Site Specific Pest Risk Assessments – PART 1

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Site Specific Pest Risk Assessments PART I

 Improving Pest Management – through Site Specific Pest Risk Assessments

In the food industry, a proactive, risk-based approach to pest management is essential for protecting your finished product and brand. All too often food companies, pet food manufacturers or food industry-related companies implement ‘basic’ pest management systems that might ‘look good’ on paper, but which actually fail to provide a full level of protection due to weaknesses in the pest management programme.

This can occur for a number of reasons, for example, an inadequate pest risk-assessment of the site by your pest control contractor, or too few pest monitors which may allow pests to become established undetected.

Often, pest contractors overlook potential risks to product and the potential harm that can occur to your client relationships when customers complain about receiving pest-contaminated pallets, packaging or product.

By then, serious customer-relationship damage may already have occurred and QA personnel are then tasked with the burden of investigating the problem, appeasing the client and implementing safeguards to prevent the problem from occurring again.

The purpose of a Site Specific Pest Risk Assessment (SSPRA) is to assess the risks of pest activity occurring and to implement appropriate monitoring and control measures. They aim to mitigate the likelihood of commercially detrimental pest incidents from occurring, or from happening again.

Review your SSPRA

For large, dynamic sites, or sites associated with food production, an SSPRA is an important component for any good quality, integrated pest management programme. If you do not have an SSPRA you should carry one out as soon as possible as it will reduce the risk of future pest problems.

If you have already had an SSPRA in place, then an annual review is strongly recommended.

Following an SSPRA review, significant improvements can often be made by implementing simple modifications to the existing pest management programme, and this can significantly improve the quality of pest monitoring. A review can also help to speed the resolution of existing pest problems.

SSPRAs – Simple Measures For Improvements

Simple modifications or adjustments to your SSPRA can significantly improve the quality of the pest control programme. For example, by increasing the number of pest monitors in an area or by adjusting pest monitoring to include species-specific monitors such as specific pheromone traps for dry food pests, or by improving your non-toxic rodent monitoring by including the use of lures or placebo baits.

The frequency of routine service visits by your pest control contractors should also be reviewed to see if they are appropriate for the needs of the site. Often the service visit frequency can become ‘set’ and outdated. Sometimes, service visit frequency is not reviewed until a serious pest incident occurs and by then it is too late.

As an example, some sites now increase their service frequency for fly control units to reduce the risk of flying insect problems during the warm summer months. By increasing the frequency of service visits to their fly control units, they receive fortnightly or monthly visits instead of just 4 service visits a year. Seasonally, some sites in rural areas increase the frequency of their pest control visits during seasonal peak periods such as harvest time, when a greater level of dispersal occurs from rodents or insects.

Some sites experience increased stored-product insect activity when nuts or fruit products are brought in from harvest and therefore additional inspections and monitoring measures may be required during the post-harvest period.

Advantages of annual SSPRAs

 There are a number of advantages to carrying out an annual SSPRA:

  • It demonstrates that a proactive pest management strategy is in place.
  • It helps to limit any ‘drift’ in the quality standards for pest management on site.
  • It can help in the early detection of pest activity or highlight the presence of actual pest activity that has otherwise been ‘overlooked’.

Fundamental mistakes when carrying out SSPRAs

Fundamental pest problems can arise because some pest control contractors fail to recognise the specific requirements of a site or fail to identify the specific risks that may allow pest activity to occur. SSPRAs should not be based on generic assessments because the location and circumstances for each site is unique and each has its own potential risks for the occurrence of pest activity.

It is important to ensure that your pest control company does not use a generic pest risk assessment for your site.

Pest Service Contract Review

As part of the SSPRA, a review of the pest service contract is also recommended. Considerations should include:

  • The scope of service being provided (does it cover all relevant pest species – such as stored product insects)?
  • Is the frequency of service visits sufficient?
  • Is there an appropriate ‘follow-up visit protocol’ in place, in the event of internal rodent or insect pest issues?
  • Are the critical limits for pest activity set too high or too low?
  • Does the contract include provision for an annual SSPRA?

These matters should be reviewed annually, and not left unchanged until there is a problem. Failure to follow a proactive integrated pest management programme can allow pest numbers to increase undetected, thus exposing the finished product and your business to the increased risk of pest activity.

An SSPRA can help to avoid many pest-related problems, keeps your pest management strategy on a more proactive footing and help safeguard your site.

SSPRAs across multiple sites

The implementation of a ‘common company standard’ for pest management in respect of multiple site organisations can present problems, especially on an international basis, where differences in interpretation by pest control companies can occur at a local level, or differences in legislation can result in variations in the standard of pest management across international boundaries.

Changes in climatic conditions or geographical locations may also present new challenges, such as the need for external mosquito treatments or new risks from crawling or flying insects.

An SSPRA will highlight any unexpected risks of pest activity, and suggest the most appropriate form of pest monitoring and pest management for sites in countries where further adjustments in the pest control standard might be required.

An SSPRA will ensure that Quality standards are maintained – especially across multiple site locations.

The Benefits of SSPRAs

Having an SSPRA may not necessarily result in increased costs from your service provider as it should already be part of their best practice and normal services for customers.

Benefits could be made by modifying your existing service contract to achieve better use of time, money, labour and resources. For example, time spent servicing an excessive quantity of external rodent bait stations may be better spent checking an increased number of crawling insect monitors or other pest monitors in less accessible areas such as wall cavities or ceiling voids.

SSPRAs are beneficial because:

  • They help to focus attention on vulnerable or critical areas of the site that might otherwise be overlooked during the course of a routine pest control visit.
  • They highlight the risk of pests in peripheral areas in places that might be difficult to access, such as voids, electrical areas, plant rooms and other areas where routine access might be difficult, thereby reducing the risk of pest problems from developing undetected.
  • They can help to identify the risk of pest infestations and the risk of food contamination by pests during the food handling or food production process.
  • They reduce the risk of pest activity occurring at critical control points. This allows appropriate safeguards or control measures to be put in place to reduce the risk of pest-related incidents from occurring. Places such as localised pockets of stored product insect activity inside food production machinery or within specific plant and equipment (some of which might be difficult to access for regular inspections or for regular cleaning). Often it can be advantageous to deploy stored product insect (SPI) monitors adjacent to high risk production machinery to allow for the early detection of insect activity and to help to target cleaning – thus reducing the risk of SPI infestations from becoming established.
  • In production areas, where there is a high risk of pest activity occurring, your SSPRA might recommend additional control measures such as more frequent inspections inside high risk plant and machinery or recommend increased pest monitoring or highlight a need for more frequent cleaning for plant and equipment – including motor housing areas or along conveyor lines.

Importance of SSPRAs

SSPRAs form a critical part of any effective pest management strategy for high-specification sites. An SSPRA is now regarded as a critical component of a robust pest management programme. However, unfortunately, once an SSPRA has been carried out, often it is not always reviewed or updated by the contractor in a timely manner.

To underline the importance of SSPRAs, they are now specified as a key requirement in food safety standards set by a variety of organisations:

BRC Global Standard for Food Safety (Issue 7)

4.14.12 Frequency of inspections shall be determined by risk assessment and shall be documented.

Tesco Food Manufacturing Standard (TFMS6)

24.1   The pest management programme must be based on an assessment of the risk to the product.

Waitrose Pest Control Police (Version 3)

4.3.1 Pest control shall be managed by an external service contract and the agreement of frequency and type of visits will be based on a site-specific pest risk assessment.

Client-Contractor Communication

For SSPRAs to be effective, close liaison between Quality Managers and the pest control contractor is vital. Commercial sites are dynamic places, often with ongoing changes to the production processes or to building fabric, or new construction projects taking place. Consequently, pest activity can be dynamic too. It is therefore important that information regarding pending changes on site are always communicated to your pest control contractor so that they can update their SSPRA and implement revised monitoring and control measures.

If companies undertake new construction/development projects or introduce changes to procedures relating to food handling, food processing, waste handling or modifying processing machinery on site, it is wrong to assume that the existing SSPRA will remain up to date, and under these circumstances a new SSPRA should be carried out.

In my next article – A guide to Site Specific Risk Assessments PART II – I will suggest steps to consider when implementing an SSPRA.

Pest awareness What we do:

  • Food Safety & Pest Management Quality Audits forfood & pet food production sites (and related industries) 
  • Assessments of pest activity 
  • Assessments of pest contractor performance
  • Single site & multiple site audits
  • Technical Inspections & reports for pest related problems 
  • Insect identifications & foreign body analysis  
  • Crisis management training  
  • Expert legal witness

for IPMIC LTD Global service provider UK, Europe & Worldwide

Independent Pest Management & Insect Consultancy Ltd has tried to ensure that the information in this document is accurate. This information is intended as guidance only. However, Independent Pest Management & Insect Consultancy Ltd will not accept liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience arising as a consequence of any use of or the inability to use any of the information in this document.

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