Pest professionals should always follow the official Federal and respective State Government advice regarding COVID-19. The following article provides pest managers with the latest information, points to consider and links to gain further information.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed societal behaviour, the economy and the way we do business, almost overnight. Here, we have pulled together some of the key elements and trusted information sources to provide businesses with a starting point to get to grip with the issues in play. As it continues to be a dynamic environment with often daily changes to the restrictions on the way of life and the way pest control businesses can operate, we will endeavour to update this article as new information comes to light.

Staff and customer safety

Looking after staff and customers is always the number one concern, and never more so in the current climate.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has created an easy to navigate website that outlines the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, including rules about taking paid/unpaid leave and terminating employment during this time.

Having a written policy for staff and a policy you can communicate to customers will provide security for all concerned and give customers the reassurance that you are taking all reasonable protective steps which for many customers will provide them with the confidence to allow you to complete your service.

The British Pest Control Association has created a helpful information page that offers a good starting point for developing appropriate policies and procedures.

The Professional Pest Managers Alliance (PPMA) in the US has provideD a ‘Dos and Don’ts’ in communicating COVID-19.

Is pest control an ‘Essential Business’?

The reason there is discussion as to whether pest control is an ‘Essential Business’ is that if the Government initiates a ‘lockdown’ only Essential Businesses will be allowed to continue operating. Many aspects of pest control are indeed essential to protect food supply and guard public health (rodents, cockroaches and bed bugs being key pests). As such, pest control is classified as an essential business in other countries including the US and UK. AEPMA has made representations to the various Australian Governments to ensure pest control is also classified as an essential service in Australia. AEPMA is yet to hear back from the various state governments.

Currently, pest control operators are free to continue operating, although businesses should keep a close eye on Federal and State announcements.

Offering disinfection services

Offering cleaning and disinfection services has been identified as an opportunity by some pest control businesses to tap into current customer needs and diversify their revenue streams in these uncertain times.

As with pest control, it is important that you have undertaken suitable training and are insured to deliver these services. It is also important to be aware that any claims you intend to make about the services you offer are governed by the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. Given the high profile of the current situation, it is likely that companies over-promising in this area are likely to come under scrutiny.

Basic COVID-19 disinfection training resources

The Australian Government Department of Health offers a free 30-minute online training module that covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19.

There is also a fact sheet outlining the appropriate environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for COVID-19.

Regulatory information

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued a warning about products claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19, stating that any advertisements for disinfectants are required to comply with the Act and the Code.

Business relief

The Australian Government has put together significant support packages for businesses, including sole traders. The Australian Government Business COVID-19 page is the first port of call for those looking for information. A number of significant inclusions in the various stimulus and support packages are designed to provide a cash injection into businesses. Some of these, such as the 100% instant asset write-off, is only payable on purchases made prior to June 30, 2020, so it is important that business owners discuss the options with their accountants as soon as possible.

Unique to this situation is the option for many businesses to implement an employee stand down, as there has been a stoppage of work for which the employer cannot be reasonably held responsible. This statutory provision helps protect both businesses and employees. The National Law Review provides some good background information but you should get specific legal and HR advice for your situation.

Pest control/COVID information sources

AEPMA will provide an update from the various State Governments when the information becomes available.

Project Pestie is a useful information resource for Australian pest managers on COVID-19 related topics.

The US Pest Control Association has created a dedicated COVID-19 website and hosts webinars that can be replayed at a later date.

The British Pest Control Association’s comprehensive COVID-19 page offers a wealth of advice.

Other useful links

The Australian Government has created a Coronavirus Australia offering up to date news, media coverage and health information. Download it from the App Store (for Apple users) or Google Play Store (for Android users).