Commercial properties are held to higher standards when it comes to things like overall cleanliness, safety, and liability. While general maintenance, repairs, and mechanical safety features are certainly critical, commercial property owners also need to be aware of other liability threats.
One of the more frequent, yet less obvious problems affecting a wide range of commercial spaces is the presence of rodent droppings. These animals are designed by nature to be secretive and often operate at night where their nocturnal activities can go unnoticed for weeks if not months. Compounding this problem is their rapid reproduction rate.
The Dangers And Health Hazards Of Rodent Droppings
At first glance, rodent droppings might look dry and unthreatening, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that even a small amount of residual rodent dropping can harbor dangerous pathogens, damaging microbes, respiratory contaminants, and potential viruses. Some of which can even be fatal. This includes things like:
- Streptobacillosis (Rat-bite fever)
The shocking truth is that dried rodent droppings are potentially more dangerous than fresh. Many of the dangerous microbes they often harbor can go into a dormant state. Certain bacteria will even form a spore or shell which can allow them to remain dangerously viable for many years to come! Larger droppings like those made by rats can start to breakdown and crumble releasing their microbial load into the surrounding air space. This is particularly dangerous if the droppings or the nest area is near the building HVAC system.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that excess rodent droppings and waste that go undetected can buildup to the point where it causes structural damage to the building. This includes storerooms where drywall can be compromised, attic spaces where waste pools and damages insulations. Basement areas and crawl spaces can also allow rodent waste to build up compromising the foundation, HVAC systems, and sometimes causing electrical issues.
How To Identify Rodent Droppings
First of all, it’s important to note that not all rodents deposit droppings in the same way. For example, rats are perpetually incontinent, meaning they will deposit feces and urine as they move. They also have poor eyesight, which tends to make them follow along walls, baseboards, and furniture that is flush with the floor. In contrast, mice tend to deposit concentrated fecal droppings in and around their nesting sites. They tend to reproduce very quickly, which forces one colony to develop into secondary locations in a relatively short period of time. Being able to identify the type of droppings may factor into the type of remediation strategy our sanitation engineers recommend.
Mouse droppings tend to be the size of a grain of rice. Since mice tend to concentrate their droppings in a single location you are likely to find a lot of them in a small location. Rat droppings are typically larger and often have a sausage or pill shape. You are more likely to find them scattered near walls and the inside turn of corners. You are also likely to find them in disturbing quantities when they stop to exploit a food source. Once a rat finds a food source such as an office cafeteria, they are likely to spend more time there, leaving droppings near the most vulnerable areas!
When certain areas of your dwellings are undisturbed for a long period of time such as a basement or attic that hasn’t been maintained or visited in years, the sheer amount of droppings can get many inches deep. That’s a lot of rodent droppings, and potential for widespread sickness.
Commercial Properties At High Risk Of Rodent Dropping Problems
Certain commercial spaces are more likely to attract rodents than others. This is often due to the presence of easily available food. However, just about any indoor area can be at risk for nesting. Especially during the fall and winter when cold temperatures tend to drive wild rodents toward human-occupied spaces.
Restaurants, Food Courts And Other Food Service Areas
As you can imagine, the food service industry is particularly at high risk for attracting rodents. Common areas and food prep stations are typically required by law to be cleaned on a daily basis. A compliant restaurant or food court is less likely to attract rodents to where they will be found easily. The areas that tend to be the most at risk here are bulk food storage areas. Especially, basements where storage racks might sit unattended for a prolonged period of time.
Bags of rice, flour, and other high-volume ingredients might go days, weeks, or even months without being moved or used. In a scenario like this, a single pregnant female rodent can start a colony, that exploits these lesser-used areas leading to a serious problem. Not only can this be a serious health hazard, but it can also increase food costs to dispose of and replace stored ingredients.
Retail Stores And Showrooms
Retail spaces tend to be more attractive to nesting rodents. Especially clothing and furniture stores that have soft materials available in their storeroom space. This is even more likely to be an issue in a mall space where restaurants and food courts are nearby. The mice and rats may go out to forage in the restaurant space and return to nest in the retail area.
Offices And Corporate Spaces
Office spaces on their own don’t tend to attract rodents as well as food service and retail spaces. There simply aren’t a lot of available resources in an office. Where they tend to congregate the most are places where food is readily available. This includes the office kitchenette or cafeteria. They are also more likely to try to find a nest in office storage areas near waste receptacles or exterior doors near the dumpster.
In some of these cases, mice and rats might choose to nest in the ceiling where heat rises. These nests tend to go undetected in the long-term. This can cause droppings and urine to pool up as nest after nest relocates. In some cases, an employee might notice a discoloration in the ceiling that looks like a rain-water leak, only to discover its leakage from built-up rodent waste!
Multi-Family Residential Areas
Apartments and condominiums are also high-risk areas for rodent problems. The presence of so much food and the fact that many multi-family buildings have poorly maintained dumpsters gives rodents the food they need to thrive in.
Droppings are more likely to be found by a dumpster or other storage area. However, tenants are more likely to notice a problem in their own living space and should be encouraged to report it.
What’s Involved In Rodent Dropping Remediation & Cleaning
If you’ve noticed signs of rodent droppings or nesting behavior in your commercial property, time is of the essence. The reproductive rate of these nuisance animals means that by the time you notice a minor issue, it has likely developed into a major problem. While professional extermination is likely required to prevent a rodent problem from worsening, it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making sure your commercial property is safe and compliant with health regulations.
Fortunately, Building Services Inc. includes professional dropping cleanup and remediation in our broad menu of building sanitation services. Our technicians have extensive experience dealing with biohazards and waste, including rodent waste and fecal matter. Our cleaning technicians will come fully prepared in full hazmat gear, proper room protection , ventilation and containers meant to store and remove the matter safely, without contaminating other areas of a building which we may need to pass through.
Our meticulous approach ensures that all rodent contamination has been remediated so it can be safely used without fear of anything spreading. Our professional-grade cleaning products and equipment are designed to eliminate microbial dangers while minimizing the spread of harmful airborne emissions. In many of these cases, our experienced technicians will find entry points and nesting areas and can coordinate with extermination techs and repair personnel. We can schedule regular, followup pest control check ups to ensure rodents have not and will not return. Afterward, we can provide you with any necessary documentation to prove that your rodent waste problem has been professionally remediated and the property is once again compliant with all health and safety codes.