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Unwelcome visitors

Paul Bates, Managing Director of Cleankill Pest Control, offers practical advice on keeping your premises free from pests

When it comes to pest control, FMs should never rest on their laurels. A mouse can get in through a gap the width of a pencil, cockroaches can be brought in on cardboard packaging, fleas may be picked up on public transport, pigeons will make the most of those wonderfully designed architectural ledges on the outside of buildings – and flies will just fly in.

Your pest control contract may be a relatively small part of your overall budget compared to other costs, but it’s still important to choose a competent provider. In particular, FMs need to ensure that cleaning staff and pest control companies work closely together so that pest infestations are identified as early as possible. Cleaning operatives should be receptive to advice to change their practices if this helps to reduce the risk of pests.

A simple example is switching from emptying office bins in the early morning to the evening. Foodstuffs put in bins by office staff during the day which are not emptied until the next morning feed pests throughout the night. Crumbs in a crisp packet are a tasty meal for mice, and apple cores in a bin provide a breeding ground for fruit flies.

Cleaning staff in general should be made more aware, through training, about the hazards of pests. For instance, if they are cleaning where there is evidence of mice, the urine from the rodents won’t be visible and cleaners could unknowingly contaminate nearby areas by spreading bacteria. Asking your provider to deliver formal pest awareness training to staff is a win-win for facilities managers and cleaning contractors. This includes specialist operatives like window cleaners, who need to be made aware of the hazards caused by bird droppings – particularly pigeon waste.

Normal pest control contracts for standard premises will include a minimum of eight inspections a year. Factories producing high-risk food or manufacturing pharmaceuticals will require more frequent visits. The inspections should include all common areas, such as plant rooms, basements, riser cupboards, car parks and landscaped areas – all of the areas where pests could shelter and reproduce undisturbed. Of course, as always with outsourcing, you get what you pay for. Providing a quality service with properly trained and equipped staff is not cheap, so expect to pay a fair rate.

Heated buildings in winter are highly attractive to various visitors. Most creatures will seek warmth and take advantage of any available heating source. The presence of rats around a premises poses an immediate risk of people contracting leptospirosis. Left unchecked, an infestation will spread, and once established, rats will explore their surroundings with enhanced confidence. Cockroaches too may become more visible during winter, and they can easily be brought inside by staff or couriers on cardboard packaging.

Pigeons move in closer to buildings in winter, which is the perfect time to check that your bird netting is secure and can cope with the season’s wind and rain. If birds are trapped, it’s important to retrieve them safely and minimise the stress caused to the animals. If the birds are dead, they require proper disposal by a registered company. Once any trapped pigeons have been removed, it’s important that repairs are carried out quickly and safely by a professional pest control company.

Ideally, when the netting was installed your pest control company should have offered an inspection contract. This means that it’s the pest control company’s responsibility to regularly check the netting and make any necessary repairs. It’s worth checking your contractor is adequately insured, has health and safety procedures in place, is a licensed waste carrier and a member of the British Pest Control Association, as bird work can be very dangerous.

Pest controllers use a variety of bird-proofing techniques including Harris’s hawks, nets, sprung wire systems, bird spike repellents and Bird-Free gel to discourage birds from landing on buildings. With pigeons now breeding four or five times a year, compared to two or three times 20 years ago, their numbers are increasing dramatically. If a gap in the netting goes unnoticed and a pair of pigeons gets through and into a roof space, in a matter of months there can be hundreds of birds living there, resulting in the floor being covered with fouling up to a foot deep.

Pigeons carry more diseases than rats. They nest on their faeces and attract mites. Nearly all pigeons carry bird mites – tiny insects that feed off the bird and make humans itch and scratch. Pigeon fouling and nest materials also provide a home for many other insects, such as clothes moths, carpet beetles and mealworm beetles. Pigeon fouling, when it is dry, is especially hazardous to humans as it creates airborne bacteria affecting anybody who’s susceptible to asthma and breathing difficulties.

Finally, a pest control contractor should be experienced in the use of pesticides and, where possible, should use non-toxic pest control methodology. When choosing a provider ensure the company is a member of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), and ideally, is approved to ISO9001 and ISO14001.

About Sarah OBeirne


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