Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 17 of 35

F E A T U R E 18 didn't become a bigger issue." The authority has two procedures, says Feeney. When a live bed bug is found and confirmed in an area, they take a sample and then clean the entire area using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum. A pest control company comes in, conducts a visible inspection and treats all enclosed areas. Four hours later, NSHA staff disinfects the area. When a suspected bed bug area is identified, the staff HEPA vacuums and disinfects the area. The pest control company then does a visible inspection to make sure whatever bugs may have been present are gone. "In our environment, there's not the ability for a bed bug to survive. There are no carpets, and we have things like stretchers that are easily cleaned and disinfected. It's much easier to manage compared with a residential setting, where there are more places to hide — carpets, fabric furniture and couches. We've moved away from many of the types of furniture that bed bugs will survive in and breed and flourish in," says Feeney. The NSHA also employs many community-based workers who provide health and wellness services in clients' homes. While the authority conducts pre-home health and safety inspections, these workers — because the work setting is not controlled — are at higher risk of exposure to bed bugs and other pests. The authority educates workers to identify the bugs and on ways to reduce the likelihood of transporting them out of a client's home, says Keenan. Workers learn that wearing light- coloured clothing makes it easier to see bugs that may be on them. It's a good idea to put personal belongings in sealable plastic bags before they enter the house. They also need to think about where they put their coat: Should they put it on the couch, hang it up against a solid surface, keep it with them or leave it in the car? (If there's a possibility of bed bugs, the coat should not be touching anything). Anything being removed from a client's house should also be put into a sealable bag. "Just think about your physical presence in that environment: where you choose to sit, where you choose to have your interaction. And then when you get home, think about taking those clothes off, washing them in hot water and putting them in the dryer. So, we do a lot of education about how, if they are exposed, they can prevent basic transmission," says Keenan. WHEN AN INFESTATION IS IDENTIFIED Detecting bed bugs early on is essential to prevent the spread of the infestation and ensure the success of the extermination, says Jevic. One way to check for bugs is to put glue traps on the floor. Covered traps are preferable and should be placed along the perimeter of the room, near bugs' access points, such as electrical outlets. Otherwise, a person can identify an infestation by checking around areas where people sit or sleep. Look for the live bugs, their carcasses, shells or fecal stains or droppings (which resemble small black spots or brown sugar granules). A musty odour (called alarm pheromones) and small blood spots on sheets and pillows are other typical signs of bed bugs. If an infestation is found, the employer should contact a professional pest controller, who can first verify the presence of bugs and advise the proper means of eliminating them. If a chemical fumigation is to be done, the employer should first prepare the area for the treatment. All soft-surface materials that can be removed should be washed and put into a dryer at high heat, which will kill any bugs hiding in them. Also, do a thorough cleanup around the infested areas; this will allow the extermination chemicals to better penetrate all surfaces. Pest control companies generally use a chemical proprietary to the company. A successful treatment will get rid of both adult bed bugs and their eggs. TRAINING To deal properly with an infestation in the workplace, workers need to know first how to identify bed bugs and their signs. They should also be aware of the ways in which bugs could enter the workplace and how to ensure they do not pick up and carry the bugs on their clothing or belongings. For employees who travel for work, checking for bed bugs should be part of their routine. As soon as they go into their hotel room and before unpacking, Jevic says, they should pull back all the bedding from a top corner of the bed and look at the exposed mattress seams and edges. They should look at box springs, too. If they see any live or dead bugs or signs of them, they should immediately leave the room, inform the front office and go to another hotel. Using a flashlight can help them see the bugs and their droppings. Workers also need to understand the extermination procedure. The company itself may be able to come in and give a seminar for employees. This training should include instruction on how to properly move in and out of the containment area without exposure. Preventing the spread of bed bugs starts with a risk assessment that determines whether the pests are a potential hazard in the workplace, says Jevic. Assign a risk level to a possible infestation and determine how much damage it could cause to the organization and what the potential loss might be. Most important, introduce a reporting system, one that is perhaps anonymous. Early reporting is key to stopping the infestation from spreading to other areas of the workplace. "It's in the best interest of the organization to treat it quickly and make sure that reporting is transparent," she says. "If you drive the reporting underground, no one is going to tell you anything and the problem is just going to get way bigger and way worse." "If you drive the reporting underground, no one is going to tell you anything and the problem is just going to get way bigger and way worse." Catherine Jevic, owner at All-Safe HSE FOUR BED BUG MYTHS the situation and the infestation. Sean Feeney, manager, facility support for central zone at Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), says he and his staff have been dealing with bed bugs since 2008. "At that time, it caught everyone off guard, including the lower-income landlords and the public housing group... This was something that came upon us all of a sudden, and we saw an influx of reports of bed bugs," he says. "So, we had to develop a protocol for dealing with this, to support our staff and make sure it Source: Region of Waterloo You can't see bed bugs: Adult bed bugs are easily spotted, in the shape of an apple seed and a reddish-brown colour. Throw out your bed and you'll be rid of bed bugs: They may be called bed bugs, but they don't just live in your bed; they can occupy almost any dark crack or crevice in a room. You can only get bed bugs if you live in a low-income neighbourhood: Bed bugs are an exposure pest and are not necessarily associated with living conditions. You can get sick from bed bug bites: Bed bugs do not spread disease among humans, but you can get infected if you scratch them excessively.

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