If you work in education – whether in a school, college or university – you’ll know that the authorities (as well as angry parents!) can come down on you at a moment’s notice.
Of course, there are certain rules and regulations to abide by if you’re running an institution like a school – and when you’re in charge of minors, it’s so important to be vigilant when it comes to health and safety too.
So, what do you do when pests threaten to disrupt the day-to-day running of your educational establishment? Or worse still, how could you handle a closure due to a rodent infestation?
This guide – put together with anyone who works in the education industry very much in mind – details some of the most common pests you might expect to find during an infestation in a school or college, as well as how to deal with them.
Here’s what’s included in the handy piece:
- What are pests?
- Pests in the educational sector: what can I expect to find?
- How to deal with a pest problem head-on
- How to safeguard your educational institution from a recurring pest problem?
- When should you call in the professionals
We all know some of the most common pests we might come across in our day-to-day life; everything from rodents to birds can present a problem but more so when they’re in a school or college.
Pests in the educational sector: what can I expect to find?
Of course, not all schools and colleges have a pest problem on their hands – but on the rare chance they do, it can be damaging – and not just to the institution’s reputation.
Parents and caregivers expect that when they drop their child off at school, college (or even, for the very first time, at their halls of residence at university) that a certain standard of care is shown to their offspring. After all, everyone wants the opportunity to live in a safe and healthy environment and there are few worse thoughts for a parent than the worry that their child is living or studying in an infested building.
But other ‘pests’ can become an issue too – and they aren’t always the ones that first spring to mind. For schools, insects, fungi and weeds can pose a problem to the people who work and learn there. And as well as causing structural damage to a building, they can cause health problems too.
Here are just a few of the more common pests, which could be lurking around any corner in and around schools, colleges or university buildings and halls of residence:
- Bees and wasps
- Biting midges
- Bed bugs
- Birds, such as pigeons
So, we’ve run through the type of pests that could be hiding out in educational establishments. But where might you find them? Here are just a handful of places:
Halls of Residence – Bed bugs might be an issue in halls of residence or dorm rooms and can cause a threat to students in the form of bite marks and an itchy rash. If the infestation is left untreated, it can get worse in no time at all too.
Cafeterias – We all know pests like ants and wasps are attracted to food and water, particularly leftovers. In places like canteens and cafeterias – where there’s a high volume of people trampling in and out – a breeding ground for small insects can very quickly be created.
Gyms, Locker Rooms and Lockers – Again, these are places where clutter and food swiftly collect. Giving pests a welcome invitation to move on in and get settled, these areas require special attention – and often!
Classrooms – Untidy desks and drawers could lead to an infestation of ants, wasps or other small insects, so it’s important that teachers and tutors educate their colleagues and students in personal pest control too.
Refuse Areas – Just like refuse areas in and around eating establishments can be breeding grounds for pests, the same problem can present itself in schools and colleges too. If sufficient care isn’t taken to tie up waste bags, an infestation may not be too far away.
School Grounds – Any land in and around the school, college or university which has been neglected is certainly prone to an infestation of weeds, insects or even birds.
How to deal with a pest problem head-on
Once the pest problem has well and truly set in, it’s time to act fast – or at least as quickly as possible! After all, an infestation can mean a school, college or university closure, resulting in the loss of vital studying time for the establishment’s students – and maybe even a few angry parents too.
It’s time to tackle the problem head-on, then – and here’s what you can do:
Implement an Integrated Pest Management System
Reducing the risk of pesticides by monitoring ongoing issues, a pest management system is simply a set of steps you can follow in order to keep on top of a potential problem.
While this is less about tackling the problem and more about prevention, it’s still worth taking some of this advice on board, including:
- Moving refuse away from the educational establishment, where possible
- Repairing any external or internal damage to the property
- Maintaining a high level of cleanliness
- Restricting where food is consumed
- Sealing cracks and crevices and putting future sanitation measures in place
- Educating and motivating staff and students to consider their actions at all times
You should also evaluate the school’s current pest control practices and choose methods which minimise health risks to both staff and students and the environment, as well as reduce disruption to day-to-day activities.
Encourage Staff and Students to Take Care While Eating – Pests like ants, wasps, cockroaches, bees and rats are attracted to food and food preparation areas, which means students in particular should be educated when it comes to clearing up after themselves. Keeping food in secure containers and disposing of wrappers and leftovers is so important when it comes to warding off pests. Cockroaches, in particular, can contaminate a food preparation area in so much as they can cause widespread gastroenteritis amongst humans. In the case of an infestation of this kind, only a professional company will do.
Pigeon-proofing is Key – Have you spent time to pigeon-proof your building? Avoid this at your peril! Pigeons and pigeon droppings can cause damage to the exterior of school buildings and their droppings can be sucked into air conditioning units and transmitted inside. Don’t allow this to happen; it can lead to psittacosis, respiratory illness, and legionnaire’s disease.
Be Careful When it Comes to Bats! – Did you know that it’s illegal to even disturb a bat in its roost, never mind kill one? The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides protection for all species of bat found in the United Kingdom – a local environment officer should be contacted immediately if you find bats, or you can get in touch with The Bat Conservation Trust too.
Beware of Bird Mites – Another difficult pest problem to eradicate, bird mites should be left to the professionals. They’re one of the more unusual infestations and a specialist company is always required to deal with them safely and effectively.
Look Out for Cockroaches – Feeding on anything – from food to faecal matter – cockroaches can be found in heating systems and kitchens. Preferring moist and warm conditions, they reproduce quickly, which is why it’s important to always keep your eyes peeled for early signs of an infestation. Keeping food areas clean and free from refuse is one of the easiest ways you can avoid a possible infestation today and in the future.
Keep an Eye on Holes in the Wall – Mice and rats can squeeze through holes in the wall as small as the end of a pen or pencil! It’s the reason it’s important to seal up any cracks and crevices as soon as possible – after all, the female mouse produces five to 10 litters per year, averaging five per litter. That’s a lot of mice if the issue isn’t dealt with straight away.
How to safeguard your educational institution from a recurring pest problem
When it comes to preventative pest control measures, there are a few vital ones you can put in place. These include:
- Installing wet-fitting doors
- Covering drains and using fly screens and bird-netting where possible
- Keeping your eyes peeled for the very first sign of pests; look out for droppings, chew marks and nests
- Keeping on top of cleaning, both in and around the building
- Putting a named member of staff in charge of pest control monitoring and linking them with a local authority environmental health officer
You’ve tried everything else and nothing seems to be getting to the root of the issue to alleviate the pest problem. So what do you do now? You call in the professionals – and without too much delay!
When it comes to pest control in the educational sector, the National Union of Teachers advise – in a recent health and safety breaking – that only firms who are members of the BPCA should tend to largescale pest problems such as those found in schools.
Eradicating pests and vermin, a pest control team will ensure any pesticides used are administered without any risk to the yourself, your colleagues, your students or the building itself.