Pest infestation has spiralled during Covid-19 and remains a costly facilities challenge

22 September 2021: Pest infestations cost businesses billions of rands each year. According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when occupancy rates of buildings were at their peak, more than 70% of businesses experienced significant financial losses due to pest […]

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22 September 2021: Pest infestations cost businesses billions of rands each year. According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when occupancy rates of buildings were at their peak, more than 70% of businesses experienced significant financial losses due to pest infestations.

Randall Barends, National Operations Support Manager, Pest Control at Servest, points out that the facilities management industry has an important role to ensure effective pest control.

According to him, rodents in particular are responsible for a significant amount of damage to facilities. “In facilities, rodents are a major hazard that can inflict costly structural damage to buildings by gnawing away at building fixtures, cables, conduiting and insulation. In the food packaging sector, rodents also pose a health hazard as they eat away on packed food and stored products.

Barends says, “Due to their mobility, rodents pose a health risk as they contaminate surfaces with their droppings and urine. They transmit diseases such as salmonella and lime disease and can even cause rat bite fever. Cockroaches, on the other hand, feed on decayed organic and faecal matter in drains and carry a large number of disease-causing bacteria.”

To reduce the risk of damage, for example caused by pest infestations, Servest provides a variety of control solutions, which encompass the eradication of a variety of pests, including rodents, cockroaches, flies, ants, fleas, bed bugs, dust mites, termites, and stored product pests. “We strongly recommend that monthly pest control programmes, at the minimum, be implemented in order to keep any infestation under control,” Barends said.

“In the event of a cockroach infestation, we recommend a monthly service to break the breeding and life cycle of cockroaches, which is normally six weeks,” he added.

Pest control is an ongoing process and once-off treatments can only be utilised in cases where light pest activity occurs. To ensure effective control management, Servest’s professional and trained consultants tailor their services by conducting a site assessment to ascertain the kind of treatment that is required.

Barends noted that while pest activity can be found in most structures, such as our homes, there are structures that are more vulnerable to pest invasions. These include commercial properties, healthcare facilities and food manufacturing plants.

“Even prior to the pandemic, the restaurant industry, for example, was suffering financial losses due to pest invasions that caused damages and loss of foodstuff. As a result, additional control services were requested to keep the infestation under control. The restaurant industry had to close during the strict lockdown levels, leaving their premises vacant and susceptible to uncontrolled infestation,” he explained.

“When the lockdown levels were lifted and restaurants and food industries were allowed to reopen, we recommended weekly pest control treatment to catch up and keep the scourge under control,” he added.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses operate. Given the financial strain that the pandemic placed on businesses, many reduced their operating costs by opting to cut down on maintenance services. Barends said although businesses that chose this route save some money in the short term, they will then contend with a bigger pest infestation which will be more expensive in the long run.

During the pandemic, the worst pest infestations were found in restaurants, hotels, office buildings, schools, industrial sites, and homes.

“Fears of Covid-19 infection made building owners hesitant to allow contractors like pest control operators to enter premises. This resulted in damage to buildings where rodents multiplied and damaged stored goods, electrical cabling and PVC piping. Not only did we experience an increase in rodent activity, but a surge in termite infestation as well, as many of the sites closed down or were left only partially open,” Barends explained.

As some facilities reopen and others remain closed, it is critical that property owners and landlords take the necessary precautions to prevent infestation and the costs associated with damage, particularly at buildings that are currently not in use.

“It’s important to implement and maintain a pest control programme as well as an on-going building maintenance schedule in order to prevent pests from entering buildings. If pest infestation is not consistently and properly managed, it can lead to prohibitively expensive repair costs down the road,” he concluded.

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