Last reviewed 22 February 2016

Buildings are a potential haven for all manner of rodents and other undesirables. Dave Howell asks how organisations can ensure their premises are pest free.

High levels of hygiene are essential in all workplaces. Environment managers are tasked with the wellbeing of the environment of their workforces, with a pest free work space being of paramount importance. The main piece of legislation that must be adhered to is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (“the COSHH assessment”). The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 must also be complied with.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers this advice: “After considering control measures such as proofing, improvements in hygiene, environmental management, and non-chemical approaches to control (eg traps) you may conclude you still need to use a rodenticide. Before carrying out any work you should carry out an assessment, as required by COSHH.” Managers should also note that it is their responsibility to ensure their legal compliance and not the responsibility of the pest control company they may hire to carry out pest removal.

Environmental impact

Says David Cross, head of technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control: “Environment managers need to be aware that the regulations that impact on the chemicals and biocides that we use across the industry are having much more control applied to them. What this means in practice is that much of the new regulations that will impact on pest control, will pay close attention to the environmental impact they are having. So many of the chemicals we have used without tight monitoring will now have to be used for short periods under detailed control.”

Pests can become an issue for a number of reasons: One of the most common is a build-up of refuse and material for recycling. It’s important to have regular collection of this waste to ensure pests are not attracted. Employees can also be a source of pests. According to a report from Bupa, the private health insurance provider, a third of employees eat their lunch at their desks. With the inevitable food waste that is produced, this is a breeding ground for a range of pests.

As with all technical services that environment managers buy for their businesses or organisations, buying pest control services should be approached with due diligence. Ensure that pest control companies are accredited by the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA), the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) or BASIS Professional Register of Managers and Pest Technicians (PROMPT), as all these organisations provide technician training and ensure minimum levels of expertise for all members.


Pigeons can be one of the most common pest control problems that companies face. The defacing of their buildings and the toxic nature of their droppings make them a hazard that must be addressed before it becomes a chronic problem. The use of netting on any surface where a pigeon could roost is a tried and tested method of prevention. Using deterrent spikes on ledges is also effective.

AviGo gel can be applied to surfaces. This gel is non-toxic and only contains mild chilli pepper extract that transfers to the pigeon and causes mild irritation it then associates with that roosting spot. Lastly, using hawking as a deterrent is effective with Harris Hawks being the favoured hawk, as it is the natural predator of the pigeon, gull and other pest birds. Trafalgar Square has used Harris Hawks for several years, saving £100,000 in bird dropping removal costs.

Range of pests

Jake Tickle is the business development analyst at Cannon Pest Control. He was asked whether the range of pests that managers have had to deal with has changed over the years, and if so, why this is.

“The range has changed significantly. National increases in rat and mice activity due to modern building techniques, reduced local authority activity and increased food sources and harbourage through higher population densities. Over the last ten years there’s also been a resurgence of bedbugs due to increased international travel.

“In addition there are local and regional variances, such as the growing population of edible dormice in Hertfordshire and the spread of false widows from the south coast. The increased media attention and public awareness over things like gull attacks, super rats and spider scare stories is also making environmental management more crucial to organisations’ reputations.

“However, it’s not all bad news. Increased awareness and programmes such as Think Wildlife and the Second Generation Anti-Coagulant Rodenticide (SGAR) stewardship scheme are increasing professionalism across the industry and having a positive impact on the environment as a whole.”

Are environment managers looking to source pest control on an ad hoc basis, or as part of an integrated building maintenance contract?

“Managers often tend to resort to professional pest control only when an issue presents itself – by this stage an infestation is usually well established and requires significant remedial action. A recent white paper by Servest Plc found this approach can cost twice the amount of an annual integrated pest management contract for each instance of infestation.

“As with most environmental issues prevention is better than cure. As such we recommend the proactive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach and regular inspections by a professional BPCA pest controller. This will identify access, hygiene and environmental pressure points to ensure that risk is minimised and any activity is caught and treated in the early stages resulting in significant cost savings over the year.”

Environment and health

How does pest control impact on the wider environmental and health concerns that managers must also manage across their premises?

“A professional, ethical pest partner should fully support an environment manager’s wider concerns. One thing to look out for is ISO14001 accreditation, which is an internationally accepted standard that sets out a framework of essential elements for an effective Environmental Management System (EMS).

“The standard is designed to help reduce our environmental impact. Experienced technicians take a holistic approach considering the overall health of each site and its surroundings. Reporting should cover hygiene, maintenance, grounds maintenance as well as health and safety concerns as part of each visit, providing early warnings to clients before serious issues develop.”

Food and non-food environments

Do organisations need a different approach to their pest control if they are working on a food or non-food environment?

“Food environments, from traditional food processing sites through to retail units and even office kitchens can be considered high pressure sites. Pests are determined and ingenious animals; readily available food sources will be exploited. If you also provide harbourage pest populations can increase dramatically within very short timescales.”

Clearly, if environment managers/facilities managers place pest control on their day-to-day agendas this will ensure that preventive measures are always in place to remove the risk of pest infestation.

Rentokil Pest Control’s David Cross concluded: “Of course there will always have to be a zero-tolerance approach when food manufacturing sites, hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturing sites are considered. What we are all going to have to move to is a more integrated approach to include habitat management, to ensure that premises are not a suitable environment for pests to survive in. Remember the pests could be a symptom of a much larger problem environment managers may have to contend with.”

Vigilance is as always important to identify any pressure areas before they become the focus for pests. And when buying pest control services, paying attention to qualification and accreditation will lead managers to highly qualified professionals.