Handling pest management

Anybody managing buildings will be aware of the unpredictable nature of pests, along with the havoc they can cause.

Grahame Turner, a stalwart of the pest control industry and technical support officer at the National Pest Technicians’ Association (NPTA), discusses methods to help ensure effective and efficient pest management at your properties.

The problem

Public health pests include rats, mice, cockroaches, feral pigeons, bedbugs, wasps, mites, moths, beetles, ants and flies. These pests can cause major problems, such as: transmission of potentially fatal diseases, electrical fires, floods, allergies, anaphylactic shock, alarm, fright, wasted food and physical damage. These issues, and their associated costs, along with legal requirements, make it extremely important for anybody responsible for properties to ensure you have effective pest management.
Pest management requires highly skilled technicians. Not only do they need to have a knowledge of the biology and behaviour of all the multitude of potential pests; they also need to know all the options of equipment to monitor and control them; and they need to know what active ingredients and formulations of pesticides will work best in each scenario (taking into account presence or absence of non-targets such as pets and children in the area, nature of substrates being treated, possibility of resistance to any of the pesticides, legislative restrictions, increasing demand for reduced pesticide usage etc.). Additionally, they must be highly safety aware, as they have one of the most dangerous jobs, involving contagious zoonoses, chemicals, allergenic dust, working from height, working in confined spaces, possible exposure to asbestos etc.
To be confident that you have effective pest management on your sites, whether that be a pro-active ongoing contract or a reactive treatment for an unexpected infestation, you need to know how best to select a suitable, dependable, quality contractor. Using a trade association member can provide reassurance, especially an Accredited Member. But, also bear in mind that pest management works most effectively when it is a partnership.

The partnership

The ideal scenario is for an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) partnership between property manager and pest control professional. IPM prioritises prevention over cure. Prevention includes habitat management to make places less attractive to pests; minimising food availability to pests through good housekeeping and waste management; and proofing buildings to prevent pest access where possible. If pests do still penetrate the building’s defences, then trapping would be the preferred control technique where feasible; with chemical control being the last resort. This principle of IPM is not only the most sensible approach, it is also a requirement of industry Codes of Practice and compliant with COSHH Regulations.

In an IPM partnership, the pest management professional would be responsible for advising the property manager on preventions required; monitoring the building for signs of pests; and carrying out any pest control operations required. And the property owner/manager would be responsible for implementing the prevention methods, which in the case of proofing, might be to contract the pest technician to carry out proofing works, or it might be to utilise pest-trained in-house maintenance workers.

Prevention methods

Appreciating common causes of infestation is a good starting point for implementing preventive controls. Repeat offenders include poor waste management practices – where waste food is accessible by pests due to overfull wheelie bins, missing drainage plugs, lids not closed. These can attract vermin to the area to feed, and they might then seek habitation within nearby buildings.

Drain imperfections can be a problem – drain and sewer damage, deterioration and mal-construction can allow rats to gain entry to buildings from sewers.

Gaps around pipes and cables are the same –  commonly, services are installed through external walls without being properly sealed in place with rodent-proof materials, which allows rodents to gnaw and/or squeeze their way into the building.

Protected ledges high up on buildings present an issue – in urban areas, these can be popular with feral pigeons for roosting or nesting.

Poor standards of food hygiene also cause a problem – food spillages around cookers and fridges can allow cockroaches to thrive.

Finally, bird nests on buildings can be a source of textile moths, carpet beetles and blood-sucking mites.

If all the above are regularly checked and, where issues found, rectified, then this can dramatically reduce the likelihood of internal infestations.

There are a wide variety of materials suitable for proofing buildings. Selection will need to take into account pest species, aesthetics and required durability. There are also materials that are totally unsuitable, like the ubiquitous expanding foam, that rodents have no problem whatsoever in nibbling through. Ensure you get expert advice on the best materials to use for each location, either from your pest technician, or from your maintenance team attending specialist training.

Monitoring & control

How can you ensure you are using a professional pest control company who are going to do effective and efficient pest control?

Here are some pointers:

Check they assess the pest risk of the specific site before making a recommendation for which pests need to be included in the contract and the visit frequency.

Check they have an Environmental Policy with ‘SMART’ objectives that are reviewed and updated each year.

Check their Health & Safety Policy has ‘SMART’ objectives.

Check their Risk Assessments and Method Statements to make sure they have thought carefully about potential hazards and how to control them.

Look at their COSHH Assessments to make sure they are appropriate.

Examine specimen treatment reports to ensure they identify root causes where possible, and list all the required details of treatments undertaken and products used, along with providing recommendations on prevention enhancements.

Ensure they have adequate professional indemnity insurance.

Make sure they are members of a CPD scheme.

Alternatively, to save you the trouble of checking all the above, you could just ask if your potential contractors are Accredited Members of the National Pest Technicians’ Association. We check all these documents and procedures, alongside multiple others, as well as carrying out physical inspections on their chemical stores and their vans, so that you can have the confidence to know they will be good.

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