Mitigating Risk

Features - SAFETY ISSUES

Encouraging a culture of safety within your company is the first step to mitigating risk at your pest control firm.

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February 3, 2020

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Risky Business, the 1983 film that launched the film career of Tom Cruise, had nothing to do with slips, trips and falls, motor vehicle accidents or pest management.

But “risky business” is exactly what pest management professionals face each day when they send thousands of technicians and service vehicles out on the road, process recurring credit card payments, have technicians climb ladders, and enter crawlspaces or access attics to perform a service. Risk is simply an inherent part of the business.

How do pest management professionals mitigate the risks they face every day? The answer to that important question starts and ends with awareness, training and education, and a commitment to creating a culture of safety from the C-suite to the technician.

PestSure, a privately held insurance captive providing risk management services and insurance coverages to pest management professionals, last fall held its annual Safety and Loss Prevention Meeting with the goal of not only educating attendees but challenging them to continually review and advance their safety initiatives.

“As an industry resource to so many great pest control companies, it is important for PestSure to provide a consistent forum to share best practices and enhance safety cultures,” said Todd Burke, chief operating officer for PestSure. “The great part about the pest management industry is that everyone truly wants to help each other, collaborate and share ideas, and we see that play out every year at the meeting. We look forward to hosting this meeting in future years and continuing to invest in the industry.”

The meeting featured detailed case studies from member companies and sessions on auto liability, safety benefits of GPS monitoring, employee drug testing, subrogation and salvage services, and OSHA compliance. Nearly 50 pest management companies were represented at the meeting.

“Our primary goal for the meeting was to share best demonstrated safety practices for the pest management industry,” said Linda Midyett, area vice president and loss prevention manager for PestSure. “This is why the company case studies are so valuable. They expose attendees to ‘real world’ situations where their company and technicians are at risk and provide them with solutions to prevent that from happening in the future.”

In addition to two days of in-depth sessions, attendees spend time interacting and sharing information on what safety and risk management practices have worked well and how they successfully integrated these protocols into their operations.

“One of the key benefits of participating in an event such as this is being able to share with and learn best safety practices from your peers,” said Alfie Treleven, president/CEO of Sprague Pest Solutions in Tacoma, Wash. “The knowledge and practical tips we’ve acquired at this conference will allow the Sprague team to be better prepared to execute their jobs with a safety-first understanding.”

PestSure’s Midyett said attendees develop valuable peer contacts they turn to throughout the year to stay on top of best safety practices.

“Many attendees visit each other’s companies to see first-hand how they develop and incorporate safety initiatives to lessen risk and take that information back home to improve their own programs,” added Midyett. “The learning doesn’t stop when the conference ends.”

MANAGING RISKY BUSINESS. With all that a business owner or manager must worry about each day when they check their cell phone or laptop to read email, review sales and operational reports, or review their meeting schedule for the day, it’s no wonder that risk management can sometimes fall through the cracks.

However, when managers realize the staggering costs of not having strong risk management practices in place, it quickly gets their attention.

At the opening session, Dylan Romo, a senior consultant with Jurgiel Associates, shared methods for “stacking the deck” to secure the best outcomes when it comes to reducing the risk of accidents in their businesses.

“Risk is the probability, likelihood or ‘chance’ of an accident occurring to one of your employees in the course of their duties,” said Romo. “By ‘stacking the deck’ you improve your odds by controlling hazardous exposures, or the things that can cause harm, and the interactions between the employee and the hazard.”

Romo said outcomes are determined by causal factors that are the result of the conditions — how things are right now, the environment and circumstances — and actions that are arranged in a timeline.

What is involved in creating and sustaining a successful risk reduction program in your pest control company? Romo said it involves a three-prong approach:

  1. Risk Awareness — Knowing the hazards and exposures that could cause harm.
  2. Risk Evaluation — Having a strategy to determine which hazardous exposures to control.
  3. Risk Control — Taking the appropriate actions to prevent, mitigate and eliminate the risk.

Romo said companies must do the work and establish a mechanism that proactively tackles assessing and mitigating risk.

“You can’t wish accidents away and you need to be able to see what lies behind your employees’ motivation, so you can incentivize and hold them accountable when it comes to practicing good safety behavior,” added Romo.

The author is a partner with B Communications.