This blog post looks at why pest control fumigation safety is so critical, and why shortcuts, half measures, or unregistered providers are never acceptable when conducting such a specialist service.
At Rentokil, our Health and Safety motto is “Ensuring everyone goes home safe”. Safety is the ONE thing we do not, under any circumstances, take for granted or compromise on, especially when conducting specialist fumigation work.
Rentokil Initial UK has been awarded the RoSPA Gold Award for the third year in a row in recognition of our Health & Safety capability and fantastic 2019 performance – our safest year on record! To win the prestigious award, we had to provide evidence that we operate an effective Health & Safety management system by answering key performance questions and by supporting our answers with relevant documentation.
Why safety is such a big deal:
Far too often we hear stories in the media of people becoming critically ill or lives being lost because of possible fumigant poisoning. The most recent tragedy occurred in KZN last week, where two people sadly lost their lives due to a fumigation job that was carried out incorrectly in an adjacent flat.
There has been widespread media coverage of the incident, and SAPCA released a statement to all members in which they reiterated that members of the public may also use SAPCA (The South African Pest Control Association) to validate the credibility of a pest control company and its operators. SAPCA strongly recommends that the public, real estate agents, and transferring attorneys make use of these SAPCA-registered companies to avoid the unlawful use of pesticides, fumigants, and unlicensed pest control operators.
In a previous blog, we discussed Structural Fumigation or tenting and started off by distinguishing what ‘fumigation’ is and what it’s not. This is a common misconception and the term ‘fumigation’ is often used loosely to describe a general pest treatment. Here we discuss when this hazardous application can be used, and the hazards and safety precautions associated with it
In another blog post, we asked our Senior Quality Assurance Manager all about his experience in the field of specialist fumigation and he shared a number of interesting facts about this service. Read more here.
With regard to adhering to basic protocols carrying out a specialist fumigation, or even a pest control treatment, there could be various reasons why safety protocols are not followed: time constraints, technicians not being qualified, faulty equipment, incorrect dosing or application of fumigant, or even service providers just not placing enough emphasis on precautionary and safety measures.
But the very first thing one should look out for when choosing a provider is that the company and its technicians are registered with an industry body like SAPCA (South African Pest Control Association) and technicians are qualified and in possession of a valid license (P. number) with the DALLRD.
At Rentokil, fumigation is not a service to be rushed – we do not ‘cut corners’. Our protocols around safety are focused on keeping our customers safe, our technicians safe, and ensuring that the service carried out is in line with international standards, like CORESTA for the treatment of tobacco.
Mitigating your risk
Before any treatment begins, a thorough risk assessment is completed to identify the type of treatment best suited to the pest or the reason it is required, and whether the treatment can be carried out safely.
For Rentokil, this forms the basis for how we progress with a fumigation treatment. We identify any potential hazards that could impact the success of the treatment and discuss and agree on a contingency plan for any unplanned eventualities like adverse weather conditions, or fire, floods, etc.
“Why weather?” you may ask. Phosphine gas, one of the more commonly used fumigants, is highly combustible when it comes into contact with water, so it stands to reason that this type of fumigant cannot be used in rainy weather or close to bodies of water. In either case, an alternative needs to be used as well as written into the contingency plan.
The risk assessment entails walking the entire site or area to ensure the work can be carried out safely. The fumigation area and risk areas are identified. Parts of the structure that are not in the fumigation scope need to be safe for the duration of the treatment. Any items within the premises that could possibly be damaged or cause an obstruction will be identified and the client advised to make alternative arrangements for those items. A simple example would be if there are staff working in offices in close proximity to the fumigation area, or even vehicles parked within the fumigation radius which need to be moved out of the risk area.
As with all fumigation methods, the fumigation area needs to be ‘gas-tight’ to prevent any fumigant leakage and to ensure successful fumigation. Gas measurement tools are used to ensure the correct amount of fumigant gas is inserted to be effective in eradicating the identified pest, or as required for exporting certain goods.
Gas monitoring lines are also inserted into the fumigation area. These constantly monitor gas readings, to ensure the correct amount (parts per million) of fumigant gas is administered to guarantee the efficacy of the treatment.
We use specialised gas leakage detection tools for the duration of the treatment: these identify any gas leakages, ensuring both the safety of our teams and that remedial solutions can quickly be actioned without affecting the efficacy of the treatment.
Keeping our staff safe is our number one priority and personal breathing apparatus and monitoring equipment and devices are used to ensure individual safety during the treatment – inhalation of a fumigant gas can be lethal!
There’s never just one!
Rentokil will never send just one technician to carry out a specialist fumigation treatment. We will send a team of expert technicians as per our safety protocols.
All our fumigation solutions comply with relevant legislation which includes the manufacturers’ MSDS, government regulations, pink notes, our own Global rules and regulations, and standard operating procedures which are specific to each task.
Our equipment checklists are in place to ensure that everything is in good working order before we arrive at your premises, and they are rechecked before the work commences. Local branch audits are carried out on all equipment regularly, and Global audits are carried out by our Global Category Technical Manager (Specialist Services) annually. All our measuring and monitoring tools are calibrated regularly to accurately record and monitor fumigant gas readings. Without regular calibration of equipment, the success of the treatment cannot be deemed successful.
Innovation and training
Like everything else in the world today, there is a continuous change in market trends and technology. Pests are evolving too. With our R&D department and global support structure, we continue to innovate keeping us ahead of the market (and pests!) at all times. We train and assess our technicians constantly in our monthly branch meetings and in the field, keeping them up to date with the latest technology and servicing methods.
It’s only over when it’s safe
Once a specialist fumigation job is completed, the container or structure needs to be aerated to expel all the fumigant. Constant gas measurements are taken to ensure that all the toxic fumigant gasses have been expelled and the gas readings are at an acceptable level.
Fumigation in transit
This aeration process is the reason we do not carry out fumigation in transit. There are, however, many companies that still offer this. Fumigation in transit is highly dangerous and is deemed illegal by Pest Control Associations like SAPCA (The South African Pest Control Association).
I’m sure you understand why a moving container filled with fumigant gas inside it is not a good idea. The fumigant gas is inserted, the container closed and sealed and sent on its way, only to be opened at its end destination. How can you be sure the receiver is aware of the hazards involved when opening the fumigated container? How can you be sure that the treatment was successful if no gas readings were taken during the treatment?
How safe is the unsuspecting off-loader who opens the container? If they are not a qualified pest control operator, they won’t understand the hazards involved. Will they be wearing protective breathing apparatus? What if a fumigated container onboard a vessel has a gas leak?
Safety is our watchword
There are too many unanswered questions for fumigation in transit to be a safe practice. At Rentokil, we ensure that the risk is reduced by aerating the structure or container and only once the fumigant is completely expelled will it be safe to proceed to its destination or for people to re-enter the structure.
Our experience in the field of fumigation – and particularly safety – has set us ahead in the marketplace and we look forward to providing you with safe specialist fumigation services when the need arises.