Workplace exposures

Contact tracing

‘An important thing for employers to do’

Photo: elenabs/iStockphoto

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Addressing concerns

In its issue paper and policy position, NSC cites the results of an Axios/Ipsos survey conducted in May showing that “only about a third of Americans say they are likely to opt in to cellphone-based contact tracing systems established by the federal government (31%), major tech companies (33%) or cellphone companies (35%).” About half of respondents (51%) indicated they’d participate in a CDC-sponsored tracing system.

The council also references various potential challenges associated with contact tracing. Among them: apps that may violate worker privacy and civil liberties, be illegally used to collect data, hold data for longer than needed, and be used after the pandemic.

To protect the privacy of employees, NSC recommends employers:

  • Use methods that provide maximum protection for employee data, seeking apps that keep geolocation data anonymous and encrypted.
  • Share the data collected only with public health officials and others who may have come in close contact with the employee confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Establish policies to ensure the data is automatically deleted after it no longer is relevant to the purpose for which it’s gathered.
  • Enact specific guidelines for data collection and processing related to COVID-19.

Beaudry said the workers who used the wearable technology during the construction project were informed and trained on the contact tracing methodology. They were required to consent to the use of the technology as a condition of employment.

“This is just, I think, what people are living with now,” Beaudry said. “This is the environment and this is the process that we have to avoid something.”

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