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Get Staff On Board with IPM
by Zia Siddiqi, PhD, BCE
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series of articles that provide a practical approach to various pest control topics.
Food processing plants—large and small—are hard to run on your own. But you don’t have to be alone in the fight against pests.
Consider soliciting help from staff members to help facilitate your facility’s pest management program. After all, more eyes looking out for pests will increase the likelihood of spotting a problem before an infestation sets in. Beyond reporting pest activity, your staff can actually play a role in the pest management program itself once they understand how their day-to-day responsibilities can help support your overall Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This will push your facility even closer to the goal of IPM: Preventing pest activity proactively, rather than reactively, by promoting regular facility maintenance and stringent sanitation to diminish the food, water, and shelter pests need to survive.
To teach staff about pest management and get them on board with your facility’s pest management program, keep the following five steps in mind.
1. Take every chance to learn. Pest management is an ongoing cycle of activities that includes continuous monitoring and periodic reevaluation of the facility’s program. This means that, as pest activity changes, there is a chance for you and your staff to learn the science behind pests and the treatment options that can help manage the problem. But before going that far in-depth, learning the basics is essential. Ask your pest management professional to provide onsite IPM training for staff
to ensure they understand the importance of proactive pest prevention. In addition, request your pest management professional provide educational materials like tip sheets that employees can refer to after the training session. Professional associations, such as the International Association for Food Protection and International HACCP Alliance, may also be able to share educational resources if the pest management professional is not capable of doing so. Don’t forget to teach staff about the signs of pest activity you look for every day—such as droppings, gnaw marks, and rub marks—so they can play a part in catching pest issues at the start.
2. Establish a focus on “hot spots.” Each food manufacturing facility has pest “hot spots,” which are internal and external areas that both provide conducive conditions and are prone to pest activity. Hot spots for food processing facilities often include floor drains, loading docks, and food storage areas. Exterior walls with even the thinnest of cracks and crevices pose a threat to the building, as pests like cockroaches need just 1/16 of an inch to crawl into the facility. Request staff members keep a close eye on their surroundings so they can help point out any and all sanitation and maintenance issues that may give pests an “in” to the building. If any issues are identified, work with your pest management professional to resolve the problem through exclusion techniques, a stringent sanitation program, and pest treatment when needed.
3. Assign a role to each of the staff members. An exemplary pest management program has many components to help keep pests away from your property and products. Although it may seem that weaving IPM into the staff’s daily responsibilities will cause confusion, many hands can actually make for light work when it comes to pest management. Keep the complication to a minimum with staff by giving just one or two responsibilities to each person. Further, consider making those responsibilities align with the daily tasks each staff member executes, ensuring the pest prevention responsibilities are within their comfort zone. At the same time you assign the responsibilities to staff members, also make sure to explain who they should notify if a pest issue arises.
4. Communicate well and frequently. Once everyone begins to play their assigned role in the facility’s pest management program, be sure to establish open lines of communication from you to your staff to your pest management professional. Without effective, frequent communication, discrepancies may begin to develop in your program—which can ultimately lead your facility to a reactive approach to pest issues, rather than a proactive one. By building a positive relationship between your staff and your pest management professional, you’ll continue reaping the benefits of your IPM program in the long run.
5. Handle each situation by following pest sighting protocol. Although you may have followed the first four steps to a “T,” there’s always a possibility pest activity will set in at the facility. Since all hands are on deck, it’s important to set a pest sighting protocol to guarantee everyone at the facility knows how to communicate pest activity to both you and your pest management professional.
- Request that at least one of the pests whether insects or rodents be caught and provided to the pest management professional for positive identification. Information on where and when the pest was seen should be shared as well.
- Let the pest management professional take the time to properly identify the insect based on its biology, behavior, and appearance. This will ensure that proper treatment methods can be recommended for your facility.
- Help the pest management professional determine where the entry point for the insect lies in order to prevent further pest penetration.
If the mentioned five steps are enforced with staff, you will see an added value to your pest management program that may not have existed before. Remember to always take the time to teach staff so everyone can enjoy the benefits of minimal to no pest activity at 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 email@example.com.