Banham Poultry installs new AI technology in fight against virus
Following the summer outbreak which saw more than 130 workers test positive for coronavirus, Banham Poultry has introduced Covid-detecting facial recognition technology at its factory in Attleborough.
The company’s managing director said they were determined to put themselves on the “front foot going forward”, after a coronavirus outbreak in August prompted the business to close part of its factory for a month.
Working alongside sanitisation and disinfection expert Mydis, the company has installed walk-in booths equipped with artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to identify employees and check their body temperatures, as well as hand-held fogging machines that spray a fine mist of disinfectant.
All staff facilities are ‘fogged’ daily, with high-use areas, such as cafeteria and bathrooms, sprayed three to four times per day.
Blaine van Rensburg, managing director of Banham Poultry, said the factory had used the latest incident as a push to improve its sanitary measures.
“Health and safety has always been of paramount importance to us at Banham, but the pandemic has prompted to us evolve our protections,” said Mr van Rensburg.
“Only four of the staff who tested positive had coronavirus symptoms, and these developed after their positive tests, so we’re determined to be on the front foot moving forward by ensuring we’re detecting high temperatures at the door of all our facilities and regularly sanitising and disinfecting all areas as frequently as possible.
“Health inspectors have said our response is innovative, so we’re really proud of our collaboration with Mydis to implement these solutions to help stop the spread of the virus in a workplace setting.”
In addition to the new technology, Banham’s protective clothing is now single use, it has implemented a one-way foot-traffic system throughout its three-storey building, introduced enhanced social distancing measures in amenities and production lines with increased signage and screens, and installed door handles which automatically dispense hand sanitiser when touched.
Terri-Ann Boyle, director at Mydis, added that with the latest measures in place, Banham had set the standard for creating a safe working environment.
She said: “We are putting our expertise to good use to ensure Banham Poultry is a safe and Covid-secure site for all staff and customers.
“Banham Poultry sets the tone for what a Covid-secure site should look like as we continue to battle the pandemic.”
Banham accounts for seven per cent of the UK’s chicken processing and remained operational during lockdown, but moved to a small skeleton workforce after a team member from the factory’s cutting room tested positive for coronavirus on August 21.
Within days, more than 130 employees at the factory had tested positive and even more were asked to self-isolate, leading Banham to close the factory on August 27.
On September 14, after many of its staff had completed their two-week isolation period, the factory reopened. Concerns were raised after it became clear that a test-and-trace system had only managed to get through to a small fraction of people linked to the outbreak.