Proving that a hotel has exercised due diligence is all about documentation. For a documentation system to be successful it must be both comprehensive but also easy to use and not time-consuming. If a documentation system requires excessive time and effort, hotel staff will likely omit entries or simply not use it at all.
The starting point in creating a “due diligence” documentation system is employee training. Employee training should be geared towards housekeeping and maintenance staff. The training must be conducted by a competent Pest Management Professional (PMP). Internet research and internal education by site employees is not adequate. Only a trained professional can educate staff on such issues as pest identification, inspection techniques and coordination between hotel staff and the extermination professional.
Documentation systems to demonstrate due diligence can be as simple as a notebook with flip charts. The first flip chart should be a ‘Site Employee Training Log’. This log, as with all logs, must be on a single page and include (1) the date of the training; (2) location of the training; (3) education topic(s); (4) Sponsor or Trainer name and contact information; and, (5) Site Employee Signatures of those who attended.
Once the hotel employees have undergone training, the next stop in the due diligence documentation process is to create a log to evidence hotel staff (housekeeping and maintenance) are conducting routine inspections for bed bugs. The manner in which the inspection takes place will be determined by the PMP. The room inspections should be a part of housekeeping daily duties when clearing or preparing a room. Additionally, common area inspections should be routine but frequency should be determined by the contracted PMP. Inspection flip charts should include such entries as: (1) date of inspection; (2) time of inspection; (3) room number or location of common area; (4) name of staff; (5) signature of staff; (6) positive or negative findings; and, (7) date and time a positive report is made to the PMP.
Once bed bugs are discovered by hotel staff, it is essential that the inspection is followed by an immediate response from the PMP. The PMP will need to conduct their own independent inspection and this inspection should be documented in both the PMP’s records and in the Hotel’s documentation system. The Hotel’s documentation flip chart should also include: (1) date and time of PMP inspection; (2) room number or location of common area; (3) name of technician; (4) signature of technician; (5) positive or negative findings; (6) name of site employee involved; and, (7) signature of site employee.
Where there is a positive finding for bed bugs, a treatment or remediation will be required to be performed in a timely fashion. The PMP will, by law, be required to have their own documentation of all chemicals applied. However, the Hotel should also document the treatment or remediation to demonstrate both a timely response but the adequacy of the response. The treatment flip chart should include; (1) date of treatment; (2) time of treatment; (3) name of technician; (4) signature of technician; (5) treatment type; (6) date for the next inspection; (7) site employee involved; and, (8) site employee’s signature.
Lastly, hotels should adopt the mind-set that the report of a bed bug is a gift rather than a curse. When a guest or staff member reports a bed bug, the hotel is best positioned to deal with the issue. While staff should be conducting routine inspections of rooms and common areas, the reality is that many reports of bed bugs will come from guests. It is therefore essential that as part of a due diligence protocol, staff take reports or complaints of bed bugs seriously and develop a protocol for handling guest complaints. At a minimum, a flip chart should be developed that logs in: (1) date of complaint; (2) time of complaint; (3) room number or common area; (4) guest’s name; (5) employee recording the complaint; (6) date/time the PMP contacted; and, (7) employee’s signature.
Employee education and developing a documentation system that is both comprehensive and easy to employ is the best way to prove a hotel has undergone due diligence when it comes to bed bugs. The hotel’s PMP will be best suited to conduct the education and develop the reporting system.
Written by: Jeffrey M. Lipman, Attorney-At-Law and Polk County Magistrate Judge.
The Lipman Law Firm practice handles consumer class action litigation, specializing in class action bed bug litigation. Jeff Lipman is a frequent speaker throughout the United States, including the National Pest Management Association and Entomological Society of America.