Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it would start taking the temperature of employees and provide them with masks as it addresses growing safety concerns among retail workers laboring through the coronavirus crisis.
The retailer, which is the largest employer in the United States, also said it was in the process of sending infrared thermometers to all its locations in the next one to two weeks and would send back workers who record a temperature of 100 degrees or more.
Walmart’s announcement comes a day after warehouse, delivery and retail gig workers in the United States went on strike to call attention to safety and wage concerns.
Rival Amazon.com Inc has come under fire for its treatment of workers during the crisis. On Monday, 15 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, walked off the job following reports of coronavirus cases among the facility’s staff.
Walmart, like its peers Target and Kroger, has undertaken a number of safety measures such as reducing hours for cleaning and restocking as demand for food supplies and essentials skyrockets on concerns that lockdowns to curb the virus might crimp supply.
Many service industries across the globe have adopted similar safety measures. Casinos in Macau that reopened last month have been tasked by the government to enforce temperature checks, mask protection and health declarations for staff and guests.
Restaurant Brands said on Monday it was deploying 15,000 infrared thermometers at Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeye outlets, while Starbucks said it regularly sterilizes containers and that its delivery staff have their temperature taken daily.
Global fast-food chains, including McDonald’s, have also started contact-less delivery in China, where the virus originated.
Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, said the retailer would need more than 7 million masks per week to adequately supply its workforce across the country.
The first shipment of thermometers and masks will be deployed at the company’s warehouses and as further supply becomes available, it will be sent to stores, Bartlett told reporters on a conference call.
He also said Walmart continues to see a “lot of pressure” for essential items, including household cleaning supplies and toilet paper.
“It’s just an astonishing volume that we are going through.” (Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Devika Syamnath)
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