We all take chances in life but most of us try to moderate the risk. If you ride a bike, you wear a helmet; if you go rock climbing, you use ropes to stop you falling to the floor. Whatever we do in life, if there is risk, the sensible person tries to mitigate that risk.
What prompted me to think about risk mitigation and preventive pest control was a story in the news about a small, local supermarket chain in the West Midlands that had just been fined £480,000 after a mouse infestation left faeces in their food. 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.
This doesn’t just go for supermarkets, it also applies to restaurants, takeaways, cafeterias in factories, in fact, any business. It doesn’t have to have a food basis, but of course food is a major temptation for pests and a more significant risk.
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.
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 the 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.