Safety screening during COVID-19

Johannesburg, 11 May 2020
Read time 3min 40sec
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua

With an estimated 1.5 million people returning to work as of 4 May, and learners returning to school in the near future, companies and schools need to think about how they’re going to protect themselves and their workforce – not to mention learners – against COVID-19. 

“Regardless of sector, business needs to rethink their health and safety plan around employees and other people entering their premises,” says Barry Venter, MD of Nashua.

Over and above the personal protective equipment recommended by government, such as masks, gloves and hand sanitiser, many businesses are turning to technology in the form of thermal screening solutions that can carry out preliminary screening to identify elevated skin temperatures.

Venter explains how the technology works: “Fever screening thermographic cameras use advanced detectors and algorithms to detect elevated skin-surface temperatures without requiring physical contact. The device is connected to a PC, smartphone or network video recorder and triggers an alarm when it detects skin temperature outside a predefined range or individuals without masks.”

Using an ear or mercury thermometer to check an individual’s temperature requires proximity between the tester and the individual, putting both at risk, whereas using thermal cameras enables distance between the subject and the technology, as well as accurate data logs.

Thermal screening technology can be used for rapid and preliminary fever screening in office buildings, retail outlets, factories, stations, airports, schools and other public places. If an individual has a fever, they can be sent home.

The technology can be placed in a fixed position at the entrance to a building, it can be a mobile solution mounted on a tripod, or even a handheld device that can monitor body temperature in crowds from afar. The big advantage is that it permits temperature detection in groups of people, so if several people enter the building at once, it can pick up their temperatures simultaneously, there’s no need for them to form a single line. Using technology instead of more manual processes ensures speed and accuracy of testing, says Venter. In addition, it’s possible to set thresholds around when an alert will sound or send an e-mail notification. If someone is detected with an elevated temperature, alerts can be immediately provided, notifying health and safety personnel to attend to the situation.

The system can also store logs, creating a registry of people detected with elevated temperatures according to the threshold that’s been established, as well as alerts that have been generated over a time frame. The cameras produce an optical and a thermal image, making it easy to detect the subject that triggered the alarm.

The technology incorporates artificial intelligence that ensures it doesn’t send a false alarm for someone carrying a hot beverage, or who has been sitting in front of a heater.

“Installing this type of technology makes for good health and safety practice in general,” says Venter, “if you consider the guidelines in terms of returning to work and implementing improved health and safety measures. Businesses and establishments have to ensure they know who is coming onto their premises. If you can detect people with elevated skin temperatures, you can assess the situation and deal with it appropriately.”

Thermographic cameras at the entrance to a building will just form part of the company’s existing access control procedures. Checking temperatures will become routine accepted practice.

The true value in this solution lies in the fact that it can carry out proactive detection. Should a business or school experience a COVID-19 outbreak, it will have to close down. Early detection is key.

Five reasons to implement thermal technology

  • Using technology you don’t expose the operator to physical contact – you can assess someone from up to 5m away under one second.
  • Accuracy up to 0.3⁰C.
  • Detect temperature in moving crowds.
  • Identify and track individuals with elevated temperatures.
  • Keep accurate data records of alerts and events.
See also