Bed bugs found at Whirlpool factory in Ohio

by nobugsonme on June 15, 2014 · 7 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in factories, bed bugs in the workplace, Ohio

Bed bugs were found last week in the health center in the Greenville, Ohio Whirlpool plant, WDTN (2 NEWS) reports:

2 NEWS obtained a notice to employees that read in part, “We want to let you know that we had an isolated incident in the health center on Monday, June 9. There have been no other reports from any other areas since that time. A few bed bugs were found. There is no need to panic and this can be eliminated with minimal disruption.”

We’ve had many stories about bed bugs in the workplace, but this may be the first one involving a factory.

Bravo to Whirlpool for notifying employees immediately and being upfront about the issue and what is being done to address it.

According to 2 NEWS, the affected areas of the plant have been treated by pest management professionals twice and employees were asked to take belongings out of lockers so they could be sprayed. (Since the company makes washers and dryers, you’d think treating any stored clothing would be a breeze, right?)

The article also notes that the Darke County Health Department was going to follow up with an inspection of its own on Friday.

If the embedded video above does not load, you can watch this report on the 2 NEWS website.

The 2 NEWS article offers a list of “10 things people should know about bed bugs” which links to the CDC bed bugs FAQs. And unfortunately, it leads with this slightly misleading “fact”:

Bed bugs feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep

This is almost identical to the first point in the CDC FAQs, which begin with the point that, “Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep.”

It is true that bed bugs feed solely on the blood of people and animals, but to suggest this only occurs “while they sleep” is misleading. Bed bugs can feed on animals or humans which are awake, though this is most likely to happen if they are in a still and relaxed position– sitting in a bus, theater, or cafe seat, or reclining on a sofa watching TV, for example.

This is relevant, because a lot of business owners don’t understand why they should be concerned about bed bugs in their properties, since people don’t sleep there. And people with bed bugs at home also do not understand why isolating their beds will not prevent bed bugs biting them elsewhere in their homes. Some think only bedrooms need professional inspections and treatment, an approach which may mean the problem persists undetected in upholstered seating, for example.

Bed bugs will bite humans when and where they can. It’s easier when you’re sleeping, but it will happen when you’re awake if that’s the bed bugs’ only option.

Getting back to the Whirlpool story, overall this seems like a good response to the problem. I like how the company notified all workers and brought professionals in to treat (and not just bringing them in once, since follow-ups are often needed).

However, the article did not indicate if employees were also educated about what bed bugs, fecal stains, eggs and cast skins look like, so they can search at home. I think this is always a good thing for any workplace to do. Remember that bed bugs in the staff health center were brought in by someone who was exposed to bed bugs — an employee, a supplier, etc. It may be that one or more employees has bed bugs at home.

Some employers even offer to send inspectors to employees’ homes if needed. Though costly for the company, it is worth considering, since it may save money in the long run if it prevents bed bugs being brought in again by the same person or others.

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1 Joe Molluso June 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Great find no bugs! I agree, i think they did a great thing by alerting employees ASAP. This is where many companies fail.

2 David Cain June 16, 2014 at 9:02 am

Hi,

Well done Whirlpool it certainly appears that it has been handled correct and in a timely fashion.

Occupational / workplace infestations do occur, I have traced a few back to their source properties over the years and there is usually a member of staff who is not responding to bites and may not be aware of the train of bedbugs they can leave behind them.

Thankfully in both of those cases the companies took the view that is was better for all staff concerned if they paid for the treatment and followed up with a program of education and monitoring in both employees homes and their work areas.

I have seen first hand the damage to an organisation such as a hotel that “bedbug fear” can cause and those costs very quickly escalate to beyond what it would cost to get ahead of the issue and provide long term solutions.

All said a done a lot better media piece than the alarmist “bedbugs in offices” stories we were subject to a few years ago.

Maybe we need to work out a way of documenting the correct ways with a congratulations certificate for those that get it right.

David Cain
Bed Bugs Limited

3 Lou Sorkin June 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I wrote to the CDC so they can hopefully clear up the info on bed bugs.
Now Whirlpool is having the employees empty their lockers. I wonder if they are having employees bag things up first before moving infested materials from enclosures? These are from the health center? How about regular lockers if these exist for certain employees?

4 nobugsonme June 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Thanks, Lou! Excellent questions as usual. I thought the lockers might be the regular ones– if the bed bugs were found in the health center, they may be treating lockers since employees will store items from home there. I think they’re assuming whoever brought bed bugs to the health center may have them in their locker also. This is all speculation on my part because not much information is provided.

Thanks for writing to the CDC also! It would be good if their FAQ were more accurate.

5 nobugsonme June 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Hi David! I agree this is a pretty good response, though I still fear they didn’t do anything to educate employees about what to look for at home…

6 nobugsonme June 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Joe, agreed– so many employers don’t want to tell employees about the problem. And that’s a recipe for a much larger disaster!

If part of what companies fear is publicity, then they’d do better to respond well to the problem and let the news media in on it. No one can avoid getting bed bugs entirely, so it’s what you do once you have them that matters.

7 Mike Jones July 8, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Just an amazing catch, I hope the workers didn’t carry any bed bugs to their homes.

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