As a business owner in the brick and mortar world, you have got a number of specific legal responsibilities that you owe to your clients or customers.
If you are like a good number of business owners in Southern California, across the United States, or even the rest of the world, you may find yourself in a situation in which a patron of your enterprise alerts you to what the individual contends is an issue with mice or rats at your business.
When this happens, you need to understand that not only is it wise to follow up on the customer’s concerns from a customer service standpoint, but the notification triggers a moral, and potentially a legal duty as well, depending on your local laws.
We provide you with essential information about what you should do when you are advised of the presence of mice or rats on the premises of your business.
The Dangers of Mice or Rats in a Commercial Setting
Rodents can cause dangers in a commercial setting that can threaten the safety and welfare of not only workers but also patrons. There are two primary ways in which rodents can create hazards for clients or customers of a business:
By their very nature, rodents are animals that gnaw continually. This occurs for a number of reasons, including the fact that incisors on rodents never stop growing and they gnaw to trim these teeth. In addition, rodents gnaw in order to gain passage from one place to another and to create materials that can be used for building a nest.
One type of object in a residence or business that attracts rodents like mice and rats are wires and electrical panels.
Rodents will gnaw on wires and related objects, removing the protective coating on them. This exposes the wires themselves, which can result in them sparking and igniting fires. Indeed, over 25 percent of all house fires are caused in this manner.
While statistics aren’t as definitive, a similar percentage of commercial fires are thought to be caused by rodents chewing on wires and objects related to the electrical system.
As noted, disease is the second common type of danger rodents present in a commercial setting. Rodents can carry a number of different types of diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Hantavirus/hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
- Rat-bite fever
- Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome
- Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)
The pathogens that cause these diseases infect people in a number of different ways:
- Rat bites
- Rat feces
- Fleas carried by rats
- Rat urine
- Rat saliva
In the United States, salmonella is the most common of the diseases spread by rats. Most people refer to the illness as food poisoning or salmonella poisoning. Businesses in the foodservice industry are particularly prone to face issues regarding rats.
Salmonella can be carried in rat saliva, droppings, and urine. A rat infestation can result in rat droppings and urine (even saliva) contaminating food and beverages. When contaminated items are consumed, a person can become infected.
Salmonella poisoning isn’t a catastrophic illness in nearly all cases. A very small number of people have died as a result of this infection. These individuals tended to be elderly and otherwise ill, very young children or people who had compromised immune systems before infection.
In most cases, salmonella causes a person to be unpleasantly ill for several days, suffering from nausea and diarrhea.
Hantavirus is a different story. The disease hantavirus is more often than not spread via rodent droppings. This virus can persist or survive in rodent droppings for an extended period of time. Even after the feces dry out!
When rodent droppings dry out, they crumble easily. When that occurs, feces dust becomes airborne. It will carry along the hantavirus if a rat is a carrier of the pathogen.
If a person breathes the dust in –including a patron of a business – that individual can become infected with hantavirus.
Hantavirus infection can result in what is known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. There is no cure or treatment for this condition. 30 percent of people who suffer hantavirus pulmonary syndrome will die.
Responsibilities When Advised of a Mouse or Rat Issue at Your Business
As a business owner, if you are advised by anyone that there appears to be a rodent issue at your store, office, or other location, a definite responsibility is triggered. Because rodents can jeopardize the wellbeing of patrons as outlined a moment ago, a business owner has the responsibility to protect a client or customer against being harmed by those risks.
If you fail to take reasonable action to address a rodent issue at your business when you learn it exists, and a client or customer is injured as a result, your business can bear responsibility for the damages and losses the individual sustains.
For example, in the worst possible scenario, if a customer contracts hantavirus at your business (when you knew of rodent infestation), develops hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, and dies – the family if the victim could pursue what is known as a wrongful death claim and lawsuit against your business (or you personally if your business is a sole proprietorship).
Be Aware Of Potential Risks
Even if you aren’t specifically made aware of a rat issue at your business, you’ve another responsibility. You have a responsibility to be reasonably aware of any potential risks to others. This includes others at or on the premises of your business.
This includes being reasonably aware of the presence of rodents at or in your business.
“Reasonably aware” is defined as what a prudent person in your same position as a business owner would due under similar circumstances. When it comes to the prospect of rodent issues (and the dangers mice and rats potentially can present) a prudent person would engage in regular inspections of the premises to ascertain if there exists any evidence of this type of vermin at or in the premises.
Professional Rodent Dropping Cleaning to Fully Satisfy Your Legal Duty
If you’re a business owner that has had a rodent infestation at or in the premises, you not only need to eliminate the mice or rats themselves but you need to make certain that remaining rat droppings are also remediated.
This is a responsibility when it comes to your clients of customers.
In order to ensure that rat feces (and the diseases they can carry) are fully eliminated, you need to give serious consideration to engaging the services of an experienced, reputable rat droppings cleaning company.