COVID-19 prompts semis to screen worker temperatures

No-touch infrared temperature screening is being used at chip companies as employees get back to workplace, according to the SEMI association. (GettyImages)

As companies wrestle with ways to return to work amid COVID-19, a small survey has found that 75% of chip companies are relying on no-touch temperature screening for employees. However, most companies in the survey said they are not so far considering electronic tracking of infected workers.

SEMI, a global industry association for electronics design and manufacturing, recently conducted a survey of 19 chip companies and found 75% are using temperature screening for their employees.  The preferred method is to use a no-touch infrared thermometer.

Also, 84% of those companies test the temperature of visitors and contractors, according to the survey. More than 60% allow only critical visitors to enter their facilities after they have completed a health questionnaire and their temperature has been checked, while 21% prohibit visitors from entering their sites entirely.

Free Daily Newsletter

Interesting read? Subscribe to FierceElectronics!

The electronics industry remains in flux as constant innovation fuels market trends. FierceElectronics subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, developments and predictions impacting their world. Sign up today to get electronics news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

Walmart and Amazon and other major retailers recently said would begin using temperature screening of workers. Walmart said in early April that it would take up to three weeks to roll out the temperature screen to all its facilities with 1.5 million employees in the U.S., starting first at distribution centers.

More than half of the companies in the survey have maintained production with social distancing protections in effect. About one-fourth have cut volume and personnel to promote distancing, while another one-fourth are at full capacity. Less than 10% are requiring workers to wear masks and provide the masks.

As of late March, 90% of the companies polled had not considered using electronic tracking for employees at risk of cross contamination, SEMI said in a blog.   SEMI researcher Olivier Corvez said that Taiwan has deployed electronic tracking devices effectively to track confirmed COVID-19 cases and their travel histories.

Further, the survey revealed that 42% of the companies tell an employee who is ill but not a confirmed COVID-19 case to stay home and remain symptom-free for at least 72 hours. The same rule applies if the employee has a sick family member or a close contact that is ill but not a confirmed COVID-19 case. The survey found that 30% of the 19 companies require staying home for at least 14 days until the worker and family members are symptom-free.

SEMI’s survey is just one indication of the protocols that companies must undergo to bring employees back to the workplace. A temperature screening is just one screening method and “will not completely mitigate the risk of contagion, as some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever and may also otherwise be contagious without experiencing any symptoms,” attorneys at WilmerHale noted in a client alert.  Also, temperature screening information is treated as confidential medical information under the Americans with Disabilities Act and should only be shared with company mangers “with a true need to know,” they added.

The Centers for Disease Control consider a person to have a fever when measured with a temperature of at least 100.4 degrees F, but many employers have set a threshold in the 100 to 100.4-degree range, WilmerHale said.

The SEMI survey also found that three of the 19 companies suspended field service engineer support due to COVID-19, while 58% offer limited support based on circumstances.  Another 21% field service engineers and equipment installers are working without restrictions if allowed by the government and customer policies.

All the companies in the survey have a high percentage of employees working from home, with nearly 75% saying that 40% to more than 80% are working remotely. The WFH policy is mandatory for 40% of the companies and voluntary for 10%, while the remainder WFH depending on job function.

SEMI has posted a number of resources for companies responding to COVID-19 with tip for facilities and meeting, business travel and communications. There are also insights on computing hardware, security and related subjects, much of it generated by employees at its 2,000-member companies.

From a separate survey of 10 companies, SEMI found that companies were seeing a “hefty increase in phishing scams around sensitive topics of medical leave and compensation.”

RELATED: Global semi material market flat in 2019: report

Suggested Articles

Workers and customers walk through the ThermalPass gateway device and sensors screen for temperature

The largely unseen impact of this pandemic has left working engineers grappling with more responsibilities, schedule slips, parts shortages and more.

North America billings were up by 15%, but Europe declined 23%