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Pest Management Still "Bugging" Healthcare Providers

Survey shows industry moving in right direction, but still too reliant on reactive approaches.

The results of a self-assessment survey at show the healthcare industry is making strides in pest management but still has room for improvement when it comes to keeping pests outside while reducing pesticide use.

Earlier this year, Orkin Commercial Services and the American Society of Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES) launched, an interactive online handbook that provides free training resources on smarter pest control practices and offers an interactive self-assessment that visitors can use to “score” their pest control programs against best practices recommended by ASHES, Orkin and other experts.

“The responses to the self-assessment so far show an industry heading in the right direction, but we’re still seeing too much focus on treating the symptoms of pest problems rather than the root causes,” said Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Orkin’s Director of Technical Services.

Dr. Harrison spoke at the ASHES Annual Conference in September to advocate a more preventive – and less pesticide-intensive – Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach in hospitals and other facilities.

Of the more than 100 healthcare professionals who have taken the online self-assessment so far:

More than a third (34.3 percent) focus on controlling pest problems as they happen. By contrast, IPM proponents recommend the focus be on preventing the reasons why pests might be attracted to facilities in the first place.

More than a third (37 percent) still let their pest management professionals handle all aspects of pest management. A better option, says Dr. Harrison, would be to meet with the pest management provider regularly and “be an active partner in the pest management effort.”

Fewer than 1 in 4 respondents say their staff has participated in IPM training. “It’s critical that employees be engaged if you really want to follow an IPM strategy and reduce the need for pesticides,” warns Dr. Harrison. Visitors to can download a free “IPM 101 Staff Training Checklist” or request a complimentary IPM staff-training session from a trained Orkin professional.

More than half (56.5 percent) say their facilities use pesticides “regularly” (25.9 percent) or “occasionally” (30.6 percent). “While targeted, least-toxic pesticide applications can be a valid part of an integrated program, they should only be a response to an active pest infestation,” explained Dr. Harrison. “Regular pesticide use can be an indication that a facility can be doing more to prevent pests in the first place.”

Half of respondents (50 percent) say their pest management programs are never reviewed by a third party. Orkin recommends at least one third-party audit per year, said Dr. Harrison. “Facilities should ask their pest management providers to offer third-party audits as part of the service package, preferably unannounced. Such audits typically end up revealing ways you can improve your IPM plan.” For facilities with an in-house pest management program, Harrison recommends working with facility management, another in-house department or even asking a pest management professional to conduct a complimentary review of the pest management program.

Healthcare professionals looking to bring their facilities’ pest management programs in line with industry best practices can visit to “score” their pest control programs and get a customized set of recommendations they can implement immediately.

After completing the self-assessment, users will be eligible to receive a free copy of ASHES’ Recommended Practice: Integrated Pest Management, a best-practices guide to healthcare pest control co-authored by Orkin and ASHES experts (a $45 value).

Survey Methodology

Results of the survey are based on 109 complete responses to an online self-assessment survey hosted at between April 29 and September 17, 2008. To review the self-assessment survey, visit

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