Bed Bugs in the Workplace
Offices and public spaces
Offices and public spaces are generally safe from bed bug infestations, as there is little opportunity for the bugs to feed on sleeping or stationary persons. However, they may serve as transfer points for bed bugs carried in on the clothing, shoes or personal belongings of employees and visitors.
There is no need to panic if you find bed bugs in your work place. When properly handled, bed bugs can be eliminated with a minimum of disruption to your operations.
A workplace’s risk of exposure to bed bugs depends on the type of workplace and the number of visitors received.
Characteristics of low risk workplaces include:
- few visitors from the public;
- do not have staff who do in-home visits with clients.
Workplaces with medium risk to bed bug exposure have:
- public waiting rooms or gathering areas;
- meeting rooms, washrooms or offices that are routinely visited by clients.
Prevention or monitoring activities should be put in place in these areas.
Workplaces at higher risk of bed bug exposure include:
- Workplaces with staff who work in clients’ homes;
- Workplaces where people sleep, such as hospitals, nursing homes, residential care facilities and hotels;
- Workplaces that handled used furniture and used personal belongings, such as furniture moving companies, second-hand stores, laundries.
Staff policy and procedures should be put in place in these higher risk workplaces.
- Use plastic chairs instead of cloth chairs in waiting rooms.
- Put bed bug traps in waiting rooms to monitor for bed bugs.
- Develop policies and guidelines to assist employees, especially those who meet with the public or conduct home visits.
- Implement an Integrated Pest Management plan that includes vacuuming of areas most likely to harbour bed bugs, monitoring of bed bug traps, employee education and limiting of items moved from employees’ or clients’ homes to the office.
- Employees should report potential bed bug sightings and if possible, collect specimens. Collected specimens should be identified by a qualified individual such as a pest management professional.
- A pest management professional should be contacted as soon as possible to determine if the specimen is a bed bug and inspect the area.
- Treatment should occur in all areas where bed bugs have been confirmed.
- When bed bugs have been identified in the building, employees should be notified and informed about how to prevent transporting bed bugs.
- Employees should not bring or use pesticides at work.
- Inspections and treatments should be made until there are no confirmed bed bug sightings for at least two months.
Home visiting workers
Service workers and professionals who visit residents in their home are at risk of transporting bed bugs to other clients' or their own home. With some precautions, they can greatly reduce the risk of transporting bed bugs or other pests after a home visit and still provide good service to the resident.
- Only bring what is necessary. Minimize the number of personal items you bring into the home. Leave your coat, purse, briefcase and other excess items in the car. If you must bring them in, put them into a plastic tub and close the lid.
- Avoid wearing clothing with cuffs, folds and places for bed bugs to hide. Light coloured clothing will allow you to more easily see a bed bug if one is on you.
- Use disposable shoe covers for home visits. Shoe covers should be discarded immediately before exiting the residence.
- Meet with the resident in a room where bedbugs are less likely to be present (e.g. kitchen area). If possible, avoid bedrooms and sleeping areas.
- Sit on a hard chair or bring a portable stool. Sit in the middle of the room, preferably in an area with hard flooring. Avoid sitting on the bed or upholstered furniture.
- Put your belongings on a table. Avoid putting your belongs on the bed or upholstered furniture.
- Insect repellents applied to your skin or clothes will not repel bed bugs.
- Discard disposable shoe covering immediately before or when leaving.
- Inspect your clothes once outside. Brush off your clothing.
- Inspect your shoes and shoelaces. Stamp your feet to shake off any hitchhiking pests.
- Keep an extra set of clothing and shoes in your vehicle in case bed bugs are found on you or you saw bed bugs in the home. Put the contaminated clothes into a sealed plastic bag or tote. This will isolate any bed bugs to the plastic container.
- Put any contaminated clothing directly in a clothes dryer and run it on the hottest setting for 20 minutes. This will kill any bed bugs or bed bug eggs.
- As a precaution, change from your work clothes as soon as you get home, in the garage, near the front door or in the bathtub where bed bugs can be seen and have trouble escaping the smooth walls. Do not change in your bedroom.
- Seal your work clothes used in home visits in plastic containers until they can be laundered. Using the hottest dryer setting, be sure to keep heating the clothes after dry for an additional 20 minutes.
- Put shoes in the dryer or use steam to kill any bed bugs or eggs.
- If you are concerned about bed bugs in your vehicle, vacuum all interior and trunk surfaces using a carwash vacuum cleaner.
- If you use your home vacuum, discard the vacuum cleaner bag in a sealed plastic bag after use.
Workplaces that provide services to clients who have bed bug issues can further assist these clients by referring them to appropriate additional supports. The Bed Bug Support Services directory can help you find bed bug related services for your clients.
Residents should not be denied services because of bed bugs. With appropriate precautions, a home visiting worker can protect themselves from bringing bed bugs home from a client’s residence. Review the Home Visit Precautions section above.
If you suspect a client has bed bugs, or the client discloses that they have bed bugs, consider the following options:
Avoid physical contact with the client if this is not part of service delivery.
Meet in a location that reduces the chance of transmission, such as the kitchen, or stand throughout your visit. For some services, telephone meetings may be effective for a short period of time until bed bug treatments are underway. Review the home visit precautions section above for more details.
Inquire whether the client has reported bed bugs to their landlord and is receiving treatment from the landlord.
Assist the client to take steps that will eliminate bed bugs from their home. This may involve providing the client with information about bed bugs and/or helping to identify other resources who can help.