Recruit your staff for pest prevention

by Zia Siddiqi
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If there’s one thing you need to know in order to protect your facility from pests, it’s that you cannot do everything on your own — you can’t win alone. That’s why you need to find star recruits to help you succeed. And the great part about this type of recruiting is that it isn’t as hard as you may think. You don’t have to search far and wide for the perfect team — you already have all the recruits you need at your facility.

Each member of your staff has a specific assigned role to play, and multi-faceted programs like pest management call for the joint participation of several departments and employees. So, if you haven’t already, be sure to recruit your staff members across all departments to accept the challenge of securing a win against pests.

Six key drills

A team approach is integral to accomplishing pest management success, which means you should run the right drills to train your team on their roles in pest prevention. There are six key drills you should teach — and practice with — your team if you want to keep pest activity at your facility to a minimum.

1. Communication. For any team effort to work well, communication must be free flowing and uninhibited. This is the only way that everyone will be on the same page regarding your pest management plan. This type of frequent communication will also help to keep your pest management decisions proactive rather than reactive, which is the best strategy for any pest prevention ploy.

2. Assigned roles. As already mentioned, pest management programs are multifaceted. To avoid confusion among your team as to who should handle which task, assign each person specific pest management roles based on their daily responsibilities. For example, staff members who handle sanitation at the facility should monitor for any liquid or product spills and strong odors that may attract pests. After you assign these roles, your staff will know the exact team members to contact should a pest issue arise.

3. Pest sighting protocol. No matter how exceptional a pest management program may be, there is always a chance for pests to break through the barrier. If this happens, your team needs to know how to respond. Ensure you have protocol for pest sightings in place at your facility and consider these steps for your staff to follow if they need to report pest activity:

a. Catch one or more of the pests for your pest management professional so they can determine the type of insect that is active on your property. Also provide information on when and where the pest was seen. Proper identification is critical.

b. Be patient while the pest management professional properly identifies the pest according to its biological characteristics, appearance and behavior.

c. Provide assistance to your pest management professional as they determine how pests found a way inside the facility.

4. Conducive conditions. Pests become extremely comfortable in food processing facilities that offer conducive conditions for them to live and reproduce. Examples of conducive conditions include standing water, excessive condensation, improper drainage and humidity. Hidden building openings like holes or gaps in roofs, walls or the foundation also offer easy access for pests. Deny access to the pests. Have your team work with your pest management professional to eliminate these conditions through facility maintenance, as well as establish proper ventilation and climate control indoors.

5. Hot spots. No matter how tidy your facility is pest “hot spots” will still exist. These hot spots are areas both inside and outside your building that are in constant danger of being penetrated by pests. Ask your team to be on high alert at all times to pinpoint any sanitation or maintenance issues that will give pests a way inside. Hot spots include, but are not limited to, loading docks, doors, windows, exterior walls and employee break rooms, where they find the food, water and shelter they need to survive.

6. Ongoing education. The best way for you to begin training your team is to schedule staff training through your pest management professional. The training will cover the basics of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a strategy that should serve as the foundation of your pest prevention program. IPM focuses on eliminating pest attractants through sanitation, exclusion and facility maintenance, using chemical pest treatments only as a last resort, to keep pest activity to a minimum on your property. In addition to working with your pest management professional to offer on-site IPM training for your staff, ask for educational materials to share with your employees such as tip sheets that teach best practices in pest prevention. If your pest management professional cannot provide educational resources, consider contacting professional associations that have a vested interest in educating staff members about food safety and pest management. For example, the International Association for Food Protection, International HACCP Alliance and GEAPS are three organizations that offer resources you can use. It’s important that you remember the necessity of education. Without it, your staff will not be able to play an active role in your pest management program.

Once your employees understand the basics of IPM and learn their role in your facility’s pest management program, they will be able to help you and your pest management professional catch pest problems before major damage happens. So if you haven’t started already, get out there, recruit your staff and arm them with the knowledge to win the fight against pests.