reasons:

  1. the infrared sensor thermometer guns used in screenings are often not accurate and reliable, since many screeners are not properly trained, hold them at the wrong distance or use them in the wrong environments.
  2. an infected person may still be in the virus incubation period – the length of time between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms.
  3. temperature checks alone will not tell you whether a person has COVID-19…it will only identify symptoms. It is possible that a person may be asymptomatic or be on medication that reduces/increases their temperature. It is also possible that the person may have a temperature for another reason unrelated to COVID-19.

Rather than relying on temperature checks, Safe Work Australia recommends employers implement known controls, such as good hygiene measures, physical distancing (keeping everyone at the workplace at least 1.5 metres physically apart), effective workplace cleaning and fit for purpose personal protective equipment (PPE). You should also direct workers to tell you if they are feeling unwell, including if they have a fever, and promote a standard procedure to require them to go home when they do.

Should you elect to conduct temperature checks on staff:

  • seek the advice of your public health authority on the appropriate method of temperature checking, equipment, PPE and control measures required to ensure safe testing
  • consult with your workers, and their health and safety representatives, and take their views into account
  • provide instruction to all workers on the process for temperature checks, including emphasising the importance of maintaining the other control measures
  • provide information, training, instruction and supervision, as well appropriate PPE for workers conducting temperature checks, and
  • get advice on leave and stand down arrangements for employees who register high temperatures.

When considering employee suggestions on conducting temperature checks and managing coronavirus in the workplace, keep in mind that many are uncertain and often emotional about the topic. With the amount of media coverage on the outbreak, many people are misguided or even misinformed so your employees’ concerns are understandable in the current environment. Most people are fine if their suggestions are not taken up, as long as they feel they have been heard and a logical response from their employer is offered.

Need help with your back to work strategy? Bare Bones Consulting can help with recruitment of new employees or with focusing your existing team on what they need to do to help you rebuild. Done well, you can come out of this whole mess better than your competitors. Check out how our experience has resulted in genuine return on investment for our clients. Then give us a call. We make things simple.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.