Top 5 Considerations When Implementing Temperature Screening Technology

Human Temperature Screening solutions will be critical in outlining a new normal to keep people safe and reduce business risk and liabilities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed ongoing challenges for various industries, but it has also kindled an incredible amount of innovation. Existing security technologies have been modified to help mitigate the exposure of symptomatic individuals in the workplace, while others have been developed to help organizations rethink workplace safety and security altogether. Demand for one such technology has exploded in recent months, quickly becoming one of the most talked-about security solutions: human temperature screening (HTS).

While these devices are becoming increasingly critical in helping organizations create safer, healthier environments, they come with various compliance considerations and regulatory requirements that leave many businesses wondering where human temperature screening fits into their overall integrated security strategy.

To properly approach this concern, business leaders must consider HTS from a comprehensive perspective, focused on five key considerations: installation environment, policies, accuracy, long-term maintenance and compliance.

Factors from the surrounding environment

Human temperature screening devices are highly sensitive to their surroundings. Due to their imaging sensors and internal processes, the accuracy level can be significantly affected by the installation environment.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has laid out recommendations for using thermographic cameras and defined best practices for installing this technology. We’ve summarized many of those recommendations in this article, but organizations should review ISO/TR 13154:2017 before investing in or implementing HTS devices.

One of the many misconceptions about this technology is that it can be used for mass surveillance. The ISO, however, details that HTS devices are not intended for mass surveillance but instead within a controlled environment with limited distance to subjects. Device accuracy is based on the distance to subjects, surrounding temperature and visibility of the face, forehead and inner eye (canthus).

To increase accuracy, define a specific area at the entrance of a building to conduct scans. Here, facilitators will administer a “pause-and-scan” method to screen one individual at a time. Other specific measures to keep in mind during installation are below.

Area setup:

  • HTS devices are more accurate if used indoors. However, if they must be set up outside, be sure to tent the area to prevent excess sunlight, wind, extreme heat or otherwise controlled temperature environment to eliminate variables from altering the device's accuracy.
  • Lights that put off higher temperatures or other heat sources must remain outside of the device’s field of view, since they could skew result accuracy. This also includes exterior doors, HVAC vents, reflective surfaces and windows.
  • Maintain a temperature between 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity below 50% in the area surrounding the device.
  • Use a neutral-colored backdrop within the field of view for maximum accuracy. Black walls should not be used.
  • Scanning process:
  • Only scan one subject at a time.
  • Have subjects remove any obstructions, such as glasses, hats, hoods or long hair covering their face.
  • Define the process for handling subjects who present a temperature reading above the established temperature threshold and avoid any cross-contamination.
  • While many solutions on the market label themselves as "high-resolution imaging," which can allow for scanning at further distances, it's a best practice that 25-30% of the field of view focuses on the subject's face for maximum accuracy.

Policies and procedures

HTS devices should not be viewed as a standalone solution to mitigating risk; instead, they should be part of a broader security strategy following set processes and policies for use.

To ensure this is the case, consider these best practices:

  • Provide plenty of signage that communicates designated areas for the screening process.
  • Make sure the workflow is clearly defined from initial implementation to active screenings.
  • Ensure you incorporate a health survey that follows the CDC guidelines for screening all individuals (employees, contractors, vendors and visitors) coming into your facility on a daily basis.
  • Part of your policy should also take into consideration PPE requirements and solutions to detect for the absence of PPE (masks).
  • Develop a protocol for handling individuals who test above the established temperature threshold.
  • Remember high-risk times of the year and update policies and protocols appropriately during these times.
  • Integrate the HTS device as part of an existing security program to accompany other solutions like access control and visitor management.

Another misconception about HTS technology is that it can detect COVID-19; that’s not the case. These devices cannot diagnose medical diseases or viruses or address asymptomatic individuals. Instead, they’re designed to detect elevated temperature and provide alerts if beyond a specified range or threshold, such as 100.4° F – the CDC’s definition of a fever.

These devices are meant to work in concert with your security policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 or other illnesses associated with elevated skin temperature and symptoms captured by health surveys. Human temperature screening should not be viewed as a short-term solution but rather a factor in long-term organizational change to mitigate potential threats that were not previously addressed in your security or safety policy. If you are using access control in your facility, there are solutions out there that can integrate into your system to allow for greater control of your entry points based on results of surveys, screening and detection.

Deployment accuracy

Many HTS devices incorporate blackbody reference sources. This setup involves a calibrated temperature source that portrays a precise reference to the human body temperature. A blackbody source establishes a strict baseline for thermographic cameras to reference, resulting in a more accurate measurement. This setup may be more precise, but it's also more complex. Blackbody setups entail an additional point of failure and require ongoing calibration.

Some tips to keep in mind with this setup:

  • Be sure alignment is precise to ensure high accuracy.
  • Allow time for temperature stabilization in the scanning area after installation.
  • Position the blackbody within the same distance and plane from where the subject will be scanned.
  • If device mounts or tripods are bumped or moved, the system would require device recalibration.
  • Set the thermal camera at an appropriate height to allow the proper field of view for scanned subjects.
  • Don't forget the camera's lens and resolution will determine the distance necessary between any subjects and the thermographic sensor (camera).
  • Know that because these devices measure skin temperature, there are factors that can affect readings, such as:
    • Hot, sunny days in which people are outside, exposed for a long time and come into the scanning area.
    • People who do vigorous exercise like riding a bike to work or who work out on their breaks.
    • These scenarios require the individuals to come into the environment where scanning is done and have time to acclimate to the environment before scanning.

To learn more about device setup and integration, read ISO/TR 13154:2017, as this standard provides specific details on the installation of thermographic cameras.

Long-term maintenance strategy

Every security system or device requires long-term maintenance to ensure consistency and effectiveness. HTS devices are no different. When establishing long-term protocols and processes, dedicate resources for ongoing accuracy checks and set recalibration dates to ensure continued accuracy.

Be sure to consider other environmental factors that could affect overall accuracy, including weather changes, alignment issues, ambient temperatures and other similar variables.

Also, invest in training system operators on the maintenance and use of HTS devices, and equip them to act on any potential issues.

Keep compliance top of mind

As you know, HTS devices have specific compliance concerns and have defined best practices to follow. These guidelines, standards, regulatory bodies and privacy factors must be thoroughly understood by anyone deploying HTS or implementing HTS devices.

Some essential factors to keep in mind:

  • Develop a clear understanding of EEOC, ADA, HIPAA and FDA regulatory requirements that may affect device deployment in your application.
  • Regularly review and follow CDC guidelines.
  • Remember to consult legal before deploying these solutions to ensure you mitigate your potential liabilities.
  • Establish a firm understanding of ISO/TR 13154:2017 when utilizing HTS technology.

The future of many industries, including security, has been dramatically shifted due to the ongoing battle with COVID-19. Various new technologies are emerging, while others are being used in innovative ways like human temperature screening, occupancy, contact tracing and more. These solutions will be critical in outlining a new normal to keep people safe and reduce business risk and liabilities. This process may seem overwhelming in the short term, but over time, working with partners and peers while utilizing best practices will ease concerns and mitigate risk.

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