Latest News from BPCA

07 March 2019

Dealing with rodents in sensitive environments

Pest control | PPC94 March 2019

We can become overly confident in our preferred method of rodent control and then suddenly we’re thrown a curveball. Chris Cagienard investigates the environmental considerations we need to make that influence our rodent control strategy. 

Food manufacturing sites – more than the minimum

Food manufacturing sites – more than the minimum

Many of us look after some of our nation’s best known and most prominent food manufacturing sites ensuring that they maintain pest free environments. Even if you don’t currently service these types of sites, I am sure you aspire to do so some day.

On these sites, our activities to control rodent infestations will be governed by supplier audit specifications of bodies such as BRC, Tesco, M&S or similar. Obviously, this involves strict adherence to follow-up procedures and call-out response times among other considerations.

We must meet these criteria to ensure that our service is compliant and that we don’t allow our clients to experience any non-conformances due to our failure to meet these expectations. This should be our minimum standard.

We should look to be as proactive as possible and use our skills and training to guide our clients towards actioning recommendations before any infestation occurs to limit the possibility of a rodent infestation becoming a reality.

This is the kind of proactive service that our high-end food industry clients need from us. It is more than possible for us to deliver a service that is 100% audit compliant in that we meet all audit specification requirements when dealing with rodents but that the client may still lose a significant supply contract due to an unacceptable level of pest activity.

I’m sure most of us already do this but we must take a step back and focus on maintaining pest free environments by way of giving sound pest prevention advice and educating our customers. If adherence to the minimum requirements of a follow-up procedure specification is our main focus we have already let the client down.

As professionals in this industry, we are better than that. We are contracted to protect our customer’s businesses, reputation, supply contracts and the employment of their workforce from the risk of pest infestations.

High-end restaurants or bars – social stigma 

High-end restaurants or bars – social stigma

In the age of social media, it only takes one viral post about the presence of rats or mice in a restaurant or bar to completely destroy the reputation and trade of that business.

I’m almost certain that many of you have experienced similar to me in that the price of contracts for some of these types of sites seem to be being driven further and further down. I would encourage all of us to not participate in this race to the bottom as it is not in the best interests of the customer.

We need to be delivering a service that provides value by providing the right level of service to fully protect the site not only from pests but that protects the business from the potential reputation damage caused by the presence of pests.

When dealing with this type of client are we discussing these risks or does it remain unspoken? Do you have an escalation plan in place to respond quickly to deal with issues
such as a rodent infestation quickly in the event of an occurrence?

Consider structuring contracts for these types of site to include a suitable escalation procedure that allows for an assessment of how any rodent infestation should be handled. Are traditional baiting control measures going to bring an infestation under control quick enough or should more direct methods be factored in to rapidly remove the risk to reputation and public health?

We must also ensure that we are giving proactive recommendations and educating our customers on good hygiene and housekeeping to reduce the risk of rodents in the first place.

In reality, we should also extend this concern to all of our customers as although the risk social media impact may be less significant, the more important considerations of health and safety remain the same.

Sensitive healthcare environments

Sensitive healthcare environments

Is the rodent activity you are dealing with in a sensitive healthcare environment? Hospitals, laboratories, care home etc all need a sterile environment - it can be a matter of life or death.
Although a different pest, healthcare is a hot topic in the news recently with a link being made between pigeon fouling and the death of patients at a hospital in Glasgow.

At the time of writing this remains a developing story where all the facts have yet to come to light, so it is not helpful to form any conclusions yet. However, it does clearly demonstrate that it is clear that the presence of pests in a sensitive environment can pose a potentially life-threatening risk to health.

In the case of rodents, and rats, in particular, we know they are incontinent and can propagate disease-causing bacteria in their urine. This can call for an immediate progression to the most extreme methods of control.

It is common in these circumstances to choose to step right past traditional methods of control and straight to physical control measures such as snap traps, live catch traps or even glue boards.

In Scotland, the legality of the use of glue boards is currently being challenged in parliament. For this reason, and to ensure that we avoid inhumane practices as professional pest controllers, we must only perform these treatments if correctly trained and in line with the relevant Codes of Best Practice at all times.

Presence of a non-target species

Presence of a non-target species

This situation is a little different from the others as it is a consideration we must give on every job no matter the circumstances.

Every time we arrive at a rodent job we should assess the possibility of the presence of a non-target species. For many technicians working in urban environments it’s true this is likely to be a rare occurrence but this doesn’t negate the necessity.

This is even more important with the change to rodenticide product labels increasingly becoming species specific. Remember we cannot use rodenticides that have not been correctly tested and passed for the specific pest we are targeting. Presently this includes field mice on most (if not all) product labels.

So, what can we do? If we suspect that field mice or another non-target species are present we must consider alternatives such as:

  • Proofing
  • Environmental habitat modifications to make the area unfavourable for the rodents
  • Physical control (where appropriate).

Most importantly we should be educating our customer about the challenges we are facing and the options available. If we don’t keep the customer informed it is possible that their perception of your work may be negatively affected simply because they do not understand what all the fuss is about.

SUMMING UP

A good survey and keeping our customers informed and educated about the facts is the foundation for success when dealing with any pest species in any environment. Let’s make sure that we are using the skills and the training we have developed to show that we are the true professionals in our industry.

We must always consider the potential impacts on our clients' health and safety, or reputation by maintaining pest free environments.

We must do all this while making sure that we are compliant in all of our activities and consider humane practices at the forefront of everything we do.

When you list it all like that, it seems an awful lot. But if we want to be treated as professionals, we all need to take responsibility and act like professionals.

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Chris CagienardChris Cagienard
Pest Solutions Glasgow

Source: PPC94

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