Managing COVID-19 risks: temperature screening

Information about using temperature screening in workplaces to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated

This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian CHO Directions for applicability.

Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be required to close temporarily for on-site work
  • remain open for on-site work with a completed COVIDSafe Plan in place
  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.

How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?

There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the Directions issued by the CHO.

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian CHO Directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any Directions that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

COVID-19 symptoms

COVID-19 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. The symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for are: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and loss or change in sense of smell or taste. Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Preventing the introduction of COVID-19 in the workplace

The most effective control measures for reducing the risk of a person introducing COVID-19 into a workplace are to:

  • not go to work if unwell
  • maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from other persons
  • practice good hygiene, including washing your hands thoroughly and regularly
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
  • maintain a thorough routine of cleaning and disinfection of the workplace

Face masks in workplaces

Directions from the Victorian CHO about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.

Employers should ask employees before they enter the workplace if they:

  • have any COVID-19 symptoms
  • have been in contact with any confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • are subject to any requirements to isolate, quarantine or in relation to travel

Temperature screening

Another measure to reduce the risk of a person introducing COVID-19 into a workplace is to take the temperature of any employee, customer or visitor before they enter a workplace.

Note: Directions issued by the Victorian CHO may require employers in some industries to test the temperature of workers before entry into the workplace. These Directions must be complied with and may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with any changes.

Widespread temperature screening on entry to a workplace that is not a 'high-risk' workplace or a sensitive setting is not routinely recommended. It is an additional measure employers or persons in management or control of a workplace may choose to implement in areas where there is a high level of community transmission, as a visual reminder to be vigilant for symptoms and to exclude those with a documented fever from a workplace.

Temperature screening may identify people who have an elevated temperature, which is one of the symptoms of COVID-19. However, temperature testing should not be used as a substitute for the most effective control measures outlined above.

Any workplaces that implement temperature screening should be aware of its limitations and risks such as not being a reliable method for detecting COVID-19, potential to cause congregation at entry points, and being subject to user and product variability and error.

Temperature screening will not identify a person who has COVID-19 who is asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms), does not have an elevated temperature as one of their symptoms, or is on medication that reduces their temperature.

A person may also have an elevated temperature for other reasons, including a medical condition not related to COVID-19.

Temperature screening may be considered as an additional control in workplaces in areas where there is a high level of community transmission:

  • where it is difficult to achieve physical distancing
  • where large numbers of employees work
  • where employees live together, such as in fly-in fly-out (FIFO) operations or in agricultural work
  • where employees need to travel together in close proximity
  • where a high number of external visitors are required to enter the workplace (for example, salespeople or delivery drivers)
  • where there are people who may be more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, such as older workers and/or those with chronic medical conditions
  • where businesses are public facing (such as retail stores)
  • which are high-traffic public places (such as railway stations)
  • which are prisons and detention centres

To determine if temperature testing could help minimise the risk of a person introducing COVID-19 into your workplace, a risk assessment should be undertaken. The assessment should consider the factors outlined above, including the most effective control measures.

Employers also have a duty to consult with employees, independent contractors, and any health and safety representatives (HSRs), so far as reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them, including about how to control risks associated with COVID-19. The consultation should be conducted in accordance with any agreed consultation procedures.

If temperature testing is being carried out, a non-touch method should be used wherever possible. For example a battery-powered digital non-contact infrared thermometer for testing individuals or an infrared body temperature scanner, which can scan individuals or large groups of people at the same time. Only temperature testing devices included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods should be used. Industrial thermometers are unsafe for use on people and should not be used.

If temperature testing is used:

  • thermometers should be calibrated, maintained and cleaned as per manufacturer's specifications
  • the person conducting the testing must be trained in the correct use and cleaning and disinfection of the thermometer and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when using the thermometer
  • people conducting temperature screening should wear a mask
  • if a non-touch testing method is not being used, hand hygiene (either hand washing or use of an alcohol-based hand rub) must be performed before and after touching each person. Gloves should only be used if contact with non-intact skin, mucous membranes or blood or body fluids is anticipated. Hand hygiene must be performed before and after glove use.
  • the person interpreting the data must be trained in what the recorded temperature means and what action(s) are appropriate
  • workplaces should have a process in place to confirm the validity of the first result by a second test if the first result shows the person has an initial elevated temperature (37.5C or higher), eg. by repeating the test 5-15 minutes later
  • where practicable, workplaces should have a designated area for people who have an initial elevated temperature (37.5C or higher) to wait and have the reading repeated. This will allow a person to acclimatise if the initial elevated temperature was influenced by external factors such as weather conditions, heaters or increased body movement. This area should be designed to ensure physical distancing and good hygiene practices are in place
  • there should be a clear guideline or protocol in place to manage those in whom a fever is detected (ie. the temperature is still 37.5C or higher on the repeat reading)
  • if a person is confirmed to have a temperature of 37.5C or higher, they should be advised (no more than 30 minutes after the initial test) to return home immediately and get tested for COVID-19

In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the workplace, Directions from the Victorian CHO may also require employers to take specific response actions.

Notifiable incidents and COVID-19

From 28 July 2020 new temporary regulations under the OHS Act specify when employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in the workplace. For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving COVID-19.