Amazon is using thermal cameras to screen warehouse workers for COVID-19

It might be faster and safer than temperature checks.

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This picture taken on on October 22, 2019, shows a new Amazon warehouse, part of mobile robotic fulfilment systems also known as 'Amazon robotics', in Bretigny-sur-Orge, some 30kms south of Paris. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP) (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon is exploring different technological approaches to screening warehouse workers for COVID-19. The internet retailer has confirmed to Reuters that it’s using thermal cameras at some warehouses to check for fevers that may be indicative of the new coronavirus. The company didn’t explain the decision, but the method should be faster and safer than conventional methods that require checking everyone with a forehead thermometer.

Workers said Amazon still asks for a thermometer check (reportedly required by an international standard) on anyone the thermal cameras flag, although that method involves slipping the thermometer through a plexiglas screen. The cameras could nonetheless be safer by reducing the amount of contact between employees, both for screeners and those who’d otherwise have to queue up for checks.

It’s not certain how many warehouses are using the cameras, although Whole Foods is also expected to replace thermometer checks with cameras at its stores.

The move likely won’t completely assuage fears that warehouse staff might infect each other with the virus. It certainly won’t address accusations that Amazon is firing critics of its labor practices, including its COVID-19 safety measures. However, this does suggest the company is aware of the importance of safe, effective screening. Infections would not only cost business, but risk creating serious supply disruptions at a time when many people worldwide are relying heavily on Amazon to deliver essentials.

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