Hiring a Pest Management Professional for Schools
Many schools hire professional pest management companies for insect, rodent, and weed pests because they do not have in-house expertise or staffing. Whether you hire a contractor for one job, on an as-needed basis, or to provide a complete integrated pest management (IPM) program, there are certain things to consider.
Do Your Homework
Don’t be in a hurry to find a company; most pest problems are not emergencies. Many companies provide pest management services. Ask other schools for recommendations. Several companies in Washington specialize in IPM for schools. Obtain at least two or three bids.
Choose one person to act as the primary contact to communicate school expectations and what the professional pest manager says is needed to reduce conditions conducive to pests. The school contact should determine where pesticides are used in the school district and whether or not to include those uses in the contract. For example, some school districts include school greenhouses in the pest management contract.
Things to Consider
When interviewing and selecting a professional pest management company, there are several points to consider. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about employee training, licensing, and other topics that affect student safety and school liability:
Are company personnel trained in integrated pest management? Can they accurately identify pests (or are all ants “sugar ants”); can they identify the cause of an infestation and offer prevention tactics? Do they belong to professional organizations such as the National Pest Management Association or the Washington State Pest Management Association? These organizations offer training opportunities and usually include a code of ethics for members.
Do employees have current licenses with the correct categories for managing the pests at your school? Verify that a license is valid and that the licensee has the right endorsements by calling the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) at (877) 301-4555 and providing them with the license number, person’s name, or company name. You may also search online. Additional information on licensing requirements can be obtained from the WSDA Licensing Fact Sheet or Flow Chart.
Does the company have insurance? The WSDA requires that commercial companies obtain general liability insurance in order to receive a license. Ask to see the insurance certificate. Does the company carry professional liability insurance that covers things like staining on carpets or accidental breakage of items?
What is the company’s reputation? Ask for references. How long have they been in business? Ask if the company has previous or ongoing complaints and the nature of the complaints. Contact the WSDA [(877) 301-4555] for information on previous complaints.
Is the company willing to help the school comply with regulations involving pesticide use at schools (RCW 17.21; Schools & Licensed Day Cares Pesticide Notification & Records Inspection Checklist; Compliance Guide for the Use of Pesticides at Schools)? Expect a company to work out a schedule when pesticide applications can be made to minimize exposure of students and staff. The company should maintain close contact with the school so that if required, parents and staff can be notified before a pesticide application. The company should provide labels and Material Safety Data Sheets of all pesticides that may be used at the school.
Does the company present a professional demeanor? Are they on time for appointments? Are the employees neat in appearance and are they in uniform? Do they have photo-identification with an expiration date? Are they willing to provide a copy of their identification for school security purposes? Are company vehicles and equipment clean and in good working order? Is there a sign on their vehicle identifying the company? Are questions answered promptly and satisfactorily?
What about contracts? You don’t have to accept a contract offered by a professional pest management company. A commercial pest control company should provide pest management consistent with a school’s policy and you can specify that policy in your own contract.
Sample contracts are available from the following sources:
- Ecowise IPM Contracting Toolkit
- Univ. of Florida, School IPM Contract
- Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection IPM Contract
- Pennsylvania State Univ. Contract for IPM on Athletic Fields and School Grounds (see page 17)
- Contract for IPM in New Jersey schools
Items to include in your contract are:
- The type of pest management desired (e.g. IPM)
- A request that the company provide a written plan
- A right-to-cancel clause
- Specify that pesticide applications are to occur only after alternate options are tried or discussed and that only pre-approved pesticides are to be used
- Require the company to provide a complete pesticide application record before leaving the school
If you use the pest management professional’s contract be sure to read the fine print on the front and back of the contract and make note of the following:
- Who is responsible for structural damage if a termite treatment fails? Is there a “damage replacement” clause? Are there exclusion clauses and if so, what is excluded?
- Is there a guarantee with the contract?
- Does the contract have a right-to-cancel clause and is there a penalty for cancellation?
- Avoid contracts that include routine application of pesticides when there is no evidence that a pest problem exists.
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