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How to Know if a Pest Management Company is the Right Fit
by Zia Siddiqi, PhD, BCE
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a five-part series of articles that will provide a practical approach to various pest control topics.
W hen you’re interviewing candidates for a position at your facility, you make sure to ask plenty of questions to see if they’re competent and compatible, right? And you do it because it’s important to ascertain what type of quality and performance you can expect from the candidates if they are hired.
But what do you do when searching for a pest management provider? Do you simply choose the most affordable option? Do you automatically go with the most popular brand in local area? Or, do you treat the situation as you would treat an interview with a candidate for a job opening—asking the right questions to determine whether the company is a good fit for your facility?
Every pest management company is unique, offering different services and products to food processing facilities. However, there are six important questions you should ask while meeting with pest management company representatives to ensure their work will address your needs and exceed your expectations. They include the following.
1. Are your pest management solutions customized based on the customer’s situation? To put it shortly, a “one-size-fits-all” solution to pest management for food processing facilities does not exist. Facility managers should understand that pest management solutions must be customized based on the size of the facility, type of pests, and severity of pest activity. If the pest management company does not customize treatment programs based on the facility’s specific needs (by conducting an initial assessment), then that raises a huge red flag. Further, pest management companies should have technicians that thoroughly understand pest behavior and how to manage pest activity. This means science plays a major role in the creation of effective treatment programs. If the solution doesn’t have a foundation in science, you may want to consider another pest management company.
2. Do your pest management programs take a proactive or reactive approach? Facility managers should remember a proactive approach to pest management is the key to establishing a safe food processing environment. By proactively performing facility maintenance procedures and implementing a sanitation regime, your facility will have already taken a large step toward preventing pest activity. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach that focuses on proactive and preventive measures, limiting conditions conducive to pest infestations. IPM also reduces the need for traditional chemical-based treatments. A true IPM program should be dynamic, rather than static. If the pest management provider only begins treating a pest infestation after it has taken root, rather than proactively working to prevent pest activity in the first place, it may be in your best interest to continue the search for a provider.
3. Do you provide documentation that details every service visit and action taken to manage pest activity? This year, the FDA announced a major change to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). A new rule under FSMA will require facilities to develop and execute written food safety plans that detail likely hazards, corrective actions, results, and more. As facility managers, it’s important for you to understand that the pest management professional should be completing thorough documentation of the service visits and enforced solutions. A copy of this documentation should remain onsite at the facility at all times in case an inspector is auditing.
4. Do you offer third-party audit support? Pest management plays a major role in third-party audits. In fact, up to 20 percent of the total audit score is attributed to the success of the pest management program. Along with providing thorough documentation of every service visit and corrective action, your pest management professional should work with you to ensure those documents are in proper order and presentable for auditors to review. It would also be helpful for your pest management provider to offer step-by-step assistance in regard to what you can expect from—and how you can prepare for—the third-party auditor based on complying food safety standards. For example, three common third-party audit standards for food processing facilities are Safe Quality Food (SQF) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) scheme, and the American Institute of Baking (AIB).
Do you treat your search for a pest management provider as you would treat an interview with a candidate for a job opening?
5. How do you guarantee your pest management professionals comply with company standards? Ensure the pest management professionals who service your facility are performing in a manner that complies with company standards. Look for a provider that monitors their pest management professional in one way or another, whether through internal performance reviews or audits. This process helps to certify that your pest management program is being implemented in the most effective and efficient way possible.
6. Will your team help to educate staff members about their role in the pest management plan? Part of building a great relationship with a pest management provider is working on establishing a true partnership. Your provider should go above and beyond routine service visits and treatments. A provider should also take the time to educate your employees about the role they play in the facility’s pest management program. During your meetings with potential providers, ask if they offer staff trainings or educational materials such as tip sheets, checklists, and informational pamphlets to help your staff put pest management into perspective.
If the pest management provider can answer each of these questions affirmatively, you’ll be on the right track to finding a suitable team for your facility.
Dr. Siddiqi is director of quality systems for Orkin, LLC. A board certified entomologist with more than 30 years in the industry, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Dr. Siddiqi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: The previous article in this series is "Preparing for a Third-Party Food Safety Audit."