Do We Have To Work Around Rats?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about Rats:

As an employee do I have the right to not work in our warehouse with rats about? We are picking product by hand where we suspect they are living. How could I prove this to my employer and how could I get help for it?

Signed, Disgusted

Dear Disgusted:

Rats and mice are common problems for warehouses and many other locations. I can understand how unnerving and disgusting it would be to think you’ll see one or have one jump out at you or run across the floor in front of you. It’s obnoxious! Have you asked your supervisor or manager to discuss the problem with someone who could approve contracting for rodent control? Usually rodents also harm merchandise and they often cause electrical fires because of their gnawing habits, so there is plenty of reason to try to eradicate them.

If you think your employer will not follow-up you may want to contact a local exterminator and ask if they can give you a free estimate of what they might charge for rodent control in a building of that size. Knowing the price may help–or it may be so high your employer will have to find another way.

Maybe you can work with the maintenance person or staff to set out traps. Those are gross too, but are often helpful. You may not want to be involved with it yourself, but if things are really bad, and you can’t get any help from your employer, you may find it necessary to set out traps on your own and inform your supervisor if you find a rat that needs to be disposed of. (They certainly wouldn’t allow it to stay there, so that would get some sort of action!) Work with your employer if you can, so it doesn’t become a conflict between you and your managers. Both of you have a reason to get rid of rats! If that doesn’t work, contact your city health department. If they are not directly involved in such concerns they will probably know of the government group that is. If you are in a small town, there still will be some sort of public health person. Rats don’t just stop at the warehouse where they are concentrated, so there is a reason for everyone to be concerned. It may be there are zoning regulations that apply to rodent control or fire hazard prevention.Another source is the fire department. Ask them if they have information about the dangers of rodents in warehouses, as it relates to fires.

Sometimes there are fire codes that cover that issue, according to the size of the city and location of the warehouse.Your state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may have some regulations that relate to this issue, although most do not. It’s such a difficult situation to deal with! However, you could check with them to see. Look for them in the phone book or over the Internet. I know this is a terrible problem, so I hope you are able to find a solution, working with your employer. If you do, let us know, so we can use it to help others. Best wishes! You will need to do some research in your location to find out about rules and regulations about rodent control.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.