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View photosFord is using thermal scanning to check workers’ temperatures before they enter company sitesAs more people start to return to their workplaces, many employers are introducing new ways to check up on their staff, from thermal scanners to wristbands.For workers at any of Ford’s sites worldwide, there are two new steps to the morning…
July 6, 2020
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Ford is using thermal scanning to check workers’ temperatures before they enter company sites
As more people start to return to their workplaces, many employers are introducing new ways to check up on their staff, from thermal scanners to wristbands.
For workers at any of Ford’s sites worldwide, there are two new steps to the morning routine. First, answer three health questions, on your mobile phone, confirming you aren’t a risk to your co-workers. Then, get scanned at the entrance to your workplace to check you aren’t running a temperature.
It’s not just Ford, these measures are now typical for many firms as employees return. Amazon, Walmart and dozens of others – including the BBC – have introduced thermal scanners. The move is broadly welcomed by workforces, as keen as their bosses to ensure the virus is contained.
“We’ve not had anyone say no,” says Ford’s John Gardiner. “Knowing the risks, people understand we’re doing as much as we can to protect their health and safety.”
All Ford employees have to answer health questions and get their temperature scanned before entering their workplace
But thermal scanning is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new intrusions on workers’ privacy that would have been hard to imagine just a few months ago.
While governments wrestle with data protection issues around app-based track-and-trace, many firms are planning their own schemes.
Accounting giant PwC has developed an app called Check-In, which is being tested in its Shanghai office. Employees’ mobiles register if they come into close proximity to co-workers. If someone tests positive for Covid-19, recent close contacts can be informed and asked to isolate. PwC expects to be able to market this to other employers.
A PwC worker in India: the firm has developed an app to monitor how close employees are to each other
By contrast, start-ups including Locix and Microshare in the US, and Europe’s Rombit, Estimote and Kinexon are among the many offering track-and-trace systems that don’t need smartphones, but use wristbands and lanyards to monitor your physical location.
Companies preferring video surveillance can turn to firms like Glimpse Analytics and Smartvid.io, which have adapted their artificial intelligence to see if workers are keeping their distance and even if they’re wearing face masks.
building its own testing facility.” data-reactid=”84″ type=”text”>A few firms test their staff for the virus itself. Although it is an expensive approach, some offshore oil rigs, mines, and other confined worksites see this as the safest approach. Amazon has even said it’s
building its own testing facility.
Firms can make complying with monitoring a condition of entering a building
Anna Elliott at international law firm Osborne Clarke says she is advising clients they should consider staff privacy and consult unions before introducing new surveillance measures.
“If your employer is acting properly, in good faith, I don’t think we should be too worried,” she says. What it shouldn’t be is a “smash and grab” to get as much information on your employees as possible.
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More Technology of Business
Much is still uncharted territory. For example, bosses might be tempted to use questionnaires to ask about who their workers live with, and what they do outside work, to identify any additional risks. But that is likely to be considered a step too far, says Ms Elliott.
While employees in theory aren’t obliged to answer questions about their private lives, or agree to temperature or any other checks, given the “imbalance of power” it isn’t always easy to say no, especially at a time of high job insecurity, she adds. And firms can make complying with monitoring a condition of entering a building.
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UK hospitals, military facilities and prisons are piloting these wristband monitors
At Ford’s plant in Plymouth, Michigan, volunteers recently tried out wristbands that buzz to alert them if they come closer than the mandated social distance, and inform supervisors if there are clusters of workers.
Wearing a wristband strikes many as Orwellian, enabling constant monitoring of a worker’s whereabouts and Ford chose not to pursue that system, opting instead to give workers more protective equipment. But others find the idea appealing.
Rombit, which originally developed wearable sensors for use at ports, says it has had more than 400 enquiries about an updated version to monitor social distancing.
An electronics manufacturer in northern France has been using wristbands, issued by US firm Microshare, for the past month. They have identified three cases of the virus in that time, allowing them to send home anyone deemed at risk. UK hospitals, military facilities and prisons are piloting the same system.
Lanyard monitor: “Everything we’ve done is designed not to open a gateway into your personal habits,” says Microshare’s Mike Moran
Microshare’s Mike Moran says this represents l
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