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Are Non-Contact Thermometers Accurate?

Do No-Contact Temperature Assessment Devices Really Work?

Currently, 47 states have recommendations or legal requirements in place that organizations must check the temperature of their employees and customers. The majority of people are using no-contact temperature assessment devices, like point-and-shoot thermometers, to fulfill these public safety requirements. However, there is a little doubt about whether these thermometers are actually accurate.

How Do No-Touch Thermometers Compare to Regular Ones?

When discussing no-contact thermometer accuracy, it is important to remember that there are several different types of devices, which range from hand-held thermometers to massive cameras. All these instruments work by using infrared thermal imaging to assess distant temperatures. When compared to a mercury-based internal thermometer, which is often the gold standard for temperature accuracy, no-contact thermometers are reasonably accurate. On average, there is about a 0.07 difference in the temperature measurements. Research on the accuracy of these devices found that they tended to slightly overestimate temperature in people with a low temperature and slightly underestimate temperature in individuals with a high temperature. This data indicates that COVID no-touch thermometers can do a decent job of figuring out whether a person has a fever. However, this research only holds when the thermometers are used according to all the manufacturer's instructions. Hand-held devices typically only work when held about 3 feet away from a person's forehead. Thermal cameras may need a calibration box within range to be able to properly assess temperature. No-touch devices are prone to a lot of user error, which causes accuracy levels to drop drastically.

Many Factors Interfere With Non-Contact Thermometers' Accuracy

Ultimately, non-contact temperature assessment devices can be accurate but only when they are operated correctly. There are all sorts of problems that can cause a thermometer reading to be incorrect. Of course, the leading issue is simply user error. An employee who fails to read the directions or does not bother to hold the device close enough to someone may not get an accurate reading. These sorts of issues can occur when an organization does not take the time to properly train employees on using no-touch thermometers. Some of the devices are very difficult to figure out, especially the larger cameras, so users need plenty of training before relying on them. Various environmental factors can also play a large role in the accuracy of these tools. Research indicates that thermometers may not perform as well if humidity is unusually high or low. Furthermore, the temperature of the room itself may affect how well a no-contact thermal device works. This is especially true for items operated directly in the sun. Strong sun rays may cause inaccurate readings even if the device otherwise works properly. Any air currents, like a fan that is pointed at the subject, may also make it harder to get accurate results. Not all causes of no-touch thermometer inaccuracies are due to the person using it. The individual whose temperature is being read may also affect the reading. If a person has taken a fever-lowering medication, a thermal assessment device will not be able to tell that he or she is running a fever. A person's clothing may also affect his or her overall temperature, especially if the device is pointed at a hat or scarf. If an individual is wet due to rain or sweat, the temperature reading might end up a little off. Being aware of these issues can help someone get a more accurate reading with a non-contact thermometer.

The Dangers of Trusting No-Touch Thermometers

With all the potential for misuse, non-contact temperature assessment devices can actually be fairly dangerous. They tend to lead to a false sense of confidence. A business may assume that someone is COVID-free due to an incorrect forehead thermometer reading when the reality is that the person is quite feverish. This can result in an unsafe environment in which employees are more likely to get sick. Over time, the infection can spread from person to person, wiping out a large portion of a business's workforce. Another potential problem is infecting customers. An organization that is just using a no-touch thermometer may end up accidentally letting people with COVID-19 on the premises. If they are relying on the thermometer and not using other COVID safety measures, it can be very easy for people to catch COVID-19 from their surroundings. Therefore, Allentown personal injury lawyers recommend that organizations use more than just no-touch thermometers. Some other ways a responsible business can protect customers and employees include:
  • Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces
  • Limiting building capacity
  • Requiring people to wear masks
  • Putting cough guards between employees and the public
  • Creating hand-washing and sanitizing stations

What to Do About Negligent No-Touch Thermometer Usage

There are all sorts of ways to spot businesses that are being negligent with their non-contact temperature assessment devices. One of the most common is an employee who does not get within 3 feet of people while using a forehead thermometer. Another typical sign is an organization that is letting customers crowd together in small spaces and waving off concerns with "Don't worry. We tested everyone's temperature at the door." You should also be wary if you notice that a company's thermal camera is set by an AC unit or a sunny window. If you notice an organization being negligent with no-touch thermometers, it may be possible to hold them accountable. First of all, if you live in a state that has temperature screening requirements, you may be able to report the business to the local regulatory body. If you are an employee, you can also report the issue to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Anyone who believes an organization's negligence caused him or her to contract COVID also has the potential to sue it in a personal injury claim. Suing a business for not using thermometers properly will require you to successfully show several things in court. The first element in any personal injury lawsuit is demonstrating that the defendant had a duty to care for your safety. Since any business is supposed to provide a safe environment for employees or customers, this is fairly easy to demonstrate. Next, you will need to prove that the organization failed in its duty. You may want to try to gather evidence, such as videos or witness testimony, that shows proper temperature usage and other safety procedures were not being followed. Finally, your COVID personal injury lawsuit has to show that the organization's negligence directly harmed you. This can be the tricky bit. Since COVID-19 is such a widespread illness, it can be hard to prove that a specific act of negligence with a thermometer is what led to you getting sick. Proving this may require showing that the organization was the only place you visited or other similar evidence. This sort of lawsuit is definitely possible, but you will need to have plenty of evidence and get assistance from a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. If you think your COVID-19 infection might be due to a faulty no-touch thermometer reading, an Allentown personal injury lawyer can help. Metzger & Kleiner is already encountering cases concerning COVID-19. We have the experience needed to handle these sorts of challenging cases. Our team can provide helpful input on whether you have a reason to sue and assist you with preparing your personal injury claim. To schedule a consultation with us in the Lehigh Valley, call (610) 435-7400 or email us.

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