Building sites are nothing short of a breeding ground for pest problems. As well as potentially disturbing an existing habitat, excess rubbish along with food brought on site can attract rats and mice, while portable office blocks and toilets provide an ideal harbour for these creatures.
The problem with this goes far beyond the nuisance caused by a few unexpected rodents. Pests such as mice, rats, birds and mosquitos can be a real danger to the health of builders and their colleagues, causing conditions such as Weil’s disease or salmonellosis. These animals and insects can also be responsible for serious structural damage to the building itself, whether that be the structural components themselves or the electrical wiring, drainage system, or thermal insulation. Aesthetic appearances can also be ruined by things like bird droppings, which are highly acidic, leading to corrosion.
Spotting the signs of an infestation
While there is clearly a responsibility on architects, designers and developers to consider pest problems in the planning stages of a building, there are still actions builders themselves can take to both reduce the chances of issues occurring, as well as spotting the signs early and preventing them from escalating.
The initial priority should be awareness; understanding the potential for pest problems and therefore being alert to some of the most likely culprits. Probably the most common pests that reside in construction sites are mice and rats. These rodents often reside in sewers, so when new builds or renovations are undertaken, sewer lines are opened, thus allowing rats to roam free. Squirrels are also frequent visitors on building sites, as well as birds such as pigeons (especially for projects such as loft conversions).
Another potential concern is workers unknowingly transferring pests from home such as fleas and bed bugs.
Clues to look out for when it comes to pest problems, include droppings, scratch marks, scuffs, holes, as well as gnawed cables. Evidence of nesting, as well as damage to plants, should also be warning signs to keep an eye out for.
What builders can do to combat the issue
Luckily there are some practical steps builders can take to minimise the risk of unwanted guests. Arranging for rubbish to be collected by a waste contractor is probably the single biggest action you can take to protect yourself and your colleagues. Similarly, taking care not to store waste in open skips is also a good idea. Remember to clear dust too, regularly as well as at the end of a project.
If you’re using temporary facilities it’s really important to make sure these are correctly managed to prevent leaks, odours and pest problems.
If you’re working for a contractor, remember, they will have a responsibility to employ pest control experts where necessary, take preventative measures, and make sure thorough strategies are implemented to maintain a safe working environment, as part of the Health and Safety Act, so if you do have concerns, raise these with your employer, or contact the local environmental health service, within your local council for more information and guidance.
Aside from health and safety, it also just makes good commercial sense to keep on top of pest problems – should health inspectors visit and find severe evidence of pest activity, they have the power to shut down your site, compromising already tight timeframes, and therefore having financial implications, as well as potentially threatening your reputation.
Take preventative measures where possible, stay alert to the signs of an infestation, and take swift action where necessary to keep you and your colleagues safe and well, and your project running smoothly.
Gary Stanford is the founder of Catch-it Pest Control, responding to both domestic and commercial enquiries throughout the M25.