Avoid bringing bed bugs into workplaces

Bed bugs show up in places other than homes and hotels. Workplaces are also vulnerable.

Bed bugs can be a problem in workplaces. It is often difficult to determine where bed bugs are coming from, so effective management can be a challenge. Each workplace will have its own guidelines to follow. This article addresses general guidelines that will help a workplace avoid a bed bug infestation, or control an infestation that has occurred, developed by Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Public Health.

Bed bugs can come into a workplace in several ways. Employees who have infestations at home may accidentally bring bed bugs to work. Another possibility is that employees who regularly visit the homes or workplaces of clients may carry bed bugs back to the office. Bed bugs may also come into a workplace through vendors, customers or clients.

If clients regularly come to the workplace for interviews or consultation, those meetings should be held in a conference or meeting room rather than an individual’s office. If possible, that meeting room should be designed for ease of inspection and cleaning. A room without carpeting or upholstered furniture would be preferable. Any cracks and crevices in the room should be sealed; this will give bed bugs fewer places to hide or escape. The meeting room should be inspected regularly for bed bugs.

Passive or active bed bug monitors in the room might help to detect bed bugs if they are carried in. A passive bed bug monitor does not attract bed bugs but it provides a tight, dark hiding place for them, if they are present. Active bed bug monitors contain substances that attract the bed bugs.

Ideally, people with bed bugs at home should put on fresh bed bug free clothes (straight out of the dryer, or previously dried and bagged) before leaving the house. This applies to employees as well as clients. This might be a difficult message to convey to employees or clients and the topic should be handled with empathy and tact. Clients could be told that in an effort to keep bed bugs out of the workplace all visitors are asked to take precautions before coming to the place of work.

Each workplace will have its own unique concerns when it comes to bed bugs. It may be useful to have a policy in place so that managers, employees, customers and clients know what to expect. Establishing proactive bed bug policies and prevention measures protects and reassures employees. A protocol can take the stigma away from the bed bug situation because through it, everyone is treated fairly and no one is singled out for blame.

For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website, www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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