Covid-19 Pandemic and the use of Thermal Imaging. How, where and why?

25th November, 2020

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    The UK is in its second lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic naturally rising in the cold winter months with more people catching flu and more likely to spread the Covid-19 Virus.


    Businesses across the UK are continually looking to mitigate the risk of the virus entering their business premises. Taking various measures possible to minimise the risk of infections of their staff should decrease the overall risks to the business continuity and ensuring the health and safety of its employees.


    Government advice recommends that to deal with protecting your staff, visitors, contractors, and customers on-site, a risk assessment should be carried out.


    Sanitisation, ventilation, social distancing, implementation of the NHS track-and-trace system, one-way walkways, premises deep cleaning and the enforcement of facemask wearing are the minimum requirements that any business should be implementing for sure.


    Thermal Imaging as a technology has been widely advertised as a solution to protect workers but is not a requirement of the Governments guidelines. So why is Thermal imaging technology playing such a huge role in preventing the spread of Covid-19?


    Worldwide sales of Thermographic temperature screening devices & cameras have increased weekly due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s 1st and 2nd wave this year. We will look at Thermal Imaging in closer detail to see why this is the case.


    Thermal Imaging camera manufacturers such as FLIR, Bytonic, Thermoteknix, Hikvision, Dahua, Vodafone, to mention just a few, have adapted to the market conditions by advertising their devices as ‘Temperature detection systems’ suitable in the screening for Covid-19.


    When considering Thermal Imaging CCTV as a tool to reduce the risk at work, we should be aware that there are different types of thermal cameras for different applications. Some thermal cameras are used outdoors for security to detect trespassing in a restricted area and some thermal cameras can be used for the testing of building structures, HVAC or electrical cable heat sensing. Thermal cameras with temperature detection have been in circulation for many years and further developed to assist in ‘fever detection’.


    Thermal imaging temperature cameras/scanners are focused on detecting ‘body’ temperature or heat. It is worth noting that these cameras only detect the surface skin temperature of a person and cannot detect internal core body temperatures.


    Thermal cameras are not able to indicate whether a staff member entering the business has got Covid-19.

    As we are already aware, or should be at least, individuals presenting symptoms vary widely but in combination anosmia, fever, fatigue, persistent cough, diarrhea, abdominal pain, sneezing and loss of appetite and smell are a reasonable identifier for COVID-19 diagnosis.


    Employers and Health and Safety Managers need to take into consideration that an elevated temperature of a person scanned by a Thermal Temperature scanner, upon entering the premises could have a raised temperature due to a variety of other circumstances. As we are in the 2nd wave of Coronavirus and lockdown in November and December coming, workers are now putting on more clothing in the colder winter months. Employees will now be wearing hats or scarves, and wearing several layers of clothing to keep warm, or going to work on bicycles and exert more energy. So naturally, the more clothing we wear the higher their internal temperature rises prior to being at work. When scanned with a Thermal temperature camera, the Thermal imaging camera will no doubt be showing an elevated temperature due to more clothing layers, wearing hats and scarves in the outside cold, prior to arrival at the Thermal screening point.


    So where does the Thermal Imaging screening get placed?


    thermal imaging CCTV


    At this point it is clear that entering the building, staff, visitors, on-site contractors etc, should be given ample time to take their outdoor clothing off to enable them to adjust to their normal body temperature and more importantly their skin surface temperature.


    Thermal temperature scanning is deployed in most applications at the ‘border’ point between the outside world and person’s entering a building. It would make sense to scan temperatures outside the building, where the natural environment assists in dispersing bacteria and a person’s breath being exhaled.


    Unfortunately, that would also increase the risk of false readings from a Thermal Imaging camera or Heat scanner, as the exposed skin temperature is naturally lower in temperature at this present time of year. The same can be said for increased Temperature readings being false. Although we did not have a summer heatwave period, there have been instances of Thermal Imaging cameras detecting increased temperatures due to people having been in the sunshine too long or sat in their cars with the sunshine beaming through their windscreen’s, thereby increasing their skin temperatures.


    Employers should use the skin temperature measurement device/scanners at their Access Control points inside their building. Using dedicated access points ensures that everyone gaining access to the site, adheres to a controlled temperature reading, thereby minimising the risk of Covid-19 being spread.


    Employers and Health and safety teams need to assess the staff numbers increasing through these ‘border points’ to ensure enough social distancing is available within a reception area before being scanned.


    For example – the employer may be a 24/7 distribution depot, with several hundred workers on site. If there is a single border point to scan hundreds of staff what impact will that have to queues in the waiting area. If there are several border points for staff to gain access to the premises do you redirect them to a single Access point or do you implement several Screening points?  Are there access points to the site, where staff can get in undetected and thereby increase the risk of infections on-site?


    On the other side, there are thousands of small businesses with smaller numbers of staff, visitors, and on-site contractors. Probably, the site’s only offer a single Access point and very likely have much smaller reception areas where adhering to social distancing while incoming staff are waiting to be scanned is more difficult.

    With an access control or ‘border’ point in mind, one should assess how the device/s are installed, how temperature readings are monitored, data stored and health and safety processes put into place when temperature readings are exceeding the normal temperatures of a person.


    Is the Thermal Temperature camera fitted in an optimum position to ensure ambient temperatures are not imposing onto the person being scanned?


    Does the Thermal camera offer an electronic alarm output to a visible indicator, such as a light beacon, indicating within a security office, or health and safety team monitoring the ‘border point’?


    If software is provided with a Thermal camera screening system, is the software and camera detecting and reading one person or multiple persons at the ‘border point’?


    thermal imaging camera system


    Is the software capable to communicate via telecoms or IT networks to Health and safety teams in real-time if the premises operate 24/7 as many Distribution depots, hospitals and factories do?

    With such 24-hour operating sites, can software monitor multiple ‘border points’ in real-time and distribute alerts to several stakeholders within the health and safety team and external stakeholders such as outsourced security staff?


    What data is available to whom from the Thermal camera imaging system and software to protect the business in regard to complying with GDPR regulations?

    When implementing the Thermal Imaging camera system, is the system purchased with a maintenance agreement to ensure continuous operation?


    If the Thermal Imaging Camera/scanner is just that, a handheld scanner, who operates the device?


    Is the Scanner a handheld device operated by a person or is it a portable device mounted on a tripod or desk top mount?


    Can the Handheld scanner readings (temperature and Images) be stored on a memory card for data storage?


    How accurate a temperature reading can the Thermal camera device scan to and what are the minimum and maximum temperatures that the device can scan?


    Are the person’s operating the Thermal Imaging camera / Thermal scanner trained in safety procedures if reading is triggered to be an alarm?


    What PPE safety equipment should be provided for operatives of handheld Thermal temperature imaging cameras?


    If your business is going to invest in Thermal Temperature Imaging cameras/scanners, then the above questions need to answered to ensure a focused plan is set in place along with the right equipment to suit.


    There are different types of thermal cameras that can detect elevated body temperatures, and the prices vary a lot. The differences of these products include accuracy of temperature readings, black body calibrators for regular automatic temperature calibration, speed of detection, different heat map options, additional features such as crowd detection, and multiple temperature readings of several people at the same time. Some complete systems offer Networked monitoring, data storage, and discreet automated alerting to health and safety teams.


    The above questions and technical considerations often present more questions in getting it right, when also acknowledging the costs involved to the business.

    Manufacturers of Thermal Imaging temperature scanners are pushing the boundaries with their products capabilities, features and Covid-19 related solution offerings.



    Most Thermal Imaging scanner manufacturers will have seen an astronomical increase in sales since the beginning of the Covid outbreak and with the world’s economic challenges, business downturn, this sector as flourished exponentially and will continue to do so for some considerable time. At the same time, we have seen many manufacturers of Thermal Imaging further develop their products to appropriate the pandemic, meaning that Covid-19 related functions and features have been implemented into the products and software’s. This ensures that data from technology allows for better protection and monitoring.


    So where, as a business that needs to not only survive this pandemic, but also live with a pandemic that has no expiration date find the solution to their problem.

    In most cases companies that have an in-house health and safety dept and/or HR dept.’ will have contingency plans in place with their current physical security providers.

    In many cases, companies’ board of Directors will take responsibility to an extent in implementing the safeguards but have nowhere to turn to get professional advice.


    Thermal Imaging technology has been vastly developed into many areas providing solutions for many applications for Military, Emergency services, surveillance, Industrial Industry, product development, safety monitoring solutions etc. etc. With many specialised contractors operating in these sectors, which are most likely to provide solutions for everyday businesses.


    Electronic Security Integrators are a good choice to provide solutions when it comes to Thermal Imaging as historically Thermal Imaging has been a ‘Security’ product, whether on land or sea. Furthermore, the Security Integrator deals with the human aspect of controlling Access, people flow, CCTV monitoring /CCTV video surveillance and in many security applications requiring Temperature readings to secure hardware, assets and for fire preventative measures.


    A Security Integrator will be able to pinpoint whether your existing Access control points could be possible ‘border points’ to use Thermal Imaging. When considering everyday Access control, a building requires authorised personnel and visitors to gain access to a building as quickly as possible and efficiently as possible. Security Integrators deal install security measures for clients with hazardous areas, giving valid experience in protecting people and business premises, whether from theft, destruction or in this case a pandemic virus.


    Security Integrators experienced in Access Control Systems & CCTV are able to identify bottleneck areas, the existing access control needs of the Employer and the wider security and health and safety aspect when dealing with the current social distancing guidelines and where to introduce Thermal Imaging as a screening method.


    A Security Integrator’s experience is also a valuable guide, with the client’s premises set up. Where main entrances are not suitable due to bottlenecking or one-way traffic flow to keep in line with social distancing guidelines, temporary entrance points may present better alternatives to make access safer and in line with social distancing guidelines.


    From an operational standpoint, the Security Integrator is likely to have installed Covid-19 screening methods and preventative measures with or without technology. This gives valid insights from a Security Installer, from historical installations, whether providing hands-free Access Control, social distancing signage and markers, deep cleaning services to sanitize frequent touchpoints or provide the elimination of bacteria and pathogens.


    Today’s physical Security integrator is multi technology orientated, with touchless Access Control such as Face recognition with Temperature reading features, iris recognition, CCTV’s Face recognition AI with options for temperature readings or long-range RFID card reading systems. These solutions all provide options in authorising access, providing authorised flow of people traffic with minimal skin to surfaces contact.




    The new ‘normal’ in the current climate requires that we look after the health and safety and wellbeing of our employees. 


    Thermal Temperature Imaging may not be a certified solution in the current forms of ‘security-related’ products to the WHO and medical establishments unless you dig deeper into scientifically approved Thermal Temperature Imaging devices for medical applications. These no doubt are far more specific in their operation and results but are not likely to operate seamlessly within an existing Access and Security environment today.


    ACCL is a structured cabling Network company, with an Access Control System and CCTV security division. Our company can provide the solutions, whether it is to a small business, education centres, NHS premises, Stadiums or large-scale factory / distribution depot.


    We can provide our customers with Thermal temperature technology, CCTV or Access control and advise the best use in conjunction with Social distancing guidelines with a client’s health and safety team to determine the best solution to their Covid-19 risk mitigation plans.



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