Understanding Pest Control

Understanding Pest Control

Understanding Pest Control

What is Pest Control?

What springs to mind when you hear the word pest? A mouse or rat that’s gnawed its way into your home looking for shelter? The family of gulls that appears to have set up home on your factory roof?

Pests are any insects, rodents, or birds that invade your home or business and cause damage to property, stock, and machinery, as well as posing a serious risk to health and safety.

Pest control is the prevention or removal of pests from your home or commercial property using deterrents, repellents, or other means of elimination. 

So why would you consider pest control?

Nobody wants to share their family home with pests that cause damage and carry diseases, and you certainly don’t want them on your business premises, especially if you own a café or restaurant and you have to abide by stringent food safety regulations. Pests can also be a real headache if you have a large commercial site, whether you’re having to pay expensive repair bills to rectify pest damage, or the presence of pests is causing a serious health and safety or damaging PR issue.

Pest control: The legal side

There are strict regulations around food safety that businesses that manufacture, store, or package food have to abide by.

The Food Safety Act 1990 and The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 require that these types of businesses take all reasonable measures to prevent pest access, infestation and/or contamination. Failure to comply can result in a hefty fine and up to two years imprisonment.

There is a defence of ‘due diligence’ though, and if you can prove that your business has a contract with a professional pest control company, then you would be seen to be taking all reasonable precautions.

Obviously, complying with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is also important when it comes to pest control. You don’t want to land yourself in hot water by exposing your employees or visitors to respiratory illnesses caused by bird droppings or having them slip on a pavement outside your premises that’s covered in guano.

And finally, whether you’re a homeowner or you have a commercial property, you are subject to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence to kill, injure, or remove any wild animal, insect, or bird on the list of protected wildlife or destroy their habitat.

Killing or removing any species on the list can only be done if you have an appropriate licence, and you have to prove that all non-lethal methods have been exhausted.

Where it works

Preventative and remedial pest control can work in commercial premises from food businesses to large industrial sites, as well as residential properties. A thorough survey of the premises and a comprehensive pest prevention and control plan is your best bet to get rid of pests and keep them at bay.

Where it might not work

Sometimes, pests can still get into premises, even when you think you’ve sealed off all of their access points, removed everything that attracts them, and have a strategic plan in place. We often see this with homes, where access points are missed or DIY pest control hasn’t worked.

What are the alternatives?

For businesses, it might seem to make sense that taking the DIY approach to pest control is cheaper and that may be, but it doesn’t always mean that it’s the best option in the long run.

You could put down some traps, but it can be labour intensive for you and your employees to go around constantly checking them, especially if you have a large site.

You could use chemicals or poisons to eradicate pests, though not if you’re in the food business as it’s strictly prohibited. Even if you’re not in the food business, do you want to be exposing yourself or your employees to toxic chemicals that might not even solve your pest problem?

Even if your DIY method was successful this time, what’s to say that it’s going to prevent a further infestation?

For homeowners, there are some reasonable DIY pest control options, like traps, sealing off access to entry points, or using chemicals, but they might not be successful if you’re tackling a larger-scale infestation or if you want to prevent further pest issues. You also might think twice about using certain kinds of chemicals around kids or pets.

The pros:

Professional pest control technicians will look at the cause of your issue and make a bespoke plan to eradicate pests and prevent future infestations. This can mean that pests are controlled in a safer, more effective way than if you take pest control into your own hands.

The cons:

Depending on what service is required, pest control can be costly for low-income households or small businesses.


The cost of pest control depends on your needs. For example, a homeowner might need a one-off service for a mouse or bed bug infestation which might be a few hundred pounds and businesses might need an ongoing pest control programme, especially as they need to ensure compliance with the law, and this can run into several thousand pounds.

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