People are often amazed at the variety of ways pests can end up inside premises. 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 and pigeons will find gaps in roof tiles, explains Paul Bates, managing director, Cleankill Pest Control
Successful pest control is the result of shared responsibility. Cleaning staff who are on site every day can act as the eyes and ears for pest control staff who, depending on the contract, might only be on site once a month as part of a prevention contract. This helps to make sure pest infestations are identified as early as possible and dealt with. For instance, there might be an unexplained increase in the number of flies in a room which could simply be cluster flies – or the insects may indicate that there is a dead rat carcass in the void under the floor.
Experienced pest controllers can often identify a type of pest by smell as many pests leave behind distinctive scents. Cleaners should be trained to report unusual smells and also new noises – for instance large cockroach infestations can result in scratching noises being heard.
During my 30 years in pest control I’ve experienced relationships with cleaning companies that have been a real partnership and we’ve advised cleaning companies to change certain practices and routines to help reduce the risk of pest infestations. We’ve also actively trained cleaning staff so they can try to identify different pests.
A simple example of a routine that we have successfully helped to change in customers’ premises is switching from emptying bins in offices to evening rather than early morning. Foodstuffs put in bins by office staff during the day and not emptied until the next morning feed pests throughout the night. Remains in a crisp packet are a tasty meal for mice and apple cores in a bin provide a nice breeding ground for fruit flies.
Cleaning staff in general should be made more aware, through training, about the hazards of pest infestations. For instance, if they are cleaning where there is evidence of mice, the urine from the rodents won’t be visible and they could unknowingly contaminate nearby areas by spreading bacteria. This is particularly important in food production, storage and serving areas where staff should be on the lookout for droppings or other signs such as damaged packaging. Cleanliness is key as is storing foodstuffs in sealed containers and pest-proof store rooms.
No establishment can ever be guaranteed pest free. Modern building features like stud partitioning, breeze blocks, false flooring and service voids often create the perfect harbourages for pests. German cockroaches can hide behind doors, in kitchens, behind and under cookers, sinks and kitchen units.
The presence of rats around premises poses an immediate risk of contracting Leptospirosis. Left unchecked an infestation will increase in size and extent and, once established, rats will explore their surroundings with enhanced confidence.
There is the added risk of people being bitten by different types of insects and mammals and stress caused by the physical presence of pests. Occasionally we’ve had calls about female staff being bitten below the knee and it has turned out not to be insects but microscopic fibres from the carpets that have caused a reaction by penetrating the skin, or static electricity causing pores to shut and giving a similar reaction to insect bites. In these cases we’ve been able to advise the cleaning company to use an anti-static spray.
Giving staff formal pest awareness training is a win-win for facilities managers and cleaning contractors. This includes specialist cleaners like window cleaners who need to be made aware of the hazards caused by bird droppings, particularly pigeon waste.
Pest control and cleaning services in one contract, often called ‘bundling’ – sometimes with landscaping too – is an approach that should be avoided. Poor cleaning practices and untidy landscaping work can lead to pest infestations and this can lead to conflict and complications. Working together but with separate contracts is always the best solution.
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 harbour and reproduce undisturbed.
Top tips to help stop infestations:
- Don’t accept the ‘bundling’ of contracts by your purchasing department
- Arrange training for all cleaning staff by your pest control company
- Change to night-time bin emptying
- Arrange for cleaning operatives and pest control technicians to meet regularly to share information.