Train your staff to cure your facility of pest problems

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Tim Husen, Ph.D., Technical Services Manager, Orkin
Tim Husen, Ph.D., Technical Services Manager, Orkin

In the long-term care industry, impeccable sanitation and cleanliness must not only be expected, but also enforced. With consistent exposure to germs, strict sanitation routines are essential in providing a safe and welcoming environment to your staff, visitors and residents.

Pests, however, should never receive a warm welcome into your facility.

Chances are you already have an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, but how familiar are your employees with the most common pests plaguing your facility? Do you think they know the telltale signs of rodents? What about cockroaches?

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In the context of pest management, the village is your staff and the child is your IPM plan. Your employees are the front line of defense against pests. It's imperative that they know about your pest management program so they can help detect and report pest problems, which in turn will help you quickly resolve any issues rising in your facility.

Why does this matter? Aside from being a downright nuisance, a pest infestation can threaten the health of your residents.

Pests such as flies, cockroaches and rodents can transmit hundreds of disease-causing pathogens including E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Shigella, Bacillus, and Clostridium.

Pests and poor pest management practices can also cost your facility points on your annual audit. A poor score here can damage your facility's reputation, and ultimately your bottom line.

So, to help avoid the risks pest pose, it's important to involve your staff on the front end. What's the best way to proceed with staff training? Follow these simple steps, and you'll be on the right track.

Be proactive.

Instituting daily sanitation routines from kitchens or bathrooms to patient or break rooms is essential. A few practices to enforce include:

•  Sweep and mop regularly to remove debris that attracts pests. Don't forget to clean underneath machines, tables and beds.

•  Wipe down equipment regularly to break down the buildup of organic materials.

•  Wipe off countertops and sweep floors in areas where food is present.

•  Line and seal all trash cans and dispose of trash daily to reduce food sources. Also, make sure to cleanse garbage bins and dumpsters regularly.

•  Clean spills around the bathroom and break room sinks to limit the availability of water for pests like mice and cockroaches, which only need minimal amounts of water to survive for multiple days.

Inspect. Inspect. Inspect.

Closely monitoring every square foot of your facility may sound like a chore, but so is reacting to an infestation that could have been prevented if an employee had detected it earlier. Be sure the following pest hot spots (areas conducive to pest activity) are regularly inspected by your staff:

•  Hidden, protected places like wall voids (through access panels) and under appliances

•  Food preparation and dining areas

•  Employee locker rooms

•  Storage areas and closets

•  Laundry areas

•  Loading areas where shipments are coming in and going out

If you see something, say something.

Communication is essential to your IPM team. Establish a pest-sighting protocol that clearly defines the steps to take should a pest be spotted, including whom to report it to, and make sure every member of your staff understands and can implement the protocol. They'll need to record when, where and how many were seen at the time to give your pest management provider the best chance to create a customized solution to resolve the issue. If you can catch one of the pests in a container for future identification, that's even better. This early communication can go a long way in helping to prevent a pest introduction from turning into a full-blown infestation.

Ultimately, the way you would prepare for a healthcare emergency is the same way you should prepare for a pest problem, which means being on the forefront. By properly and continuously educating your staff on evolving pests and pest control practices, you'll be able to maintain a clean and healthy space for staff, patients and guests — not pests.

Tim Husen, Ph.D., BCE, is Technical Services Manager for Orkin. A board-certified entomologist specializing in urban entomology, he has more than a decade of experience in the industry. For more information, email or visit

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