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Update on COVID-19 Temperature Testing: guidance from the MHRA

  • United Kingdom
  • Health and safety
  • Litigation and dispute management

07-07-2020

 

Many organisations who have remained operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those now seeking to reopen the workplace following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, have considered temperature screening as a way of minimising the risk of workers showing symptoms of COVID-19 entering the premises. Many have implemented such screening as part of their overall management of the risk of transmission in the workplace.

On 3 July, however, the MHRA expressed a note of caution, warning that thermal cameras and other such “temperature screening” products, some of which make direct claims to screen for COVID-19, may not be a reliable way to detect if people have the virus.

Up until now, there has been limited guidance on temperature screening, and although data protection issues are acknowledged, this has never been made a mandatory part of ensuring the workplace is “COVID secure”. Instead the approach to temperature testing has been one that employers have adopted voluntarily in order to take “all reasonably practicable steps” to ensure the risk of workplace transmission is minimised.

The MRHA has warned that many thermal cameras and temperature screening products, which may now be being used by employers for this purpose, were originally designed for non-medical purposes and, therefore relying on these products in relation to COVID-19 could put people’s health at risk. It has advised that such products should only be used in line with the manufacturer’s original intended use, and not to screen people for COVID-19 symptoms. The important distinction to note is that temperature readings from temperature screening systems will measure skin temperature rather than core body temperature and these readings are therefore considered an unreliable measure for detection of COVID-19.

Should organisations wish to implement or continue with temperature screening, the above warning as to products and their efficacy for COVID-19 should be considered. Of course, a healthy individual may have a natural fluctuation in temperature and those with COVID-19 may not develop a high fever. Products should only be used in line with manufacturer’s instructions and the method of testing implemented safely.

It remains important for businesses and workplaces to follow the government advice on safe working during COVID-19, as well as implementing scientifically reliable methods of testing for COVID-19. Our advice to employers, particularly in light of the MHRA warning, is that temperature screening should be considered as an additional step that may be taken to enhance COVID-19 secure procedures, and should not be relied upon as a sole means of minimising the risk of transmission within the workplace.

To view the government press release, please click here

For advice on how to protect your workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact Tim Hill, Catherine Henney or Claire Watson.

 

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