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4 Ways to Keep Pests Out of Health Care Facilities

Want pests out of your facility? Start on the outside.

By Greg Baumann, Vice President, Training and Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

With winter all but a memory, you may have noticed that the plants, flowers and trees around your healthcare facility are springing back to life. If you’re an operations or environmental services director, you may be putting together your spring landscaping plan as the temperatures begin to rise.

While landscaping plays a crucial role in the overall appearance of your property, it can also be a huge attractant and provide harborage for pests. Pests emerging from overwintering will begin actively looking for sources of food, water and shelter. Their search may bring them to your facility, and certain aspects of your landscaping plan could be providing an open invitation for them to come inside.

Landscaping can play a major role in your pest management program – and there are steps you can take to help keep the fight against pests outside. These practices are part of a broader Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, which focuses on proactive facility maintenance and sanitation throughout your campus to help keep pest infestations from occurring.

These practices can work against the pests like ants, flies and cockroaches, which Association for the Healthcare Environment members listed in a 2012 survey as the most common pests in healthcare facilities.

IPM programs make sense for hospitals and healthcare facilities because they are customizable; also, they do not rely solely on chemical treatments – chemicals are only used as a last resort, and then only in highly-targeted treatments.

Talk with a pest management professional about implementing an IPM program at your complex, and use these practices in your landscaping to help limit entry points and cover for pests.

Know the risks of flowers

As flowers grow into full bloom this time of year, it could be tempting to plant them in every flower bed you can. But these beautiful buds can cause pest issues. Fragrant and brightly colored flowers in bloom can attract bees and other flying pests, so consider planting fewer of these to help decrease pests on your property.

Create some separation

Bushes and tree limbs that brush up against your facility can give crawling pests a bridge to make their way inside, but you can create a buffer to help keep them away. Trim back vegetation at least two feet from your building. If practical, consider installing a 30-inch gravel strip around the perimeter of your buildings. The uneven surface of this strip obstructs pests like ants and cockroaches from approaching and also discourages rodents, which do not like to be out in the open.

Protect the pavement, too

Regularly inspect your parking lots and sidewalks to ensure that they are clean of any trash or standing water that can attract pests to the area. Keep an eye on vegetation islands that you may have in your parking lots, as they are often home to pests and should be inspected regularly. Additionally, work with your team to make sure dumpsters are clean, rotated on a regular basis and positioned as far away from the building as possible.

Fortify your facility

Keep an eye out for any cracks that may develop in your building’s windows, rooflines and exterior walls, as pests don’t need much of a gap to enter. Rodents can squeeze through openings the size of a quarter, while cockroaches and other crawling insects only need an opening of 1/32 of an inch.

Seal any cracks or openings with a weather-resistant sealant and mesh to stop insects and rodents from sneaking through. Install weather stripping around doors and windows and change the stripping regularly to close any gaps that may develop. This will create an added buffer that will help keep ants out of your facility.

Try focusing on these areas and the landscaping around your facility. If you start managing pests on the outside this spring, you will make it harder for them to work their way inside.

Greg Baumann is Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin. A degreed chemist and licensed pest management professional, his global pest management experience spans 30 years. For more information, e-mail

Source: HC&O News


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