FedEx adds temperature screening to COVID-19 precautions at Memphis world hub

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 27, 2020 3:27 PM CT | Published: March 27, 2020 3:27 PM CT

FedEx says it’s checking temperatures and practicing social distancing “where possible” within the massive FedEx Express world hub where more than 11,000 workers converge daily.

The Memphis-based company put temperature screening in place on Thursday, March 26, after telling employees on Monday that the precaution was imminent.

Updated: Worker at FedEx corporate HQ tests positive for coronavirus

The increased vigilance comes after “a small number” of FedEx employees in the Memphis area tested positive for coronavirus. FedEx, which has multiple locations scattered across the area, said it wasn’t disclosing where the diagnosed employees work.

“We aren’t sharing specifics at this time,” spokesman Jim Masilak said. “The areas where those employees worked are being thoroughly cleaned, and any other employees known to have been in close contact with the infected individuals have been notified.”

FedEx is the Memphis area’s largest private employer with about 30,000 workers.

The company previously disclosed one worker in the corporate headquarters at 942 Shady Grove South in East Memphis had tested positive, and the worker was known to have come in contact with a senior corporate officer. The facility, where an estimated 300-400 people work, was temporarily closed for cleaning and sanitizing.

Many executives and professionals are working from home in the face of the coronavirus threat, but the hub, as the center of FedEx’s global network, has been called on to move COVID-19 test specimens, test materials and relief supplies, along with the usual commercial volume.

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FedEx issued Memphis area workers, including hub employees, travel authorization letters earlier this week vouching that they are essential employees exempt from local government shelter-in-place orders.

The FedEx hub employs thousands of workers on both daytime and nighttime shifts, with the largest concentration working overnight. The workforce is weighted toward part-timers, who start at $13.26 an hour and are guaranteed at least 17.5 hours a week.

To stem the spread of coronavirus, public health authorities have urged people to practice social distancing: staying at least 6 feet away from other people and avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10.

Practicing social distancing in a facility like the hub presents challenges.

Groups of workers enter the complex via a pedestrian bridge over Democrat Road; they pass through security screening at the Memphis FedEx Screening Facility at 2781 Democrat, both upon arrival at the start of shifts and departure after the shift; and they ride in shuttle buses to work stations including ramps, gates and sorting facilities. Some employees are shuttled from distant communities in the Mid-South to work the nightly shift.

FedEx issues travel papers to hub workers, others

The body temperature screening system that FedEx implemented Thursday uses no-touch thermal imaging to check the stream of workers passing over the pedestrian bridge from parking areas to the screening facility.

If a higher temperature is detected, the monitoring device beeps and the worker is taken aside and checked with a forehead temperature sensor.

Masilak said, “To provide our front-line employees with an added layer of protection during this critical time, FedEx Express is now temperature testing all Memphis Hub employees, guests and on-site vendors prior to entry.

“Consisting of no-touch thermal imaging, the initial-level screening causes minimal interruption and is intended to both protect our workforce and help maintain operational continuity,” Masilak said.

People with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher are denied access to the hub.

Inside look at FedEx’s special operation to speed COVID-19 testing

“Any FedEx team member with a temperature of 100.4 F or higher will be provided information on their health care benefits and sent home, and any team member or vendor denied entry because of a high temperature must remain fever-free without medication for 24 hours before returning to work,” Masilak said.

Fever, dry cough and tiredness are among symptoms of coronavirus and other illnesses.

The company says impacted team members will continue to be paid while out sick, according to company policies.

“The temperature checks are in addition to many other preventative measures we are taking at the Memphis Hub and other facilities, including social distancing where possible within the operation, social distancing onboard and sanitizing of shuttle buses, promoting proper hygiene and providing extra hand sanitizer inside the facility,” Masilak said.

One employee said employees had been told they could walk to their work stations to avoid riding on the shuttle buses.


FedEx FedEx Express world hub coronavirus temperature screening
Wayne Risher

Wayne Risher

Business news reporter, 43-year veteran of print journalism, 35-year resident of Memphis, University of Georgia alumnus and proud father and spouse of University of Memphis graduates.


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