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Pest threats ignored at your peril

16 May 2017

The threats to any business posed by pests can often be overlooked amid pressure to balance the books, yet the consequences of inadequate or ineffective pest management can be catastrophic. Here, Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), highlights the risks and suggests steps that can be taken to ensure your company is protected

An infestation of pests has the potential to create big problems for every type of business, whatever the industry, whatever its size and wherever it’s based. In addition to the more practical risks of damage and disease, the prospect of reputational damage and ultimately loss of business should ensure the subject of pest control is never ignored. Companies that treat it as a peripheral matter or cut back on contractor costs simply to save money can end up paying a much higher price further down the line.

Damage and disease

There is, of course, an associated health risk with many pests and the threat to staff and customers should never be far from the mind. Rats, mice and birds can spread serious diseases – even common house flies and cockroaches carry a number of pathogens which can be transmitted to humans.

Not only can pests damage foodstuffs and stored goods, they can also do serious damage to the fabric and fixtures of a building. Rodents will typically chew through electrical wiring and water or gas pipes which can lead to fires, flooding and the risk of electrocution. 

They can also ruin packaging, polystyrene insulation and finished goods in-store – and an infestation of insects may cause consignments of goods to be rejected, perhaps halting production and prompting a recall of products. Contracts may also be terminated if suppliers fail to meet hygiene standards. 


Reputations can be ruined and businesses destroyed if pest activity is allowed to develop. Media and social networking sites rapidly pick up on pest infestations, throwing organisations into the limelight without always considering the facts. Remember that pests and pest activity is of general interest to members of the public and media coverage can be sudden and intense. The damage done to a reputation from an infestation can be immeasurable.


If it is your site or business, it’s probably your responsibility to deal with the control and eradication of pests.

Businesses which do not have active management programmes in place can be forced to at least control rodents by their local authority under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949. Councils can also deal with insect infestations under the terms of the Public Health Act 1936/1961. 

Companies that fail to put a robust pest management strategy in place may also discover problems with insurers, who can be reluctant to compensate damage caused by an uncontrolled infestation.

Loss of business 

Prosecutions and fines for pest-infested premises make headlines that can harm any company. Adverse publicity can have serious repercussions as lost goodwill and damaged confidence are inevitable, leading to loss of business.

Ask yourself a question: Is ignoring pest management, or letting the issue slide too far down the list of priorities, really worth the risk?

•  Be proactive. Prevention is always better than cure and regular inspections could be worth their weight in gold.

•  Know your enemy – understand the types of pests most likely to be a problem in and around your site. For example, if food, water and shelter are easily accessible, expect to see evidence of rats, mice and problem birds. There are several tell-tale signs of an infestation including droppings, unpleasant odours, scattered nesting materials and damage to premises.

•  Prevention – Tidy up storage or food areas, cut back on clutter, manage all waste disposal carefully and keep vegetation around buildings short and tidy.

•  Risk Management. Pests are incredibly difficult to deal with at times and the treatment of some species requires skill and training learned and perfected over many years. Acknowledge your limitations.

•  Call in the experts.  Businesses that carry out their own pest management or choose pest control companies based purely on headline costs are doing themselves few favours. Only by appointing a reputable, professional company which employs only fully qualified technicians can they be assured of a safe, effective and legal service. Good contractors will regularly inspect premises and recommend improvements in housekeeping and proofing measures.

Every company allied to the BPCA must ensure all technicians are fully trained to a specific industry standard and must also meet strict criteria designed to promote best practice throughout Europe. Certification by the Confederation of European Pest Management Associations (CEPA) means companies appointing a contractor affiliated to the BPCA can be confident of a professional service.

Professional approach

Professional pest control provides protection from the risks of pest-borne contamination and damage by pests. 

A comprehensive pest control contract covers preventative measures, management reporting procedures, accountability and a documented system of measures which provide appropriate evidence for the defence of ‘due diligence’ against prosecution and its consequences. 

Professional pest controllers also provide the necessary documentation and risk assessment for employers to meet the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH). 

In short, a professional pest control contract ensures you have no infestation problems – and that you stay that way.

Companies considering their options when it comes to appointing a pest control contractor should consider the following six steps to success:

  • The ability of the contractor to carry out a full survey of the premises and present a clear report, with action points, recommendations and a firm quotation of costs.
  • Evidence of adequate technical resources and of correctly trained and qualified service staff, supervisors and management. Membership of the BASIS PROMPT register acts as independent proof of professional credentials. It’s effectively a list of managers and technicians with a recognised pest control qualification who agree to abide by a written code of professional ethics and can prove that their technical knowledge is up to date. Members must obtain at least 20 CPD points each year to remain on the register. 
  • The capacity to provide proofing and other preventative measures such as advice on housekeeping, storage, waste disposal, cleaning and the detection and monitoring of pest populations. 
  • Reporting procedures giving clear accountability on both sides. 
  • Clear contract terms to specify the pests to be covered, frequency of visits, responsibility for preventative measures, arrangements for extra treatments or emergency call-outs.
  • Proof of adequate public liability, product liability and employers’ liability insurance cover.

A final word of warning – ignoring the advice of a professional would not be appreciated by an Environmental Health Officer if they were alerted to a complaint by a customer.