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May 6, 2020 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

Changing the Face of Workplace Health and Safety in the COVID-19 Era

As businesses slowly start to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic and workers return to something approaching a new normal, workforce safety is foremost on the minds of every party involved. While employers, employees, and consumers are all eager to get back to business as usual, it’s evident that a lot of changes need to take place before that can happen fully. Protective measures like face coverings, employee screening and social distancing are good initial steps, but ensuring safety for workers and customers will also require some big institutional and technological changes.

In many ways, the pandemic has laid bare some major existing problems in the ways our workplaces traditionally operate. In the coming months and likely well beyond, businesses will be taking a hard look at the measures they take to protect the health and safety of their employees. Even in the difficult days of economic recovery ahead, a company’s approach to health and hygiene will be important deciding factors for many jobseekers. A workplace that offers a thoughtful and well-communicated approach to employee health will be able to attract and retain more top-quality workers than one that does not.

Practices that have long been commonplace across many industries now look ill-advised or even unsafe. For instance, many places of employment, from manufacturing facilities to healthcare providers to office buildings, require employees to physically clock in and out at the beginning and end of their shifts.

That poses a problem in a time where physical contact with an object like a touch screen or punch clock is potentially dangerous. These devices are usually among the most shared surfaces in a company. Nearly every hourly employee touches them every workday. Even with the use of hand sanitizers and cleaning products, each touch increases the potential for spreading germs and infections.

To reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus and other communicable diseases, many employers have begun to consider ways to create a safer environment from the moment their employees come in the door. The Centers for Disease Control recently issued guidelines for meat-processing facilities, which have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic, recommending that businesses institute touchless clock-in practices if possible.

Touchless biometric tools such as facial recognition software had been growing in popularity even before the coronavirus outbreak. The particulars of the current pandemic, though, reveal that even those measures are not enough to maintain employee well-being in many workplaces. In fact, many practices and technologies that were considered standard practice or even cutting-edge in the very recent past will now need to be pushed aside in favor of more sanitary and technologically advanced solutions.

Consider a worker in a healthcare facility who needs to wear a face mask or other PPE throughout the workday, for instance. Facial recognition scanning would require each employee to remove their face coverings before clocking in or out for the day, potentially putting workers at risk for spreading disease while also adding extra steps that negate the time-saving aspect of a touchless time clock.

A similar situation applies to biometric fingerprint readers, which were very recently looked on as state-of-the-art timekeeping technology. In the current environment, a system requiring employees to touch a common surface multiple times per day looks far less inviting than it did just a few months ago, especially in workplaces where gloves and other personal protective equipment are required.

Fortunately, innovative businesses are stepping up to create new, more safety-minded solutions for time and attendance. Examples of businesses implementing these precautions are already starting to roll in. Cambria, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of granite products, requires employees to stand under an overhead scanner that checks for elevated body temperatures, a possible symptom of Coronavirus. Northcoast Security in Ohio is using apps to take facial scans and temperature readings of their workers. Target is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to create a screening process combining temperature checks and a short questionnaire to pinpoint possible symptoms.

As with any quickly evolving technology, these touchless clock-in processes and worker temperature checks come with some legal considerations. California, Illinois, New York, and several other states have laws on the books concerning the types of biometric information employers are allowed to collect, and how that data can be processed and stored after the fact. However, in recent weeks, the EEOC has issued policy directives specifically exempting the measurement of employee body temperature from certain ADA and GINA restrictions. While most commercially available time clocks should be in compliance with applicable privacy laws, it’s worth consideration for employers looking to make a new investment.

As the working world continues easing toward a new normal, Ascentis is proud to offer employers new touch-free time clock add-ons to help businesses get back to work while protecting employee health. Our new Ascentis CarePoint add-ons offer a fully touchless time clock experience including voice command capability, Bluetooth beacon technology and thermal body temperature checks. As the first completely touchless timekeeping solution on the market, Ascentis CarePoint is ready to get American workers back in action safely and securely.

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.