A business owner, manager, or supervisor is legally responsible for maintaining an appropriately safe work environment for employees. Unfortunately, an alarming number of businesses overlook the very real threat mice and rats pose to employees for one reason or another. This overview is designed to provide you with all the necessary information you need to keep in mind when it comes to mouse and rat droppings in the workplace and maintaining optimal employee safety.
Through this article, we specifically focus on:
- Rodent droppings dangerous in the workplace
- Signs of rodents in the workplace
- Workplace rodent dropping cleanup
Rodent Dropping Dangers in the Workplace
Rodent droppings have the potential to be far more hazardous to the health and welfare of humans than most people realize. Yes, many people recognize mice and rats for being intolerable vermin, even so-called “dirty animals.” Nonetheless, they do not appreciate the full extent of the danger that can be presented by seemingly lowly mice and rat droppings.
Rat droppings have the potential to carry bacteria and viruses that can result in serious illnesses or diseases. These include:
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis
- Rat Bite Fever
A couple of these disease-causing pathogens warrant special note as a means of underscoring the dangers of rodent droppings in the workplace. Salmonella is the most common pathogen found in rodent droppings in the United States. Typically, rodent droppings (and urine, which can contain salmonella as well) end up contaminating food and beverages, which are then consumed by people, causing illness. The result of salmonella infection is what is commonly called salmonella poisoning or food poisoning.
While restaurants are particularly on guard for issues involving salmonella transmission, this can occur in any type of workplace that faces a mouse or rat infestation. For example, employees oftentimes bring food to the workplace, including snack items that are stored in cabinets. These items can be targeted by rodents and end up contaminated.
A person infected by salmonella can become uncomfortably ill. Salmonella infection can result in nausea and diarrhea. Most people recover from a salmonella infection within several days to a week. There are isolated instances in which people have died from this type of infection. Typically, these are older people, very young children, and individuals with otherwise compromised immune systems.
Hantavirus is another example of a pathogen conveyed via rat droppings that underscores the inherent danger of rodent droppings. This virus has the capacity for remaining viable in rodent droppings for an extended period of time. This includes dried rodent droppings and feces which crumble very easily. When hantavirus-infected rodent droppings crumble, feces dust containing the virus becomes airborne. This can result in employees inhaling the dust, resulting in a hantavirus infection.
A hantavirus infection can result in a highly serious medical condition known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. The syndrome results in capillaries in an infected person’s lungs hemorrhaging, causing the lungs to fill with blood and other fluid.
In 30 percent of cases, a person afflicted with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome will die. There is not cure or specific course of treatment for the condition. Those individuals who do recover do so spontaneously and for reasons that the medical community has yet to identify or understand.
Signs of Rodents in the Workplace
The reality is that a rodent infestation can begin to occur in a workplace without immediate evidence of its existence. With that said, as the infestation continues, there are some more commonplace signs of workplace rodent infestation that include:
- Gnaw marks
- Scratch marks
- Holes chew through or into walls or objects
- Scratching sounds
- Scurrying sounds
The referenced sounds are not highly likely to be heard during the day. Instead, because rodents are nocturnal animals, these sounds are more likely to be heard from early evening into the night.
Workplace Rodent Dropping Cleanup
A diligent business owner, manager, or supervisor is wise to train some team members on how to identify the presence of rodents in the workplace and to initiate immediate steps to protect employees when an infestation is detected. Some businesses take this a step further and provide in-depth training on rodent-dropping cleanup.
The reality is that the expense of training in-house team members on rodent-dropping cleanup and appropriately equipping these individuals can prove to be a costly endeavor. A more economical, as well as safer and more efficient, course to take is to hire an experienced, qualified rodent-dropping cleaning company to ensure safe, complete remediation is accomplished.
A professional rodent-dropping cleanup company uses a three-phase process to eliminate rodent droppings and restore the workplace to a fully safe and wholly usable condition:
- Dropping removal and deep cleaning
As referenced previously, dried rodent droppings are highly susceptible to crumbling, resulting in feces dust and potential pathogens (like hantavirus) becoming airborne. Thus, specialized techniques are utilized to remove droppings from the workplace, stowing this biohazard in an appropriate biohazardous waste container. When the droppings physically are eliminated, the contaminated areas are subject to deep cleaning, a process that removes any remaining rodent fecal matter as well as urine.
When the removal and deep cleaning process is completed, the contaminated area is subject to sanitization. Sanitization involves the use of medical-grade sanitizing agents that eradicates any viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms that may be present.
Finally, a rodent infestation can result in a foul odor that permeates some or all of the workplace. This typically arises from the buildup of rodent urine as well as from mice or rats that may have died during the infestation. Deodorization uses specialized agents and equipment that are designed to thoroughly eliminate even the most strident odors that can arise as the result of workplace rodent infestation.