Sector

23 August 2019

Best practice or Balderdash?

Best practice| PPC96 August 2019

You don’t need a contract for a wasps nest… or do you?

While our tools and technology over the years have evolved and adapted, our practices haven’t necessarily changed at the same rate.

We regularly come across guys in the field who have held on tight to methods that might well have been best practice once – but have you really moved with the times?

Some practices are shrouded in mythology. Where do these ideas come from? Is it biology or billing? Best practice or balderdash?

Best practice or balderdash 2

If you want to stand out from the crowd, the time has come for us to pop these practices in the attic where they belong and commit to providing truly dynamic, bespoke services to reflect your 21st century client’s needs.

Does it really take an expert to tell a customer they need 8/4?

In the spirit of championing technical excellence, we’re asking a couple of our newest Board Members to debunk some best practice myths that might be putting the operation of your business at risk.

After all, nothing says ‘welcome to the team’ like some juicy technical questions!

Routine visits must be carried out every six weeks. True or false?

Martin: "Balderdash!"

We assess each site for ‘pest risk’. We use the BPCA Pest Risk Calculator which is an invaluable tool.

Ordinarily, our pest management services start at eight visits per year and work upward depending on risk.

If a site has a periodic rodent or insect issues then the minimum we would consider is eight visits per annum.

If the rodent or insect problem is more persistent then twelve visits and upward would be needed.

A lot can happen in pest breeding cycles while you aren’t on site. It is important to be vigilant and keep your customer aware of what to look out for so that they can report issues between routine visits.

Chris: "Piffle!"

This is one that many of us pest controllers have been indoctrinated into believing.

But what are the origins? Ask some and they will say the six to seven week cycle was designed to follow the breeding cycle of rodents so that an infestation would not get out of hand between visits.

Ask others and it became popular because it meant you could neatly fit two visits into each quarterly billing cycle.

But the truth is that the frequency of routine service visits should be worked out based on the needs of the client, in relation to a proper pest risk and environmental risk assessment.

When you correctly assess these risks, the facts will dictate the requirement for routine visit frequency.

This is one that many of us pest controllers have been indoctrinated into believing.

Also, this will enable you to sell the client the correct service package at the right price, ensuring that each contract has the best chance of running profitably.

The ongoing assessment of these factors will also benefit you when it comes to reviewing a contract with a client and assessing if the service specification, and related pricing, needs to be adjusted.

This should also give your clients confidence in the basis on which their costings are established and make the contract more robust against being undercut by another service provider that simply gives a cheaper quote.

Check out the pest risk calculator, available as a member benefit in your BPCA members area.

Permanent baiting is okay now. True or false?

Martin: "Tosh/True!"

False but in some cases true.

CRRU released Permanent Baiting Guidelines in September 2018 and revised these again in July 2019.

Routinely, we do not have sites with rodenticides unless we are baiting a current problem.

However, in certain circumstances, permanent baiting is possible if CRRU guidelines are followed.

CRRU released Permanent Baiting Guidelines in September 2018 and revised these again in July 2019.

Chris: "Twaddle!"

This is a bit of a tricky one to answer. I am going to say that permanent baiting is not ‘okay’ now.

This does not mean that it is not technically possible to have what is effectively permanent baiting in place on a site.

However, the important bit of information in this myth is that it is ‘okay’.

To be able to justify this kind of baiting there must be the presence of rodent activity and other underlying factors that you would never be able to describe as ‘okay’.

They must be severe and pose enough of a risk that your pest risk assessment, environmental assessment and previous treatment activities can clearly demonstrate that “permanent baiting” could be justified if challenged.

The important point here is that your documented paper trail must be able to justify it and not simply your verbal recounting of the process.

If you can’t support it in your paperwork, it didn’t happen.

Going one step further, I would say that we should stop using the term 'permanent baiting' altogether.

It suggests that it can be justified forever, with no expectation that the activity will ever come under control.

This assumption in itself would not be acceptable. We should be using the term 'long-term baiting' instead, as it is more appropriate. 

Product labels are best used as guidance. True or false?

Martin: "Tommyrot!"

Product labels are the letter of the law.

Product labels must be followed without deviation.

Chris: "Poppycock!"

Product labels are not just for guidance. They are law.

Let’s say something went wrong and you encounter an issue that arises from a treatment that you have carried out, where the information detailed in the label of the product has not been followed.

Should the issue be serious enough that a prosecution is sought it would be ‘failure to follow the product label’ that would be prosecuted for.

This is the reason that any training you will have received includes the pretreatment step of reading the product label and why it is so important.

“But, I have read the label before,” you may say, or, “I know this product and use it all the time!”

However, product labels change, and these changes are not always (almost never) broadcast from the rooftops.

Recent examples include changes to Ficam D (not for use outside), Bayer Crawling Insect Killer (use only for cockroaches) and the fact that there is no rodenticide product that is passed for use against field mice anymore.

Product labels are not just for guidance. They are law.

Good practice is to follow your training and read the product labels to keep yourself right.

Also, I would recommend including the fact that you have used a product ‘in accordance with the instructions of the product label’ on your treatment report to show that you have considered this important legal requirement.

But, only do this if you have referred to the product label and read it of course.

Domestic work doesn’t need a visit report or paper left with the client. True or false?

Martin: "Hogwash!"

The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 informs us that ‘information about pesticides should be made available’, so it is a legal requirement.

Not only that, as professionals, we want to demonstrate what measures we have undertaken on site, where we have undertaken control measures, proofing advice and importantly, why we have undertaken measures.

Of course, the obligatory customer signature is also required.

Not only is this professional practice but it also is your evidence should there be disputes at a later date.

Chris: "Claptrap!"

This is not just false but dangerous. If we are not leaving a report or emailing a report to a domestic client (immediately after the treatment), then what reference point do they have to the introduction of potentially toxic substances to their home?

What would happen if a person or pet in the household became unwell and the client believed it was related to the treatment carried out in their home?

I have had this happen to me. I attended a site and afterwards the tenant claimed to the housing association that whatever I had done had killed his cat.

Not good, especially as I love cats. Thankfully I had left a report that demonstrated that my survey for pigeons in the loft had no possible way of having resulted in the death of a cat.

Your report should clearly state what product you have used, what quantity, how it was applied and where.

If not, you are leaving yourself open to being held responsible for almost anything and not fulfilling your duty of care to your client.

What would happen if a person or pet in the household became unwell and the client believed it was related to the treatment carried out in their home?

A site survey is required for every job. True or false?

Martin: "True!"

We undertake surveys for every job. For Pest Management Service Agreements it is a must; how else will you find out the potential issues a site may encounter?

In a site survey you should look for signs of current or past pest activity, environmental factors that will affect your methods, non-target and protected species, and the potential for surrounding land and buildings to contribute to pest issues on the site.

With individual job work, we probably all have a set price list which we quote ‘subject to survey’.

This gives our clients an idea of cost but also allows us to give a written and updated quote should we find that the site is more complicated than the initial phone call or email from our client when we arrive on site.

Chris: "Bunkum!"

This would be a little impractical if we were to assume that every job required to be surveyed prior to the technician visiting site.

However, although a traditional site-survey may not be required, we should make sure that technicians are conducting a dynamic survey as they are setting up or carrying out a treatment.

In fact, as technicians, biologists or as any other type of service personnel we should go through our day in permanent ‘dynamic survey’ mode.

We should be continually cross-referencing what we are encountering with our training.

This will ensure that whatever approach or treatment method we choose to undertake is appropriate and effective.

It is true that a formal survey is not always required but as service personnel we must remain engaged with our surroundings; changing, adapting and educating as we go.

This applies not only on job visits or call outs but on our routine inspections also.

If something on a site changes, we must review the appropriateness of our monitoring and if required adapt accordingly.

In the event that you attend a job where your initial dynamic survey reveals that the issue is not as your job details describe, you must have the confidence to stop and inform the persons required before taking the appropriate action.

Never proceed with treatment should your dynamic survey and your training suggest that it is not the appropriate course of action.

You don’t need a contract for doing domestic work. True or false?

Every sale requires a contract, or it is impossible to retrospectively demonstrate what was agreed and for what cost.

Martin: "Rubbish!"

Many domestic customers have pest issues on a periodic basis which can be managed better with regular visits.

A domestic pest management service can provide peace of mind for the homeowner, as well as a good income stream for pest professionals.

Just remember to price the work correctly and ensure the customer knows fully what is and what isn’t included in their pest management agreement.

Chris: "Drivel!"

Every sale requires a contract, or it is impossible to retrospectively demonstrate what was agreed and for what cost.

This does not mean that it must be complicated.

Keep it simple but make sure that you protect yourself and your business.

The sale contract only needs to accurately describe what is being purchased, include a reference to your terms and conditions of sale, and be signed and dated by your customer.

This will give you the protection you require; if there is no contract, almost all the rights fall to the buyer.

The contract should be simple and can be paper-based or electronic. Keep it as simple as possible while accurately describing the product, identifying the client and demonstrating their acceptance.

Your terms and conditions, on the other hand, should be detailed, robust and designed to protect both you and your client’s interests.

These terms can be made available in print or online.

Things to consider are what the payment terms are; what happens if the client does not pay; what the clients’ cancellation rights are; what the client’s obligations are etc.

Get the right legal advice on what needs to be in your specific terms.

This will protect you in any number of situations, such as when a treatment is ineffective but the client has not actioned your recommendations.

Got more questions? 

If you have anything you want to ask the BPCA staff team or Board, get in touch and it may be included in the next issue of PPC.

hello@bpca.org.uk

Source: PPC96

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