Alison Lowerson, QCS Policy Manager outlines why health and social providers need effective pest control management procedures, especially in the summer.
The Walt Disney film ‘A Bug’s Life’ is an animated action adventure comedy drama about a variety of insects, but there’s often more drama than comedy when it comes to real bugs, especially when they become pests in health and social care settings.
The National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021: Pest Control, which applies to all healthcare settings such as acute hospitals, mental health, community, primary care, dental care, ambulance trusts, GP surgeries and clinics, and care homes, explains that pest control and management is essential for safe and hygienic healthcare facilities.
Pest activity can pose unacceptable risks to patients, service users, staff and visitors, undermine reputation and public confidence, and damage the environment and food products. Many pests are more common during warm summer months. Therefore, providers must have effective and appropriate pest control management procedures and systems in place.
Different sites, environments and geographical areas will have different common pest issues, but the most common pests include:
- Rodents – mice and rats
- Crawling insects – ants, fleas, cockroaches, silverfish, bed bugs
- Flying Insects – wasps, bees, hornets, moths, flies
- Birds – pigeons
However, the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) explains “there are many species of wasp, bee and hoverfly that are not classed as pests and are unlikely to pose a risk to health. And even species that are considered to be pests, such as common wasps, can still be safely left alone if they are not in a place where they are likely to come into conflict with people.”
Nevertheless, “a nest near a high-traffic area can cause a problem and it is recommended that a pest management professional is contacted for advice. Wasp, hornet and bee stings can cause a medical emergency, such as anaphylaxis, and should be treated urgently.”
The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) has a list of the most common public health and nuisance pests to enable members of the public to make an educated choice when considering pest control.
Where pest concerns exist, contractors or specialist personnel should carry out surveys or detailed inspections to identify factors that may be contributing to, or sustaining, pest control issues or infestations.
Where professional pest control has been called to deal with a problem, the pest control service should complete detailed risk assessments to determine the most favourable treatment option for pest infestation and what control measures will be put in place. They should:
- Use appropriate pesticides and methods of work/application that comply with all relevant health and safety legislation and best practice
- Provide full details of all pesticides and other products to be used, as well as how they will be used
- Provide COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) data sheets relating to all pesticides used, risk assessments and method statements (RAMS)
- Keep all equipment and goods safe and under control, with all pesticides’ containers clearly and correctly labelled
- Create a physical barrier or display appropriate signage/warning notices where insecticidal dusts have been used, barring entry until products and contaminants have settled
How to minimise pest control
Service providers should promote staff compliance with good housekeeping practices to help limit pest control incidents and issues. Food and drink waste and debris are a significant contributory factor and must be removed as a priority.
The main ways to minimise pest control incidents and issues include:
- Keeping internal and external waste areas clean and free from spillages, and ensuing waste receptacles are fit for purpose
- Keeping food preparation and service areas clean and tidy, using a ‘clean as you go’ approach
- Storing food in pest-proof sealed containers, with food waste and spillages dealt with and disposed of promptly and appropriately
- Ensuring pest control fully complies with local infection prevention and control policy and procedure in relation to reportable infestations, for instance, ‘human carrier’ pests such as fleas, mites and lice
Information about pest control and management, along with a useful checklist, has been added to the QCS Infection Control Policy and Procedure.