Amazon Takes a New Step to More Quickly Screen for Sick Workers

Amazon has a new system to screen for sick workers.

The Seattle-based e-tailer has begun using thermal cameras at its warehouses to identify employees who may be infected with the novel coronavirus. The cameras, which measure how much body heat a person emits, require less time than the forehead thermometers the company had previously adapted.

“We implemented daily temperature checks in our operations locations as an additional preventative measure to support the health and safety of our employees who continue to provide a critical service in our communities. We are now implementing the use of thermal cameras for temperature screening to create a more streamlined experience at some of our sites,” Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish told FN.

The coronavirus has caused a spike in demand on Amazon.com for certain household products. To keep up, the company hired 100,000 new workers in less than a month. It announced plans last week to add another 75,000 people for a combination of full- and part-time roles.

But at the same time, Amazon has had to work through members of its ranks falling ill with the virus. There have been reports of workers at dozens of U.S.-based Amazon warehouses testing positive for COVID-19 — and both workers and elected officials have raised concerns regarding conditions in the facilities.

In late March, 15 workers at Amazon’s Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse participated in a demonstration with the aim to call attention to the facility’s workplace conditions after an employee tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Christian Smalls, who led the employee walkout, was fired shortly afterward, but Amazon attributed his termination to his receipt of “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines.” (Smalls, Amazon said, had come into contact with a worker who tested positive for COVID-19 and was told to stay home with pay for 14 days.)

Further, five U.S. senators — including former Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — penned a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earlier this month inquiring about Smalls’ firing. They also expressed concerns about short supplies of personal protective equipment following reports that the retailer had masks and gloves only in “limited quantities.”

An Amazon spokesperson told FN last week, “We have enough supply of masks for everyone in our operations network and grocery stores to last a few weeks and continue to procure more. There is a mask shortage in the world right now, so naturally we are being deliberate in our daily distributions.”

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