A role for employees in workplace pest prevention

Bed bugs, cockroaches can infiltrate offices via briefcases and lunchboxes
Friday, June 9, 2017
Dr. Alice Sinia

Facility managers might be surprised to find out how often an employee accidentally introduces pests in the office. It happens more than one might think, especially with two of the biggest offenders: cockroaches and bed bugs. These pests are capable of hitching a ride into the office on personal belongings such as a purse, briefcase, lunch box and on clothing. This is a contributing factor in the upward tick in bed bug activity in places including offices, schools and other commercial properties.

To prevent pest infestations in the workplace, consider rolling out an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. These programs monitor and detect pests at the earliest stages and combat them before they can become a major problem. Taking a proactive IPM approach is more environmentally conscious because it helps eliminate the need for chemical treatments. When employees understand this approach, they are more likely to do their part.

When it comes to pest management, facility managers can’t carry the burden alone. It takes a team to protect a facility from pests. To best protect against pests in and around a property, employees need to be knowledgeable of the issues, understand their roles in the processes and support the facility manager’s efforts. Pests can be introduced in a variety of ways, from incoming shipments, poor sanitation regimens and through an employee’s personal belongings, so it’s crucial to use a comprehensive approach. Keep the following tips in mind to take a pest management program to the next level.

Communicate openly

Speaking openly, on an ongoing basis, about the organization’s pest management program will make employees feel comfortable discussing pest issues. This dialogue should include keeping employees in the loop about proactive pest management initiatives such as reporting pest sightings or concerns and even notifying employees of upcoming service visits. It should also include communicating with staff about the potential risk of introducing pests into the facility from home. Increase staff awareness and understanding of how they can affect pest management with strategies including:

1. Have a clear, simple plan in place to keep shared meeting spaces clean when they’re not in use. Also, consider designating someone from the administrative staff to keep an eye on communal areas.

2. The greater the number of people that use coffee and filtered water machines, the greater the potential for spills. Make it easy to clean up this area by providing paper towels and cleaner, and place a trash can immediately next to the machines. This should cut down on tiny spills from creamer cups, sugar packets and water.

3. Encourage employees to keep their workspaces tidy and remove any food and drink containers after use.

4. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing any concerns around pest issues. Most importantly, employees should be able to speak up if they have pest problems at home. This should be as discrete as possible to respect personal privacy. If they report an issue early, the facility’s pest management team can devise a plan to eliminate pest threats before they get out of hand.

5. Encourage employees to report structural damages and deficiencies such as leaky pipes, broken windows and improperly closed doors.

Train staff

Consider training staff on the specific pest pressures the facility faces and often-overlooked signs of pest activity. Most reputable pest management providers offer complimentary staff training, so ask about on-site training sessions for the team. Training sessions give staff a chance to meet the organization’s pest management professional face-to-face, which is important for staff to be comfortable enough with the pest management team to communicate any issues.

Pest management professionals can discuss the basics of IPM, as well as educate teams on the basic biology of pests, conducive conditions and pest hot spots that are specific to the facility. Conducive conditions are environments within or around an establishment that are favorable for pest activity, such as standing water and improper drainage. Pest “hot spots” are the key areas inside and outside of a building that pests target as entry or harborage points.

As the organization builds a relationship with its pest management provider, continue to have the provider host more tailored training sessions specific to the organization’s needs, such as one dedicated to bed bug education. Any report of bed bugs, from a single sighting to a full-blown infestation, can hurt a facility’s reputation and ultimately affect the organization’s bottom line. The training session can include information on bed bug biology, how they can get into a facility, how fast they can spread, evidence of their activity, potential hiding spots and more. There’s no doubt that being proactive and educating teams about bed bugs will help protect the facility.

Pest management professional also commonly provide educational materials to share with employees, such as tip sheets and checklists to help with sanitation and maintenance. Consider including seasonal pest management tips in regular newsletters to keep these issues top-of-mind.

Maintain protocol

Even with the most stringent pest management programs in place, there’s always the risk of pests finding their way inside. Employees need to know whom they should notify, and how, in the event of a pest issue.

Establish a pest-sighting protocol that identifies key staff members that should receive pest-sighting reports. The protocol should also lay out a clear communications process for reporting a pest incident, which is as important as acting proactively to prevent pests. Here are examples of steps that can be included in a pest-sighting protocol:

  • If at all possible, catch the insect and provide the pest management professional with a sample.
  • Document when and where the pest activity was spotted. Be as detailed as possible, such as recording the approximate number of pests observed.
  • Notify the appropriate internal contact immediately.

To reduce the risk of pests being transmitted from homes to the office, arm staff members with basic pest knowledge and provide ways to document and communicate pest concerns . By working with the organization’s pest management provider to get staff on board with the organization’s efforts, the facility manager can increase efficiency and generate savings at a facility while maintaining a stringent pest prevention program.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is the resident entomologist – regulatory/lab services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the quality assurance laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. Alice can be reached at

5 thoughts on “A role for employees in workplace pest prevention

  1. I like the idea of having the staff trained in what to be aware of so that they can avoid a pest infestation. An example of this might be somebody noticing the hollowness of a wall to prevent termite infestation. The more employees are trained, the better the office will be in preventing any pest invasions.

  2. Fantastically written post! Some of initiatives an employee should take. I completely agree with your points. This post is truly shareable to all. Thanks for this good post, I must say!

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