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Bed Bugs Could Be Big Problem for Small Businesses

By Catherine Gordon, JD | June 29, 2012

Most of us are familiar with the good night rhyme that includes the line, "Sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite." Unfortunately, the last thing small business owners can do is close their eyes to the recent workplace bed bug infestations that have made headlines lately. No matter what type of business you operate, keeping your workplace safe now includes confronting this disgusting pest.

First, you may be wondering, are bed bugs really that serious of an issue? According to Jennifer Erdogan, director of the bed bug division at Bell Environmental Services, employers can't afford to underestimate the seriousness of the issue and the potential ramifications. Erdogan emphasizes that business owners who ignore this growing problem risk losing employee productivity, morale, and their company's reputation. In addition, she warns that what business owners gain by taking no action is an increased likelihood in lawsuits filed by workers, vendors, and/or customers.

The Nature of the Beast

The following facts explain why bed bugs are such a problem for the largest to the smallest employers in any industry:

  • Bed bugs are very small (about a quarter-inch long), reddish brown, flat oval, wingless insects that are parasites and feed on the blood of humans and other animals.
  • Bed bugs don't inject any kind of venom and aren't believed to carry infectious microbes. However, they can induce their own saliva into the bites. Typically, the skin is reddish with small spots that look like mosquito bites or flea bites. The result can be mild to severe itching and vigorous scratching can cause infections.
  • Cleanliness alone does not deter bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs are not inherent to any building. They're brought in with employees, their bags, purses, luggage, or on furniture.
  • Bed bugs can hide in any crack or crevice. They are found on couches, chairs, in drawers, behind pictures or wallpaper. Dark fecal stains, egg cases, and shed skins may also indicate their presence.
  • When one bed bug is sighted, it's almost a certainty that there are more. By the time a bed bug is actually spotted, infestation has likely already occurred.
  • Once in the workplace, bed bugs adjust their hours and feed on people when they are on site rather than their nocturnal schedule in a residential setting.
  • Typically, the bed bugs do not spread throughout an entire building, but do occupy the areas in which people spend extensive periods of time while sedentary.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs and Keeping Them Out

Simply put, bed bugs are a different sort of pest than most workplaces are used to dealing with. Therefore, according to experts, the most important element for eliminating bed bugs is a more thorough treatment than conventional pest control. The various recommended treatment methods, which include traditional insecticides, new freeze technology, and even bug-detecting dogs, have different pros and cons, and can affect the operations of the workplace and employee health.

  • Action Alert. While there are do-it-yourself treatments available, unless you're familiar and comfortable with this sort of thing, this is probably not a job for an amateur. It may not even be a job for your regular pest control service. Consult with a pest control company specializing in bed bug eradication to determine which treatment is best for your workplace, particularly if you even think you have a problem. You'll want to act right away because the infestation will spread very quickly.

Once eliminated, there's no guarantee that bed bugs won't be re-introduced into your workplace. Long-term vigilance and educating employees are the best prevention tools against bed bug infestations. By working together, you and your employees can help make and keep your workplace bed bug free.

Office & HR

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