Bed bugs at Hawai’i’s Halawa Correctional Facility

by nobugsonme on March 28, 2008 · 3 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace

KHON 2 News in Hawai’i reports that staff areas at the state’s Halawa Correctional Facility have been infested with bed bugs since September.

According to a corrections officer, the problem is so bad in staff controlled areas, there was even talk of closing down one of the modules at the facility.The officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said this is a safety and health issue. [His] employees have filed complaints but little has been done. “I observed one of the staff chairs being taken down to be disposed of in the industrial area — which was infested with mites or bed bugs,” he said.The long-time corrections officer said employees alerted prison officials when the bugs first surfaced last fall. “They came in and had people spray the staff area and obviously it hadn’t worked,” he said.      

Sounds like a “spray and pray.” For pesticides to work, you must first remove bed bugs and thoroughly clean bed bug-infested items, identifying harborages for treatment.

You can’t just spray one area where bed bugs were seen and hope for the best. Adjacent rooms on the same and other floors must be carefully inspected, at the very least.

The spokeswoman from the Department of Public Safety says officials have received four reports of bed bugs in staff controlled areas since last September, and each time the administration immediately contacted a professional exterminating company to address the problem area.      

Well, that does not sound so good. You can’t simply respond to individual bed bug complaints with targeted spraying in the “problem area”. If bed bugs have been found four separate times in the last six months, then pest control operators are going to need to carefully search and probably treat a much larger area, if not the whole facility. For every bed bug you see, many more are likely present. And they are biting, whether or not anyone notices.

Furthermore, you can’t just treat once.  Treatments need to be repeated at approximately 2-week intervals until bed bugs and their signs are all gone (and this typically takes three or more careful, thorough treatments of the entire infested area–often an entire home or workplace).  

Employees and inmates need to be alerted about the problem so that those noticing insects or skin problems will come forward. Of the administration’s response so far, in treating each time someone complains, 

The officer says that’s not enough. “If it affected inmates the state would be looking at legal issues. A few officers from what I was told have filed for worker’s comp.”      

I found this interesting, since we haven’t heard of anyone filing for worker’s compensation based on bed bugs in the workplace.

I also would not be at all surprised if inmates also had bed bugs in their cells or other areas.

The officer says employees fear they have become carriers of the bugs.”Concerns are raised from employees that are afraid to taking them home to their families — their homes.” he said. “It’s kind of like being swept under the rug and not taken seriously.”      

While you can’t be a “carrier” of bed bugs per se, you can certainly transport them from work to home and vice versa, in clothing or in your bag. Anyone who suspects bed bugs at work should talk to their employers, who should then take serious action and get good, professional help.

1 parakeets March 28, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I wonder if OSHA might eventually set standards about employees being exposed to bedbugs in the workplace? It would be tremendously difficult for a worker to have to go into day after day into a workplace that was infested with bedbugs where the treatment was ineffective. And unless all the homes of all the employees who got bedbugs from the workplace were then treated (effectively), too, there is the strong possibility that workers could bring bedbugs back into work from their homes and re-infest the work environment. I think this problem is much bigger than people realize.

Love the line “Sounds like a ‘spray and pray,'” NoBugs!

2 nobugsonme March 28, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Thanks, ‘Keets!

I love the idea of OSHA setting standards re: bed bugs at work.

I also love the idea, from the article, that inmates might have legal recourse if forced to live with bed bugs. Now that is a lawsuit I would love to see…

3 Paul roppolo December 22, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I’m just glad I got the heck out of there before a bug got me! But had one got me: It would have made me want to stay out of there that much more. But someone certainly needs to help those guys.

Much prayers,

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