Some employers, including health care facilities and a few retailers, are screening employees for coronavirus symptoms by taking their temperatures and asking health questions.
Amazon, the global e-commerce behemoth that tends to go big in all it pursues, is apparently breaking new ground on the COVID-19 front, too, by using technology to screen workers at a distance.
The company has deployed thermal cameras in some of its facilities to detect anyone with an above-average body temperature. These cameras present infrared radiation as visible light, with warmer objects appearing as brighter colors in the image that’s produced.
An Amazon official confirmed the plan, but the company isn’t elaborating on how many facilities will see this technology or whether it will be used at New Jersey sites. The cameras will also be used at worker entrances in some of Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery store locations.
“We implemented daily temperature checks in our operations locations as an additional preventative measure to support the health and safety of our employees who continue to provide a critical service in our communities,” said Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish. “We are now implementing the use of thermal cameras for temperature screening to create a more streamlined experience at some of our sites.”
If the cameras show someone is unusually hot, they would presumably receive a follow-up temperature check to confirm a fever.
Amazon started taking worker temperatures and providing masks in late March in response to growing fears about workplace virus spread. Any worker registering higher than 100.4 is supposed to be sent home and not allowed back to work until they go three days without a fever.
Thermal imaging technology is used in firefighting to see through smoke, by emergency responders to locate people missing outdoors and was also used by airports in Asia during the SARS epidemic of 2003 to identify feverish fliers.
Like other businesses that remain open during the global pandemic, Amazon has confirmed positive cases among its workforce, including the recent death of an operations manager in California.
Amazon has been criticized for a lack of concern over worker safety during the pandemic.
The company runs 10 fulfillment centers in New Jersey with an 11th set to open this year in Franklin Township, Somerset County. The company employs more than 17,000 people in New Jersey, making it one of the top-five largest employers in the state. Amazon’s total workforce is around 798,000.
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