It’s Friday. You’re behind a pick-up truck headed back from a construction site. Tools have been tossed in the bed in disarray, on top of each other, and nobody is going to worry about them until Monday. This is a prime example of equipment abuse, and there are some pest control service trucks that aren’t doing much better.
There is often little care and respect for pest control equipment, and tools can be damaged on the job, or simply in the vehicle on the way to the next job. Regardless of efforts to anticipate and eliminate problems, it seems impossible to think of everything that might be abused. Examples are endless, and if you’re a technician or an owner, you’ve seen first-hand what can happen.
Why is this behavior so common? There are several factors involved, and more than one may be in effect at the same time.
Stainless Steel and Brass. Most professional application equipment is made of heavy, durable metals, along with some equally thick and durable plastic. They look tough, they feel tough, and they can take some rough handling, right? They can, to a point. But brass valves can be dented. Brass extensions can be bent or split from freezing. Pump tubes and tanks can be dented. Almost any standard tool can be damaged to a degree that it no longer works properly. All that stainless steel and tough material can give the illusion that those tools are indestructible, but be warned: they are not.
The Devil is in the Details. There are lots of things going on beneath the surface in every piece of application equipment, but the technology at work is not always readily apparent. The operation of a sophisticated piece of modern application equipment is complex, and that can sometimes be lost on the pest management technician. The mechanics of a no-drip tip involves gaskets, washers, the coordination of a cable, a spring and a few lock nuts. Foggers depend on air speed and flow rate to make droplets, tank sprayers depend on liquid and air pressure, and nozzles depend on basic fluid hydraulics. Tools need all of their parts in place to work properly.
Costs and Consequences. Some tools may appear only slightly damaged, but that damage is potentially enough to cause costly consequences. A damaged nozzle may have an increased flow rate, resulting in a few extra ounces at each spraying. Ounces add up to gallons of costly waste. Overfilling the fogger may seem harmless, but if the motor is damaged it will quickly burn out. Carelessly dropping a bait gun can damage the mechanics and add a little more to each ¼ gram placement. Instead of 60 placements per syringe, there may be only 40. Even slight damage can have costly consequences.
As well, damaged and dirty equipment is seen by each client, and that might raise genuine concerns. A negative client reaction can be costly to the credibility of the technician and the company.
The Endowment Effect. Consider the “endowment effect,” the tendency to value an object more when we own it than when someone else owns it. This common behavior is probably the basis for a lot of the rental car, dorm room and hotel room abuse that occurs everywhere. And it may well contribute to the intentional or careless abuse of pest control equipment. Changing this attitude may be difficult, as technicians are not expected to come to the job with their own equipment, but they can be encouraged to care for equipment as if they owned it.
Training. Of course, there is a class and caliber of technician who appreciates professional equipment and treats it well. Manufacturers wish there were more of them, or at least that they were training the next generation.
Respect for equipment must be included in the basic or initial training program for applicators, and must remain a part of ongoing training for the experienced teams. Explain that equipment indestructibility is an illusion; that as simple as a tank sprayer, fogger or duster may look, these tools are based on and depend on some serious science, and damaged equipment can have costly consequences. Bad habits are difficult to correct and can be passed down during on-the-job training for new technicians. Care and respect of equipment has to start at the top, at the beginning, for it to be effective and long lasting.
PCT Media Group Publishes ‘The Service Technician’s Field Manual’
The PCT Media Group recently announced publication of “The Service Technician’s Field Manual: A Practical Guide for Structural Pest Control Professionals.” This valuable educational resource, written in easy-to-understand language, is versatile enough to be used as a field guide or as a classroom training aid.
Written by veteran industry researcher and educator William H. Robinson, Ph.D., the 218-page publication is fully illustrated and covers an array of topics that service technicians need to understand to provide situation-specific pest control. The book provides valuable insights about the equipment used by PMPs in the field, as well as the most commonly encountered structural pests. The publication includes 20 chapters covering the following topics:
William H. Robinson is technical director with B&G Equipment Co. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.