Protect Environment and Worker Health by Creating a Pest-Free, Pesticide-Free Workplace

Yesterday we looked at the possible routes of exposure and toxic effects of pesticides on workers in nonfarm occupations who do not apply pesticides. These workers—as well as customers and clients—can be exposed to toxic doses of pesticide residues after pesticides are applied in the workplace. One way to prevent those types of exposures is to minimize the amount of pesticides that are used indoors and in enclosed areas.

Here are some pest-control strategies that will reduce the level of toxins in your workplace.

Control Pests Without Pesticides

Methods of controlling pests that minimize the need for chemical pest control are called “integrated pest management” (IPM), and many pest control companies are using IPM strategies to control pests, costs, and the human and environmental impact of the chemicals they use. In order to control pests without applying chemicals, you can work together with your janitorial department, your maintenance department, and your pest control company to implement these strategies:

  • Eliminate access. Pests get into buildings through small cracks and holes in the interior and exterior of the building. Your maintenance department can keep these caulked and filled to minimize pests’ access.
  • Clean up. Some types of pests are attracted by a ready food supply that you may be inadvertently supplying by failing to clean up spilled food and drinks or by letting putrescible waste accumulate. Keep kitchen, dining, and break areas and any area where food is permitted clean, and take out the garbage daily. If you must store putrescible wastes on-site before disposal (for example, some health care facilities, veterinary facilities, and labs store biological wastes for up to 30 days before final disposal), make sure that they are stored in sealed containers in a temperature-controlled environment. If your business involves handling materials that are attractive to pests, like grains or fresh produce, your industry organization can provide detailed guidance.
  • Identify your specific pest problem. You’ll need to deal with rats differently from cockroaches and fruit flies differently from ants. Make sure that you know what pest you’re dealing with; that will help you identify the most effective control mechanisms.
  • Use nontoxic methods to flush out pests. Pests can hide and nest in cracks, crevices, and inaccessible places. The idea behind pesticide foggers is to infiltrate every crevice where these pests may be hiding—but there are nontoxic ways to do this, also. Compressed air, steam, heat, and bug vacuums can all kill, remove, or drive pests into the open.
  • Prohibit worker solutions. Workers may want to bring in their own pesticides to keep in their work area for their personal use, but undocumented and uncontrolled chemicals of any kind in the workplace are a bad idea. Put an effective program in place, and don’t let workers try to solve pest problems on their own—excepting, perhaps, for the occasional spider that meets an unhappy end on the underside of an employee’s shoe.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to manage chemical pest control when nonchemical methods don’t quite get the job done.