Mr. Meek

Security & Safety

The Health Inspector's Visit

By Frank Meek, International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC

While "walking" guests to another establishment may be a common practice during a busy season, hoteliers should ensure that they're walking guests due to overbooking - not because a regulator or inspector has forced a room closure as the result of a pest infestation.

Though pest control is by no means the only area that regulatory inspectors will review, it is an important one. Inspectors will review pest control for the same reasons that hoteliers employ proactive pest management programs - pests can threaten public health, signify greater problems like poor sanitation and cause structural damage. Not to mention that a serious pest problem can lead to claims, additional expense or even a lawsuit from angry customers or negative media coverage.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in a recent poll Orkin conducted among hotel professionals, the respondents ranked pest control as their third most important housekeeping concern behind linen and bathroom cleanliness.

So where does pest control fit into an inspection? Inspectors will be reviewing the entire establishment to make sure pests aren't a problem, but will pay particular attention to foodservice areas.

Foodservice Inspection

Inspectors are concerned with all foodservice operations because they play such a vital role in the health and safety of guests. Richard Raymond, the undersecretary of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, estimates that nearly 14 people die from foodborne illness every day in the United States. Hoteliers do not want the food served at their restaurants to be the cause.

For pests, which often carry pathogens that can cause foodborne illness, the kitchen is an oasis of food and water sources. Flies, cockroaches and rodents can flourish in a hotel restaurant if they get inside.

Inspectors will follow the flow of food from receiving to preparation to serving, reviewing the area for any signs of infestation such as droppings, exoskeletons (shells), and live or dead pests. Even if inspectors do not uncover an infestation, they may request to see evidence that a pest control program is in place and all chemical treatments, if used, are employed safely.

And the Rest

Although the restaurant and kitchen are focal points during the inspector's visit, the rest of the hotel is not exempt from inspection. Since common pests like cockroaches and bed bugs are "hitchhikers," often entering hotels on travelers' clothes or suitcases, an infestation can easily begin in a guest room. If an inspector finds a pest infestation in a guest room, that room may be subject to closure until the hotel curtails and eliminates the infestation. Of course in the case of a bed bug infestation, quarantine of the room is a must.

The inspector may not visit the hotel every day, but that doesn't mean that the hotel's pest control efforts should be limited to once-a-year status. Inspectors will be less likely to uncover pest problems during their inspections if hoteliers implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that focuses on ongoing prevention.

Just like their inspection of the foodservice area, inspectors will want to make sure that hoteliers take proactive pest control measures throughout the hotel. Hoteliers should work with their pest management professionals to make sure that their establishments meet the state's hotel rules, which could include:

Pest control documentation is a visible sign that the hotel implements an effective program. Paperwork should be kept on-site and up-to-date in case the inspector has any questions about the hotel's pest management efforts.

Tips for Inspection Success

An inspector can arrive to inspect the hotel and foodservice areas at any time. Of course, this means that hoteliers must be ready to put their best foot forward at all times. Hoteliers should consider the following three tips to help prepare for inspections year-round.

  1. Hoteliers' most effective tool is the hotel staff. The staff is on-site every day, working in the areas that will be most conducive to pest infestations - kitchens, guest rooms, laundry rooms. Therefore, the staff can be one of the first lines of defense against an infestation by keeping an eye out for pests and any conditions that could attract pests, such as spilled food and water.

With increasing attention to bed bug infestations across the country, the housekeeping staff can play a major role in monitoring guest rooms for signs of infestation. Some pest management professionals offer training to teach hotel staff their roles in the hotel's pest management and sanitation programs.

  1. With the staff's help hotels may be prepared for an inspection, but what better way to find out for sure than with a practice self-inspection? The pest management professional's weekly service report can be a good indication of the success the hotel will see on the pest control portion of the inspection. Hoteliers should work with their professionals to correct any problems and implement recommendations that can help improve the program.

  2. The best tip for hoteliers is also the easiest: take the inspection seriously. Though this suggestion may sound like a no-brainer, the truth is that anytime hoteliers attempt to cut corners in their housekeeping staff's regimen, their sanitation program or their pest control program, it can affect performance on regulatory inspections.

Hoteliers should think of the inspector as a guest. If the inspector has a good "stay," the effort will be well worth it - guests will eat in peace at the restaurant, guest rooms will remain open and the hotel will continue to prosper.

An industry veteran, Frank Meek has been with Orkin since 1986. In 2003, he was named among the future leaders of the pest management industry in Pest Control Technology magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking. Currently, as the International Technical and Training Director, Mr. Meek provides technical support and training in both sales and service to Orkin's international franchises, helping them grow and develop in their specific markets. As a board-certified entomologist, Mr. Meek teaches Integrated Pest Management principles and can explain how to use all available methodologies to prevent pest infestations in various commercial settings. Mr. Meek can be contacted at 404-888-2898 or fmeek@rollinscorp.com Extended Bio...

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