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Putting mosquitoes out of work

30 July 2018

Employees who work outside, or in buildings with open windows and doors, are at greater risk of encountering mosquitoes, especially infected ones that can pass diseases to humans. It’s crucial that employers should understand and implement precautions that will reduce risks for workers, explains Peter Teska, infection prevention application expert, Diversey Care

No matter where you live, it’s likely you’ve at some point encountered the deadliest animal in the world – the mosquito. These small insects may seem harmless, but diseases such as Zika virus, West Nile virus (WNV), Dengue fever, Yellow fever, Japanese Encephalitis and malaria are all spread by the bites of infected mosquitoes and can be fatal.

The best way to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases is to stay indoors where air conditioning is available, or where all windows and doors have screens – or away from high-risk areas. However, that’s not always possible, especially for those who live and work in high-risk zones. These individuals should understand precautions to take to stay safe from disease-carrying mosquitoes. 

Employers should follow the following seven steps in their work environments:

  • Conduct a risk assessment. Before work begins, assess the area for mosquito population. Being able to differentiate between a low-risk zone and a high-risk zone can help managers understand if additional precautions need to be taken to reduce the mosquito population.
  • Eliminate mosquito eggs. Mosquitoes often lay their eggs in bushes and in standing water. Managers should hire a mosquito exterminator to spray bushes near the worksite. To eliminate areas of standing water, employers should clean leaves and debris out of building gutters, make sure water doesn’t accumulate at the end of drain pipes and maintain outdoor faucets so they don’t leak. Wet outdoor landscape areas may need to be filled with soil or other materials if water continually accumulates. 
  • Provide employees with insect repellent. Employers should provide outdoor workers with insect repellent. Encourage employees to reapply repellant according to the instructions (usually every 4-6 hours) and remind them to wait for skin to dry before applying clothing. Homemade and non-tested repellent or remedies should be avoided because they often have little to no impact in repelling mosquitoes and could potentially attract bugs instead.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors. If workers need fresh air in work zones, install screens on all windows and doors. Employers should regularly check that screens are free of holes that may allow mosquitoes to enter. Spraying screens with repellant or insecticide can also help reduce mosquitoes getting into the building.
  • Educate employees on disease symptoms. Employers should remind employees to seek medical attention if necessary and provide a list of potential symptoms for various mosquito-borne diseases likely in their area. If the worksite is located in a high-risk zone for a specific disease, workers should see a doctor as soon as symptoms, such as a high fever, appear, rather than waiting to see if the symptoms resolve on their own. Consult your physician for recommendations specific to your area.
  • Schedule workers during certain times of the day. Some mosquitoes only bite during the day, others only at night. Find out which type of mosquitoes are common near the worksite or facility to help schedule workers accordingly. 
  • Provide additional equipment to keep mosquitoes away. If workers need to sleep outside, provide treated mosquito nets. If nets are not treated with mosquito repellant beforehand, employers or workers should spray the nets as soon as they are set up.

A Safer Workplace

Like safety helmets, glasses and gloves, insect repellant is an essential piece of safety gear that keeps employees protected on the job. Adequate preparation, like assessing the area and taking preventative measures against mosquitoes, is more cost effective than expensive disease treatments or the cost of life. Create a healthier, more productive working environment by protecting employees and your business by putting mosquitoes out of work for good.