In the News
They're back! After decades of being largely wiped out in Western countries, the bed bug made a comeback in the 1990's. Since then bed bug infestations have been on the rise, usually occurring in or around places where people sleep such as apartments, hotels, rooming houses, shelters, dorms, and private homes.
However as recent outbreaks have shown, these tiny parasites are known to travel, hitching rides on luggage, purses, clothing and books, and showing up in non-residential environments and workplaces such as offices, waiting rooms, retail stores, theatres and even libraries. Anyone can get an infestation of bed bugs and this does not mean a lack of cleanliness.
About bed bugs
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, oval shaped, wingless insects, about the size of apple seeds. They typically feed on a diet consisting solely of blood once a week, but they can live for months without feeding. They usually come out at night to feed on the blood of people and animals, biting their victims as they sleep. Bed bugs are not known to spread diseases and the bites do not usually require any medical treatment. Some people however can have an allergic reaction to the bite, developing itchy welts. Scratching the bites can lead to infection.
The flattened bodies of bed bugs allow them to hide in very small places such as seams of mattresses, cracks, crevices, electrical outlets, box springs, bed frames, headboards, behind wallpaper, or in any other objects around a bed or on the floor. Bed bugs can't climb metal or polished surfaces and aren't able to fly or jump.
Workers at risk of workplace exposure
Bed bugs can be unknowingly brought into the workplace by employees, custodial staff, visitors, customers, vendors, clients and others. People who work in or visit locations with bed bug infestations, especially workers who handle bedding, clothing, or furniture where bed bugs could be hiding, are at higher risk for exposure. These occupations include fire fighters, health care professionals, housing management staff, housekeeping and custodial staff, police, and social workers who work in or visit hospitals, long-term care facilities, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, motels and residences.
If you pick up bed bugs while you are working, you could spread the infestation to other sites such as your central workplace, vehicle, or home, as well as to your work equipment and personal belongings.
What to do to prevent picking up bugs
Bed bugs have to hitch a ride to travel, therefore take these precautions while at the worksite to reduce the risk of picking up bed bugs:
- Hang personal items such as bags, briefcases and coats from a door knob or hook to keep them off of the floor.
- Minimize the items you take into a potentially infested environment - take only what you need.
- Protect all belongings that you take into an infested environment by putting them into sealable plastic containers or bags and placing them in the middle of the room.
- Avoid contact with bedding material or furnishings in sleeping areas unless required, and don't sit on furniture with fabric or lean on walls.
- Check wheelchairs or stretchers regularly for bed bugs.
- Cover up your clothing when entering a potentially infested environment by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as disposable gloves, shoe covers and coveralls, or as is appropriate for the work you are doing (i.e. handling potentially infested mattresses as opposed to going into a home to meet with a client).
- Consider changing into work clothes and shoes when you get to work and removing them before you go home (when there is a risk of infestation). Keep your clothing items in sealed plastic containers or sealed plastic bags to avoid bed bug contact.
- Inspect your shoe treads, clothing, cuffs, pockets collar and belongings after leaving your worksite or office for small black (fecal matter) or dark red (blood) stains, along with both live and dead bed bugs.
- Report all bed bug infestations to your supervisor or employer so preventive measures can be taken.
What employers can do to prevent bed bug infestations
- Put policies and procedures in place for reporting of bed bug infestations (on-site and off-site workplaces).
- Keep records of infestations, including details of where and when infestations were encountered and the extent of infestations.
- Educate your employees about bed bugs: how to identify the bug, signs of an infestation, and prevention measures.
- Implement a program to proactively address bed bug prevention and infestations through a licensed pest control service provider experienced in bed bug control. This may involve chemical, heating or freezing treatments.
- Provide employees with appropriate PPE such as coveralls, shoe covers, or gloves where appropriate, as well as sealable plastic containers to protect workers' equipment and personal belongings.
- Put procedures in place for cleaning potentially infested work clothes. Provide a dedicated vacuum for removal of bed bugs from infested vehicles or equipment and consider steam treatment by trained personnel to kill any live bed bugs that may remain.
What to do after leaving a potentially bed bug infested location
- Inspect your shoes, clothing, equipment, and other belongings after leaving. Shake clothing and shoes before entering any vehicle.
- Keep a spare set of clothes in a sealed container that you can change into.
- If there are any concerns that you picked up a bed bug, remove clothing (on hard-floored surface) and seal in plastic bag.
- If you find a bed bug on you, kill it.
Found a bed bug at your worksite?
- If you see a bed bug, kill it.
- Inspect your clothes, shoes, cuffs and other belongings and those of your coworkers for bed bugs after leaving the location. Shake out your coats and loose clothing before getting into a car or using public transit.
- Remove clothes before or immediately upon entering your home, preferably on a hard floor surface. Put them in a separate sealed bag and keep them away from other laundry.
- Kill the bed bugs with heat by washing clothes at the hottest recommended setting. Tumble dry clothes on high heat for 30 minutes. Clothes that require dry cleaning should be kept in a sealed plastic bag until dry cleaning.
More information about bed bug prevention
Office work may seem harmless enough, sitting all day at a desk using a computer. However all that prolonged sitting, typing on a keyboard and using a mouse for hours at a stretch every day can set the stage for musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs). Symptoms of an MSI can include pain, joint stiffness, weak or aching muscles, redness and swelling, numbness and tingling, a burning sensation, and a general feeling of tiredness.
The three factors that present the greatest risk for MSIs involve:
- fixed and constrained postures that are often awkward, uncomfortable and maintained for too long a time;
- repetitious and forceful hand movements; and
- a fast pace of work.
Pains and strains of a fixed body posture
The human body was built to move - not be immobile for long periods of time. When you sit for a prolonged length of time, your muscles have to work hard to hold the upper body upright and still. This contributes to what is called a static load, the invisible but constant battle against gravity and fatigue, which can be damaging to the musculoskeletal system.
Holding your head at the optimal distance from the screen and maintaining your arms in the proper position for keyboarding increase the static load on the whole upper body, particularly on the neck and shoulders. Incorrect posture reduces the blood supply, accelerates fatigue, and leaves you susceptible to RMIs. Poor posture can be a result of:
- non-adjustable or otherwise unsuitable workstations;
- inadequate layout of the workstation or a workstation that is not suitable for its user;
- lack of knowledge and experience on how to set up an adjustable workstation according to the worker's needs (considering both body build and job tasks);
- poor working habits that remain uncorrected;
- unsuitable job design that requires a worker to sit uninterrupted for longer than an hour at a time; and
- lack of proper training, resulting in a lack of awareness.
Wear and tear of repetitious and monotonous movements
Holding the upper body still allows you to make the fine hand movements used when you type or use a mouse (categorized as dynamic load). When these movements are repeated hundreds or thousand of times, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, they strain and gradually cause "wear and tear" on the muscles and tendons in the forearms, wrists and fingers. People who do repetitive work with their bodies in fixed and static positions are even more susceptible to getting RMIs.
Discomfort, numbness and tingling are the danger signs that, if ignored, signal that pain, chronic problems and long-term disability are on the way.
High price for race pace of work
Like repetitive and monotonous movements, a fast work pace is quite common in offices, and contributes to the development of MSIs.
The pace of work determines how much time you have to rest your working muscles and recover between movements. The faster the pace, the shorter and less productive the recovery times become. This, in turn, increases the risk for RMIs.
You may be able to set your work pace and adapt to the stresses that go along with it. However the factors that are more harmful are the ones beyond your control that increase the work pace, such as:
- having tight or frequently changing deadlines;
- knowing your performance is being monitored by some electronic system; or
- being overloaded with work.
The result is that you do not have any control over the timing and the speed of work, creating a feeling of always being in a hurry. This rushing and resulting stress causes your muscles to tense up which, in turns, can greatly increase your risk for developing RMIs.
Information on preventing RMIs
Listen to the free podcasts: Prolonged Sitting: The Risks of Sitting Too Long and Preventing Musculoskeletal Injuries.
Download the free poster: Tension Relief It's a Stretch.
Educate with e-courses: MusculoSkeletal Disorders (MSDs): Prevention and Office Ergonomics.
Office Health & Safety Guide
Office Health & Safety e-course
Office Ergonomics Safety Guide
Implementing an Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Program Manual
Health and Safety To Go
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips and insights into the health, safety and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience...or on the go!
Radiation in the Workplace: The Basics
This month's edition of Health and Safety To Go! features Claire Cohalan, of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada in the first of this special two-part mini-series on radiation in the workplace. This episode focuses on radiation basics such as what radiation is, where it can be found and the health effects to workers.
The podcast runs 9:26 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore podcast: Workplace Noise
Occupational noise is one of the most common health hazards in the workplace and can affect people differently, depending on how susceptible they are. CCOHS explains the types of workplace noise and how it can affect your health.
The podcast runs 4:22 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
CCOHS created a membership program to offer greater value to their clients as well as build stronger and more dynamic client relationships. The Membership Program offers organizations the opportunity to advance their health and safety programs through close affiliation and collaboration with CCOHS, and its extensive network and wealth of resources. Becoming a member can enhance your organization's ability to stay compliant, show due diligence, and achieve excellence in every aspect of their health and safety initiatives.
There are five levels of membership to choose from: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze as well as a recently added Student option. Annual memberships start from as low as $100. Plus there's a $25 option for students wishing to get the jump start on their health and safety career.
Advance your organization's health and safety program by joining the CCOHS Membership Program and you'll receive:
- Special rates and discounts on CCOHS products and services
- Tools and resources to promote workplace health and safety within your organization
- Credits toward CCOHS publications
- Membership Matters, an exclusive members-only quarterly newsletter
Join the 200+ members that are already strengthening their workplace health and safety initiatives through a CCOHS membership.
Learn more about the CCOHS Membership Program and enroll online.
CCOHS is calling for entries for the annual Dick Martin Scholarship Award. If you are enrolled in an occupational health and safety programme (that leads to an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma or degree) in a Canadian college or university - you qualify! If you aren't a student yourself, pass this along to someone who is. This year CCOHS will award three scholarships of $3,000 each.
How to apply
All you have to do is submit a 1000-1200 word essay on a topic related to your area of study in occupational health and safety. Essays will be judged on the intellectual content, the practical and theoretical value and the presentation and style.
So get busy - the entry deadline is January 31, 2012.
Learn more and apply for the scholarship.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2016, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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