23 February 2018

Pest Control in the hospitality industry according to the Hygiene Doctor

Guest blog | PestAware

Pest control is very important to the hospitality industry. Failure to control pests can lead to serious legal consequences including the closure of the premises, fines and prosecutions, and catastrophic drops in food hygiene rating scores; all of which can lead to poor publicity and sales plummeting.

 Pest control in the hospitality industry

In my work, I am often asked to examine legal cases where pest control has gone horribly wrong. When examining the paperwork it usually becomes very clear that the main issue has been lack of communication between all parties, from the pest control company right up to head office.

Often business owners may feel that by engaging a pest control company that they have sorted out pest issues in the building, but it is far from the truth. 

A joined-up approach is absolutely essential, and in particular, everybody needs to know what their roles and responsibilities are in relation to pest control: pest control is actually everybody’s responsibility.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner

In my work helping businesses who have fallen foul of the law, I am struck by the simple fact that prevention is better than cure - we all know that but sadly if businesses don’t take preventive action the consequences can be devastating. In terms of prevention, businesses need to consider the three important components of pest control:

  • constantly be aware of the need to remove all sources of food – pest-proof containers for loose food, removing all spillages and food debris, and cleaning
  • remove all sources of harbourage internally and externally
  • ensure that the building is pest proof - many people don’t realise that mice can get through the tiniest of gaps.

When engaging a pest control company, it’s essential that all parties are totally clear about where their responsibilities lie. In particular, assess how escalation can take place rapidly to address any issues.

Handwritten pest control reports left on site in a multisite business will not reach area managers, regional managers or head office unless there is a system to ensure that they do get passed up the chain. Area and regional managers’ checks must always include an assessment of the pest control reports. There must be a system to “red light” those businesses who are at risk, and need help to control a pest situation.

Head office needs to be aware immediately if there is an imminent risk of danger to health so that action can be taken – which may include shutting the premises temporarily to protect customers (and the business from enforcement risk). Believe me, shutting the premises for a few days as soon as you have a problem is a lot cheaper than going down the enforcement route, where closure may be the action taken anyway.

 Rats and the hospitality industry

How do you stop your business getting a fine for inadequate pest control?

When assessing what fines are applied, courts are now using the Sentencing Guidelines which take into account:

  • Harm – what is the risk of harm to the customer from the pest infestation?
  • Culpability – what did the business do to put the problem right (a bit like due diligence)?
  • Turnover – what is the annual turnover of the business?

These factors are put into a matrix which determines the range of fine that could be applied; which can be in the 1000s or even millions of pounds.

Time and time again, it becomes very clear that businesses have not put into place a hierarchy of control which covers measures to take and responsibilities in relation to pest issues. They are basically floundering in the dark. So, my personal advice to businesses, whatever the size, is to carry out a pest control forensic audit.

How to protect your business with a pest control provision

Imagine the worst has happened, and an EHO has carried out an inspection as a result of a customer complaint of sighting a mouse running around a restaurant. What would you be able to say in your defence? Check out whether any of the below would let you down in your defence or mitigation:

  • Pest control contract (preferably a BPCA member) and your client contract management
  • Food Safety Management System
  • Staff training
  • Job descriptions and responsibilities
  • Internal checks – unit, area, regional
  • External audits
  • Action taken if there is a problem
  • Emergency policy – what to do if there is a problem
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Co-ordination with building maintenance contractors or team.

Find a local BPCA member

If you haven’t got the expertise to do this in the house, enlist the support of a reputable consultancy company to give you an external assessment and when choosing a pest control company it is advisable to choose one that is a member of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA).

Find a BPCA member

Prevention is so important to reduce the risks of pest infestation occurring in the first place but making sure you have a watertight system will pay dividends in the event of a problem and will mean that you can respond rapidly and effectively, reducing the risks to your business.

The BHA Catering Industry Guide gives advice on compliance and best practice in relation to food hygiene legislation; currently, the BHA is working on a guide to pest control in multi-unit sites in collaboration with the BPCA.

About the author

Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner Dr Lisa Ackerley is an independent safety consultant providing advice and support to most food industry sectors and to the mass media on food safety issues.

She is the Food Safety Adviser, British Hospitality Association, visiting Professor of Environmental Health at Salford University and has lectured on the MSc Environmental Health Course at Kings College, University of London. She is also a Professorial Fellow of the RSPH. Lisa is passionate about spreading the message about food safety in easy practical terms, to allow everyone to understand how simple it is to get hygiene right.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, Food Safety Adviser, British Hospitality Association

the hygiene doctorDr Lisa Ackerley
thehygienedoctor.co.uk @HygieneDoctor

23 February 2018  |  PestAware

Source: PestAware

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