30 April 2020

Meet the members: Rising to the challenge

Membership| PPC99 May 2020

PPC talked to the membership at large, about the proactive steps taken to meet the Covid-19 crisis head-on. Your responses are still coming in, but here are a just a few collated at the time of publication...

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Beaver Pest Control

Beaver Pest Control says it has key sector clients and therefore considers itself as performing key work. The company is trying to convince as many clients as possible to grant access to properties while closed.

Beaver carries out work for the NHS and other high-risk sectors. The company has offered free coronavirus disinfection treatments to NHS clients to help support their hygiene regimes.

Company Director, David Lodge, told us he feels that the whole food chain from field-to-fork could collapse should pest control work not continue.

Beaver had a pandemic flu contingency plan already drawn up, and this allowed it to respond to the threat of Covid-19 quickly.

The company also extended its digital risk assessments, RAMS (rush assessments and method statements), and created a technician guidance procedure for non-furloughed staff to follow.

Office staff are mainly working from home, and members of the two offices were completely segregated both in and out of work before social distancing measures were brought in.

Beaver expanded its cleaning team to cover coronavirus disinfecting treatments. Team members were already trained in this service delivery, but RAMS and training were tweaked, and insurance checked to make sure that it was delivered appropriately and safely.

Beaver was able to furlough all of the staff that requested it and is presently functioning at around 40% of normal capacity. Field managers have volunteered to carry out service work where necessary, and all surveyors and managers have offered to take a rotating furlough to help. Company directors have taken a pay cut.

David said to us, “We’re very proud of all of our staff and are aware of the risks that present themselves while still working. We try to support them as much as possible both physically but also psychologically by assuring close managerial contact.

“We are also fully aware that those staff at home may also suffer through social distancing which may continue for many weeks or even months, and therefore we are in constant contact with them too and provide information on mental wellbeing and support.

“Our technicians have pulled together and are going the extra mile to help get through the pandemic. We’re a close-knit family at Beaver, and I couldn’t ask for better support from the team at this time.”

They also noted that they have evidence that rodent infestation is increasing where they can’t gain access.

However, where their clients had tidied and secured alternative foodstuffs, there is less behavioural resistance, and baits and traps are proving more successful.

Bounty Pest Control

Following the government announcement, Bounty created the following criteria for visits during this national emergency. They are currently only doing:

  • Follow-ups jobs where public health pests are present
  • New public health pest issues
  • Food premises, medical sites and other key industries that need to remain pest free
  • Sites where historically there are frequent public health pest risks.

In line with government advice, other contracted customers have received a phone call asking if they are aware of any pest issues, if not we will not visit at this time and will move the visit along to the next routine visit.

Bounty office staff are working from home but can still be contacted during office hours.

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Pestforce North Wales

Over the last two weeks, Pestforce North Wales told us their business has completely dried up although they’re continuing to take calls. Unfortunately many of the calls seem to be unwanted scam calls.

Mark Palmer from Pestforce said to us: “The only other calls have all been regarding rats running around peoples gardens which I have been able to give advice over the phone. Remove the food source (which in every case has been bird food), correct storage, re-site feeders, suggest a period of not feeding the birds, remove foliage/cover and so on.

“All the people I have spoken to seemed genuinely pleased with the advice given and said I would be the first person they would ring in the future with any pest problems and would recommend me to friends and family.”

Pestpro Bird Solutions

Pestpro Bird Solutions is still operating a full range of pest services during the pandemic.

Staff welfare is paramount, and to help reinforce this, the Pestpro team has undertaken toolbox talks with a registered prescribing nurse manager. The team is equipped with all the Public Health England information on Covid-19.

For their protection, staff carry all PPE necessary for all tasks that they carry out along with sanitiser gels, hand wipes and disinfectants.

Richard Stewart, Director of Pestpro Bird Solutions, said, “We have a full set of RAMS for our operations currently. We have increased our public liability insurance to £10,000,000 and are covered to carry out all our normal services along with ULV disinfecting, where required.

“Pestpro Bird Solutions is helping its clients, new and old, to be able to combat public health issues. We’ve noticed an increase in pest species due to the lack of food sources, plus the rising temperature, which means increasing insect activity.

“Staff are not required to work if that is their wish.

“Thanks to BPCA for all their support during the coronavirus pandemic.”

For their protection, staff carry all PPE necessary for all tasks that they carry out along with sanitiser gels, hand wipes and disinfectants.

Richard Stewart, Pestpro Bird Solutions

Pestpro has seven active Agrilasers operating on client sites for gull nesting control and these require monthly safety checks by the team.

Without these checks, the lasers will have to be switched off, as per regulations. This would allow the gulls to build their nests during the critical period in the breeding calendar and render the client investment in the lasers as a loss for this year.

Richard said, “Pestpro Bird Solutions has recognised that we can still operate within this environment safely by maintaining a high level of personal protection, following RAMS and generally taking great care within our operational remit.”

Cleankill Pest Control

Reduced waste collections, pest controllers being unable to carry out preventive work, food not being stored properly and empty offices could together result in a surge in public health pests say Cleankill Pest Control.

These are just some of the reasons why, says Cleankill Managing Director Paul Bates, pest controllers need to be added to the list of key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Another important reason he says is that if buildings become infested while they are unoccupied, staff will be unable to return immediately because of the health risks.

Paul explains: “We are urging all businesses, not just our own customers, to make sure preventive pest control is continued. It’s critical in places like London where pests can often move from one premise to another.

"So, for instance, many restaurants that had to close their doors with only a few hours’ notice from Government may have left foodstuffs in the premises that will attract rodents. If there are offices above, the rodents will find their way into those, and soon you will have a very expensive and complex problem to solve.”

Paul added that Cleankill is still trying to offer emergency treatment as and when required.

“I am also looking at the furloughing options, however that is not easy as at this stage we really don’t know what will happen to the pest situation going forward.

"We are already seeing situations where bin collections are not happening – so this will increase rats being seen. We are very much caught in the middle of knowing what to do at the moment.

“We are getting requests to suspend service in a lot of places which we are advising against. Pests do not know there is a pandemic and more people being at home is meaning more people are spotting the problems during the day, so we are getting a surprising number of calls.

“Several food suppliers and property management companies have stressed that as far as they are concerned pest control is a vital service – if pests get into the food chain then that could potentially add another major risk into an already fragile situation – similarly if pests build-up in domestic dwellings then infection, public health and mental health could all be affected.”

Another reason, says Paul, to keep pests under control is to limit the risk of catching other illnesses and adding to the strain on the NHS.

“As the temperatures increase, so will the flies which can carry bacteria and e-coli among other germs. It is important to keep bin areas clean to discourage flies.

“In some areas councils are collecting food waste weekly, non-recyclable rubbish every two weeks but will not be collecting recycling at all for the time being.

Cleankill recommends that all plastic meat/fish containers and tins are rinsed of residues to reduce the risk of attracting rodents and flies,” added Paul.

Householders who purchased large quantities of food prior to the lockdown are also being advised to make sure it is stored securely to avoid attracting pests.

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Tornado Pest Control

New company, Tornado Pest Control, isn’t a BPCA member. However, owner Mark is currently studying for his Level 2 Award in Pest Management with us. We thought his story of setting up a new company this year was worth sharing...

Since 2001, I have worked for a large distribution centre as the warehouse manager. From a young age, I’ve always done field sports as well as trapping moles and vermin in exchange for shooting rights.

After my reputation spread, I realised I could get paid for something I enjoyed with each job bringing new challenges while supporting homeowners and business throughout South Yorkshire.

Last August, I registered the business as limited and handed my notice in at my main job. It was a huge risk to walk away from a good salary and my work family of 18 years. But I’d been tracking numbers for four years. On paper, nothing could go wrong!

My notice was put in for January 2020, and I started doing handovers with my replacement.

I then started building up stock, purchased a new sign-written company van, installed CoSHH cabinets, had some SEO work done, invested in advertising campaigns and purchased thousands of pounds of other equipment.

I’ve also signed up for my Level 2 Award in Pest Management with BPCA and several other training courses.

All started well, then - boom! - Covid-19 hit the world. My new business is now a sitting duck with limited support available.

While I’ve worked hard with risk assessments and purchased extra PPE, it still doesn’t feel good practice to be visiting ten plus residential homes a day throughout South Yorkshire.

I don’t want to place customers, my family and myself at risk.

Taking this into account, I’m spending extra time on enquiries and have only been taking external work, or jobs I can treat externally without any contact or touchpoints internally.

We’ve been kindly asking customers to stay inside and open all gates to support the risk assessments.

All started well, then - boom! - Covid-19 hit the world. My new business is now a sitting duck with limited support available.

Mark, Tornado Pest Control

I’ve had to enter a building twice, and this was to support public health and extra measures were put in place.

One was a dentist surgery. They were closed, but were just opening for emergency extractions, so finding rats that had chewed all the equipment was devastating for them.

I stepped in to support, successfully removed all rats using a non-toxic trapping programme and blocked all entry points.

I’m turning down on average three to five jobs daily, which is having a huge impact on my new business.

It’s also not sitting right with me asking them to be placed on hold, and my reputation could also be impacted, but I can’t place my customers, family or myself at risk until the virus is under control.

We’ve had some support with mortgage payments for three months, and our bank has helped with an overdraft but, unfortunately, that’s it.

The regular updates from BPCA have been amazing, with me being on my own it’s been nice to feel a part of something bigger.

I’m looking forward to completing my Level 2 Award in Pest Management and then becoming a member.

CDP Environmental

Paula Johnson, Director of CDP, asks: what does customer service and loyalty really mean?

We pride ourselves on our customer service. That won’t change whatever the current situation.

However, we’ve been surprised at the attitude of some customers - both good and bad.

This is probably the best time any pest controller will have to be able to visit buildings. With no one in them, it certainly makes servicing easier. Some businesses will be opening up to find the remains of rodent parties for sure.

We look after many restaurants, cafes and breweries. With the enforced closures, we understand it’s a difficult time for them. We, as a company, decided to do all we can to help.

A few had the courtesy to email us and explain their situations, and we deferred payments as necessary.

Some big companies too have had to shut their doors but have advised that they would still honour their contracts with us. For that, we are truly grateful as we have staff to pay as well.

Unfortunately, some have just decided to shut up shop, cancel payments and not keep us informed while still owing money.

One even called us in for a treatment then just shut the doors saying they wouldn’t pay the bill!

We will always continue to act professionally as that is in our company ethos – we can’t legislate for others.

Communication and support is key and it is this that customers will remember after this is over.

Amicus Environmental Services

A wasp nest and an encounter with a well-respected local pest control vendor who waxed lyrical about life in pest control brought us to this point.
12 months on we’ve started up our business. The website is online, and our social media is in overdrive. What could go wrong?

Covid-19, that’s what.

We didn’t see it coming, but then it’s fair to say not many did. But despite possibly the most disruptive event globally in the last 70 years we still retain our certainty.

Why? Because we conducted our research. We had a plan which we’ve developed along the way, and we’ve executed it.

Situations change but positivity, focus and passion will always see you through and, beyond any question, uncertainty creates opportunity. Partnerships help too.

We always knew that this was about building something special and that’s why membership of BPCA was non-negotiable.

From small beginnings, as we grow and develop, we know that having advice from the BPCA team acts as a guiding hand and putsus into a stronger proposition.

The events of the last six weeks do nothing other than to confirm this.

The BPCA logo and membership become an evermore critical part of what we are. We are proud to be part of this organisation and look forward to making our contribution to it in the coming months.

This is a great industry to be involved in – challenging yet rewarding, dynamic with some truly outstanding people.

Don’t despair even in these tough times. Some people and organisations are here to help you regardless of where you are in your journey.

Source: PPC99