How to keep pests away from the workplace

Written by: Dee Ward-Thompson | Published:
Pests bring all sorts of hazards into recycling centres

Pests, especially rodents and flying insects, can be a big problem for recycling centres.

The types of materials collected and stored often have food and liquid residues and, as they are not cleaned, provide food for a variety of pests including flies, rodents and even birds.

Recycling centres have all three elements that pests need to thrive: a food source, harbourage and water. It is impossible to remove these elements, making the managing of pests very challenging. The key to successful pest management is to manage the risks and reduce the likelihood of major infestations. Due to their nature, all recycling centres will at some point have pest issues; the key is to deliver an effective response as soon as possible.

The most common challenges in recycling centres are controlling rats and flying insects, both of which can become a serious problem if left untreated. Pest problems can also have an impact on the local environment, especially if located in or close to residential areas, leading to complaints and possible media attention.

Pests are vectors for a range of nasty diseases- rats carry Weil’s disease (leptospirosis) in their urine, and houseflies can transfer a number of illnesses due to their unsavoury feeding habits. They can bring disease and contamination not only to the premises but to you and your staff, so it’s in your interests to deal with the problem quickly. Many pests can become a problem if left uncontrolled as they will spread quickly.

"Pest problems can have an impact on the local environment, especially if located in or close to residential areas"

Rodents can cause serious damage due to their gnawing habits. Their constantly growing incisor teeth require wearing down, which is achieved by gnawing items such as brick, wood and even steel. Electrical wires, gas pipes and water tanks are all easy pickings for chewing rodents, with fires in buildings often attributed to rodent infestations. It is important to read the small print of your insurance documents as they may exclude damage caused by rodents from your policy.

Rats are capable of spreading a wide number of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can have a detrimental effect on the health of both humans and animals, so control is essential. If you are located in or near a residential area, rodents can migrate to surrounding properties, causing distress to local residents, possible media involvement and even risk of prosecution if not dealt with quickly.

Flying insects can be an even bigger issue if your site is near to residential areas. Flies in large numbers can have a major impact on local environments, especially in the summer months. If you have an issue with flying insects on your site, the likelihood of them migrating to surrounding properties is high. Flying insects migrating from recycling centres to residential areas can cause distress to local residents, in some cases seriously impacting their day-to-day lives. In the summer, residents may be unable to have their windows open or sit out in their gardens due to high numbers of flies entering their property. If you are located near to food premises then this can have a major impact on food safety, even involving environmental health officers if customers complain.

So, what action can you take to help discourage rodents and flies from your site? You may already have seen rodents on your property, even if only the odd one. Always remember that rats especially are animals of habit. They like to feel comfortable in their environment, and the less it is disturbed, the better it is for rodents. So, if you have been meaning to tidy up, or have some long-standing items around the site to throw away, now is an excellent time to take action. By doing so you will start to remove areas where rodents can live, and you’ll deter them from moving into the buildings by continually modifying their environment.

"Always remember that rats especially are animals of habit"

Flies can be a bit trickier as some of the materials you may be storing, such as cans and plastic bottles, can be highly attractive to them. The key is to keep products moving as quickly as possible and to store these products indoors if possible. Monitoring flying insect numbers using sticky traps is very important as it enables species identification. There are many species of fly that can be associated with recycling centres and identification will enable targeted control measures to be put in place. Continued monitoring also gives you an early indication of a growing infestation or can provide you with data that can demonstrate you have your onsite fly control in hand – a ‘due diligence’ defence is created.

When you do get signs of rodent or fly activity, act on them as soon as possible. Problems are often made worse when sites try to deal with pest issues by themselves. There are many things you can do to reduce the risk of rodent and fly infestations, but once you have one it is crucial to bring in a professional – one who has been suitably trained and has access to the professional products needed to manage infestations.

Pest controllers using professional products for rodent control are now required to have specific training to use these rodenticides. Many professional insecticides also require the user to have training given that fly species identification requires a level of competence to get it right.

Choosing the right company with the right credentials is a critical part of the pest management on your site. Rodent and fly control is an ongoing process that needs a professional pest controller who can not only recognise early signs of infestations, but can make recommendations to help prevent issues from occurring in the first place.

There are many companies out there to choose from, and getting the right company for your site can be a challenge. To start with, check the company credentials. Make sure it has the required level of insurance, works to the pest management services standard of EN16636 and that its staff are qualified in pest management. Once you have chosen a company, you need to ensure it is actively monitoring pests on your site.

To find a professional pest control company in Britain, visit or consult to locate experts elsewhere in Europe.

Dee Ward-Thompson is the technical manager of the British Pest Control Association

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