HR=Humans Represent: Biting…The Next Big Nuisance In The Office?

Quite possibly, if left unchecked this may become the focal point of workplace complaints, grievances and charges! I’m talking about Bedbugs. Employers and their HR teams now have to worry about their responsibilities to maintain a bedbug-free workplace.

While there are no regulatory provisions to provide a bedbug-free workplace, Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s statutory “General duty” can be interpreted to include these little critters – it requires employers to provide a safe workplace free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause serious physical harm to employees. Here’s where it gets complicated – your office finds out that the office has been invaded by these annoying body biters. So, you call in an exterminator who uses powders and/or chemical sprays on the creepy crawlers to control the situation. This might implicate specific OSHA protections, and recordkeeping responsibilities. If you don’t take steps to remediate or prevent employees from bringing bedbugs into the workplace, you could be liable for negligence.

What should employers do? How about starting out by providing employees with information regarding bedbugs and asking them to take proactive preventive measures. Next? Perhaps employees should be required to advise their HR department if bedbugs have been found in their home or any location where they resided for any period of time (hello travelers – hotels definitely count!). If employees are sent into homes, preventive measures should be considered, including a simple one, of asking the homeowner may have bedbugs on the premises.

What if an employee reports exposure to bedbugs? An employer can generally require the individual to stay home or ensure that their clothing and items brought to work are bedbug free. Employees need to take responsibility in making sure that the “bedbugs don’t bite” as well. Consider your co-workers if your home, clothing, or items have these little creepy-crawlers look out for co-workers and do your part to keep the office bedbug free.

For everyone concerned, this is one annoying situation where everyone needs to be informed, and know their role in what seems to be a growing problem across the country. “Bite Your Tongue” just isn’t an option!

Bedbug Resources:

Bedbug Sighting Database

CDC webpage

EPA Information

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Mariellen E. Parks

I have been seeing a lot of press about bed bugs recently. Until I read up on it I always associated them with filth and with the rhyme, “good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” So it was news to me that you can get them from high quality hotels, department stores, or anywhere they happen to be and are not associated with filth. So why do you suppose it is suddenly a hot topic?


As far as why they are suddenly hot topic, and why I wrote about it:
-Bedbug elimination costs can range from $2,000 to $5,000 without any discounting being offered for volume. K-9 services that specialize in sniffing out bedbugs can range from $100 to $400 per hour depending on the size of the area they are canvassing. Fumigation costs start at $500 to $1,500, with traditional pest control services have an average cost range of $200 to $500.
-Steam cleaning and fumigating with sulfuryl fluoride can take between 24 and 48 hours.
-Risk managers may face difficulties in recouping expenses with insurance, as policies generally have exclusions for vermin.