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Pest prevention is vital when buildings are empty

11 November 2020

Many businesses are looking at ways to reduce costs while their buildings are unoccupied. Paul Bates explains the importance of maintaining - or even increasing - regular pest control service visits while pests are enjoying the empty buildings.

THERE ARE reports that some businesses don’t envisage employees returning to their offices to work until early 2021 due to the risk of contracting COVID 19 and the difficulties of putting social distancing measures in place.

This means there are many buildings that are being left empty, particularly in cities like London and Bristol, and offices are becoming ‘playgrounds’ for mice and other pests. 

When each lockdown was announced there was very little time for staff to clear their desks of snacks and these have provided easy meals for rodents. Cleankill technicians have found mouse droppings on desks and half eaten bars of chocolate. This means any equipment in the vicinity could have been contaminated with mouse urine and will need disinfecting to avoid the risk of disease when workers return.

Cleankill reported a significant increase in the number of callouts from businesses when they reopened after the first lockdown and is expecting the same after the second lockdown. There was evidence that rodents were running wild around properties without any hindrance. 

For instance we visited a site in London N1 that was fairly typical of the sort of damage we are seeing. In addition to food and droppings on desks and on surfaces, we also found evidence that the mice had been using below-floor cavities, causing a potentially bigger problem. They had been entering the property using pipework in a service cupboard that is near the reception.

After calling in Cleankill, the problem at the offices in London N1 was quickly addressed. The building manager was offered an on-going preventative pest control contract to reduce the risk of future infestations. Pest control technicians have found other signs that hungry rodents are on the rampage including bait in bait boxes being completely eaten which would not normally be the case.

Alongside continuing or even increasing pest control visits, work outside to keep vegetation cut back and sites clean and tidy is equally important. This removes places where rodents can find food and safe harbourage.

Rubbish should be removed promptly and lids on containers should always be kept closed to stop rats from entering. Rats breed prolifically and quickly and infestations that start in rubbish storage areas can easily spread to nearby buildings and even residential properties.

Prevention is better than cure

Undeterred by people, pigeons and gulls have also been taking up residence in and on buildings in cities and towns. Cleankill’s team of Harris Hawks and their handlers has been hard at work deterring these pest birds from buildings, especially around London.

Prevention is always better than cure. The cost of a pest control prevention contract with regular visits is quite minimal compared to other services such as window cleaners - and there could be serious consequences if you don’t have regular pest control checks made.

If there isn’t a contract in place and a large infestation takes hold, the costs can be huge. Additional visits including emergency riddance treatments would be required to get rid of the pests and then make sure they are kept under control.

Other costs could include damage to infrastructure such as wiring and pipe work that has been gnawed by rats and mice, contaminated goods having to be disposed of, and an increased risk of fire from damaged electrical cables. Other factors you might have to consider include a delay in staff being able to resume working in the building while problems are being sorted out.

It is also worth considering that your insurance provider may decide not to pay out if you are considered to be negligent by not having a pest control contract in place which directly resulted in a fire or other damage.

The importance of legislation

Business owners should also be aware that legislation requires them to keep their buildings pest free. This includes The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 in the United Kingdom which puts a duty on local authorities to control rats and mice. The legislation grants powers to local authorities to compel landowners and/or occupiers to take action to keep land free from rats and mice.  Notice can be served requiring treatment and/or the carrying out of structural repairs or other works such as the blocking of holes in buildings and removing accumulations that might provide harbourage or sustenance for rats and mice.

For food premises, or buildings with cafeterias, re-opening could be delayed under the Food Safety Act 1990 by the issuing of closure and improvement notices, if “due diligence” pest control measures are not in place to ensure that food products are not contaminated or damaged.

A professional pest control contractor should help you to control any pest issues you might be encountering and also ensure compliance with what can seem like a mind-boggling list of other legislative requirements including:   

Animal Welfare Act 2006

Professional pest controllers are trained to carry out their work in a professional and legally approved manner that minimises distress to captured pest animals.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974)

Professional companies will provide current COSHH and Safety Data Sheets for any products the pest controllers use on your site.

Public Health Acts 1936 and 1961

Pest control helps to control all manner of vermin, including; rodents, insects and pest birds. 

Wildlife and Countryside Act

Pest control is not just about killing pests, it is just as much about ensuring non-target wildlife and the local environment are protected by using safe and approved pest control procedures that are targeted only towards the pest species.

Pest control is regarded by the Health and Safety Executive as potentially being a hazardous occupation and not just because of the chemicals and pesticides involved in the work.  

Pest controllers usually work alone and each day they may go into a wide variety of properties for the very first time. This means that they need to be trained to a high level of competence in working safely in all types of work environment and to be fully risk-aware and on the look-out for unexpected hazards such as doors which can only be opened from one side, a wasp nest just inside the loft hatch, dangerous and remotely-operated machinery.

It is advisable to ensure that your contractor has public liability insurance and employers’ liability up to at least £10million.   

Cleankill Pest Control has been providing award-winning pest control services to Brighton, Bristol, Buckinghamshire, London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, and other parts of country since 1995. The business was founded upon a desire to create a company that placed customer service, respect for the environment, care for the community, and staff development, on an equal footing with profitability. It is the only pest control company in England to hold the Investors’ in People Gold accreditation.

Cleankill Pest Control deals with ‘distress’ pests such as wasps and fleas, as well as preventative maintenance against public health pests such as mice, rats, cockroaches and pest birds. The company prides itself on fast and efficient service delivery and aims to be recognised as a market leader for innovation, ‘green’ and new pest control techniques. Cleankill is also a licensed waste remover.

Paul Bates is managing director at pest control specialist, Cleankill.

For more information visit www.cleankill.co.uk