Turning Down the Heat

How can your pest management firm lower its risk when performing heat treatments?

ilkercelik| Adobestock

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a presentation from the 2016 PestSure Safety and Loss Prevention Conference, where PMPs gathered to hear the latest strategies for protecting their employees, customers and businesses from a variety of threats. In business for more than 30 years, PestSure is a nationwide association providing insurance and risk management services that is owned and operated by pest management professionals.

Heat treatments for bed bugs are not only time-intensive but they present a fair amount of risk for both the client and pest management company. This is not a surprise since the heavy equipment brought in to do the job raises indoor temperatures to nearly 140°F and requires 480 volts of electricity to operate.

Hundreds of heat treatments for severe bed bug infestations in both residential and commercial accounts are performed each day by pest management professionals across the country. And with each job comes a learning curve for pest control companies on how to mitigate risks to technicians and avoid damage claims.

At the PestSure Safety and Loss Prevention Conference, John Lemons, vice president of special services for Rose Pest Solutions in Troy, Mich., shared insights into how Rose keeps its risk profile low and service quality high when performing heat treatments.

Rose deploys 11 heat treatment units and performs multiple bed bug jobs each day for residential and commercial clients in the company’s service area that includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“Our heat treatment teams will be on site for a full day and they know they have to be on their toes when it comes to personal and client safety,” said Lemons. “And creating that safety mindset starts well before they arrive at the job site.”

Lemons told attendees that assessing the level of the infestation and making the appropriate treatment recommendation (i.e., heat treatment, pesticide application, etc.) is the first step to minimize your company’s risk.

When a heat treatment is prescribed pest control professionals bring a trailer full of equipment — heating units, fans, electrical cords — that will be set up, turned on and broken down at the end of the day.

From back strains from moving equipment in and out of trucks to heat stress in the summer months to trips and falls, there are hazards that pest professionals need to mitigate.

“Often the places we are treating are packed before we even get there and once the equipment is set up trip hazards can exist,” said Lemons. “That is why the need for clear walkways to set up and tear down is important.”

Understanding the basics of electrical safety (i.e., always turn off the main heating unit before unplugging other units to avoid arcing, checking for frayed cables, etc.); equipment maintenance (i.e., a loose screw on a fan can be dangerous); and knowing the signs and how to avoid heat stress (i.e., stay hydrated, wear moisture-wicking clothing) are essential items on a company’s heat treatment checklist.

“Technicians need to respect the power and make sure they follow their operational and safety protocols each and every time,” said Lemons.

Performing a heat treatment in a high-rise, multi-family structure presents challenges in properly setting up, securing and taking down the electrical cords needed to run the units.

“Be sure to use cable locks on both ends, loop cords to reduce strain on the connector and never drop a cable — it should always be lowered to the ground and not taken up,” said Lemons, who says Rose has performed heat treatments in buildings as high as 10 stories.

AVOIDING THE AVOIDABLE. From fans blowing framed pictures off walls to laminate flooring buckling and plastic television stands melting and dropping a 55-inch flat screen to the floor, the risk of damage claims during heat treatments is very real.

To reduce the risk, pest management professionals are wise to follow two things: their company’s operating protocols and their common sense.

When Rose Pest Solutions bed bug service teams arrive at a customer’s home they take extra care to leave the property as they found it — minus the bed bugs.

Rose inspectors and technicians also review an extensive pre-service prep list with clients covering what their responsibilities are for moving furniture, reducing clutter and removing items such as candles, lighters, cleaning materials, sensitive electronic equipment, etc. Clients must sign off on the prep list before treatment is performed.

“Adhering to our checklists and procedures each and every time is the best approach to reducing the risk of a damage claim,” added Lemons.

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine and partner with B Communications. He can be reached at jfenner@b-communications.com.

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