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Can you afford to fail at preventive pest control?

Closed business

It has certainly been quite a week. As I was heading home to write this very blog someone crashed their motorbike in front of me. They were thrown across the bonnet of my car, smashing their head into my windscreen. Thankfully, he was able to get up. Of course, he then ran away because the motorbike was stolen and he was doing well over 40 mph in a bus lane during restricted hours. My car’s windscreen isn’t in a good way but, whatever I may feel about his behaviour, at least it wasn’t life threatening. I can only hope this is the wakeup call he needs.

It’s hard to fathom what was going through his head (nearly my car?). To some extent, we all take chances in life but most of us try to moderate the risk. Thankfully, the person who hit my car was wearing a helmet, otherwise I doubt he would have been in a state to move after his head impacted on my windscreen.

What I was actually planning to write about was preventive pest control. At first sight, this may seem like a non sequitur – motorbike accident and pest control. However, the truth is, as with a lot of life, this is all about risk mitigation. If he hadn’t been riding dangerously on an unfamiliar motorbike in a place he shouldn’t have been, then the chances are he wouldn’t have hit my car. Luckily, he was wearing a helmet, so the risk of permanent brain damage was mitigated.

Prevention

What prompted me to think about preventive pest control was a story in the news about a small, local supermarket chain in the West Midlands that has just been fined £480,000 after mouse infestations left faeces in their food. On top of this, they also had to pay £60,000 for food safety offences and costs of £16,191.20.

As a business owner, you do have to ask yourself, could you afford £556,191.20? In this case, no, because all their shops are now shut.

Every day, the newspapers have stories of restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets being fined over breaches to health and safety legislation. A quick Google search produces a Turkish restaurant being fined £12,000 and an East London supermarket getting a £63,000 fine. What made the West Midlands story stand out to me was the size of the fine.

Cutting costs – the right way

Very few businesses can survive a fine like that. You can imagine the conversation that was had a few years ago:

  • “We need to make sure our business is safe and pest free.” 
  • “Yes, but pest control will cost us £XXXXX a year and we don’t want people interfering in our business.” 
  • “Pest control is only laying a few traps; we can do that.”

Fast forward six months and no one has checked the bait boxes or surveyed the building to see if there are signs of pest activity. Pest control has slipped from the memory – they dealt with that six months ago.

Preventive pest control isn’t magic. You don’t just put a trap down and then miraculously your business is pest-free for eternity. If you want to mitigate the risk of an infestation, then preventive pest control is an ongoing part of your whole business structure.

And I do understand the thought process. After all, I have been running a multi-site business through a pandemic. It is very tempting to try to cut costs but, the truth is, as the level of these fines shows one area where you can’t afford to cut costs is in pest control because the impact of an infestation can be terminal.

Legislation

All businesses have a duty of care to their employees, customers and other stakeholders. Even if your business isn’t directly related to food – i.e., you are not a restaurant, hotel, etc. – but you have a cafeteria or food area for your staff, then you are under the scope of the Food Safety Act 1990. This requires ‘due diligence’ in terms of food safety measures – a central part of which is pest control.

As business owner or manager, you may think you know your property and could second guess where pests might be getting in. Over the years I met many talented businesspeople but very few, if any, are brilliant at running their business and then also have expertise to do a completely different job such as pest control. Don’t underestimate the skill, expertise and knowledge of a qualified pest control technician. Plus, on top of that, there is also a mind-boggling array of legislative requirements to which your business must conform in relation to pests:

  • Animal Welfare Act 2006 – pest control must be carried out in a legally approved manner to minimise distress when capturing pest animals
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974) – chemical use must be controlled and the appropriate paperwork (COSHH and Safety data Sheets) provided for any product used on your site. Indiscriminate use of pesticides can have a catastrophic impact on the local environment and can potentially endanger children and pets.
  • Public Health Acts 1936 and 1961 – it is a statutory obligation to protect employees and other stakeholders from vermin, including rodents, insects and pest birds
  • Wildlife and Countryside Act – some animals are protected. If you allow non-professional pest control on your site this could endanger protected species (for example, bees and bats).

Protecting your business

As a bike rider, you wear a helmet to protect you head in the event of an accident. You don’t want the accident, but you wear the helmet ‘in case’. Even a thief recognises that the risk of blunt trauma to the head is permanent and not worth the chance.

In a business environment where there are multiple demands on finance, it is very easy to tell yourself the risk of a pest infestation is just a couple of mice and, if that happens, you can either buy some traps or call in a pest control company.

If that were true, then not paying for a preventive pest control contract would make sense. But it is not true. The risk is the potential closure of your business, damage to your professional reputation (vital in food-based industries), and possible half million-pound fines that could see you lose your home as well as your business. If you see saving money on pest control as akin to not wearing a helmet as you race along a motorway, then you will no longer see it as a risk taking.

Go to www.cleankill.co.uk for more information and email [email protected] for a free pest control survey or cost comparison.