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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, December/January 2010

Controlling Pests Requires Staff Participation

Work with a pest management professional to train staff

by By Zia Siddiqi, PhD, BCE

In any food processing plant, a pest management program is only as strong as the employees who implement it. To ensure a successful pest management program, the staff should be given training about prevention of pest problems before they occur. Not only does this serve as a low-cost training opportunity in a stressed economy, but it also can save money long-term by preventing pest problems that would require costly remediation.

Many pest management providers will provide value-added staff training on integrated pest management (IPM) as part of their service program. An ongoing pest prevention cycle, IPM focuses on removing conditions that attract pests—food, water and shelter—through non-chemical techniques like sanitation and facility maintenance.

Company staff need to understand the reasons pests are attracted to the facility so they can take an active part in prevention. Many food safety standards, such as Safe Quality Food (SQF), and third-party auditors, such as AIB International, require staff training about the facility’s pest management program.

During integrated pest management training, assign roles to staff so that each person is responsible for a portion of the pest management program.

The pest management provider’s Web site usually offers access to free resources and materials. Pest management is a team effort, and your provider will be grateful for employee support in keeping pests out of your facility.

Be Proactive to Prevent Pests

A facility should implement sanitation and facility maintenance year round. These proactive measures keep a building’s interior clean and the exterior secure from pests and are a great place to start staff training about their roles in pest management. During IPM training, assign roles to staff so that each person is responsible for a portion of the pest management program. Through training, employees can help understand, identify, and prevent conditions that are conducive to pest entry and survival.


  • Regularly monitor for standing water that can accumulate in and around the facility. Repair all leaks and damaged insulation as needed. Although mice can get enough water from the food they eat, rats need a small amount of water in their diet to survive.
  • Make sure that food in employee break rooms is stored in tightly sealed containers. Dispose of waste regularly to cut down on odor and eliminate another pest food source.
  • Floor drains can be a breeding ground for flies. Use an organic cleaner to break down the grease and grime flies love to eat.
  • Pay attention to the exterior of the facility to discourage pests from approaching. Hose down or pressure wash surrounding sidewalks and parking lots to remove debris that can attract pests.


An ongoing pest prevention cycle, integrated pest management focuses on removing conditions that attract pests—food, water, and shelter—through non-chemical techniques like sanitation and facility maintenance.

Facility Maintenance

  • Use weather stripping to minimize gaps around doors and windows. Install plastic strip doors or screen doors, or add a second set of doors, to provide additional protection. Cockroaches only need 1/16 of an inch to squeeze through.
  • Inspect the facility for cracks in the exterior, and use a pencil to measure gaps. Make sure to use a weather-resistant sealant to close up any openings the pencil fits into. Rats only need a space the size of a quarter to enter the building, and mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
  • Use positive airflow—air that flows out of the building—to push pests out the door. To check your facility’s airflow, light a match near an open door. If the flame blows away from the building, the airflow is positive. Work with an HVAC professional to address any airflow concerns.
  • Landscaping techniques can also discourage pests. Trim trees and bushes so limbs are at least two feet from the sides of the building or roof. That way, pests can’t climb onto the building, and rodents have no place to hide.


Knowledgeable pest management providers can show you how to help prevent pests with simple facility maintenance techniques.
Knowledgeable pest management providers can show you how to help prevent pests with simple facility maintenance techniques.

Know Your Roles to React Quickly

When it comes to pest management, a facility can never be too prepared. To be well equipped in the event of a pest problem, identify key staff members to follow the steps below, and work with the pest management provider to train your staff. If the entire facility is aware of the processes in place, there will be no reason to panic if a pest incident occurs.

Assess the Situation

  • If pests gain entry into the facility, report the sighting immediately. Set up a protocol for pest sightings to make sure employees know how to report problems promptly.
  • Capture any insects and give them to your pest management professional for proper identification, including critical information about when and where they were found.
  • Work with a professional trained in pest biology and behavior to identify the pest correctly.
  • After a professional identifies the pest, ask staff to assist in locating where pests gained access into the facility.
  • Conduct a thorough analysis of the problem to help determine the proper treatment methods.


Monitor, Document, Communicate

  • • After resolving a pest problem, regularly monitor the facility to identify potential issues before they occur.
  • • Request that the pest management professional provide staff with educational training on pest warning signs, such as gnaw marks, droppings, and cast skins.
  • • Ask the pest management professional to review pest sighting memos during regularly scheduled visits, adjusting the IPM program based on changes within the facility.


A successful program relies on communication among you, your staff, and your pest management professional. If everyone is informed and educated about the ways to prevent pests—and react to them—your facility will be business as usual. ■

Dr. Siddiqi is director of quality systems for Orkin Inc. Reach him at For free training resources, visit Orkin University Online at under the “About Orkin” tab.



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