Peter McCarthy, director of Pest IT, shares some helpful tips for working safely at height when installing bird control solutions.
By implementing a bird management strategy for your client, you are almost immediately improving the workplace health for the facility. Fewer pest birds means a reduction in the hazards associated with them. There’s the impact of the birds themselves – their nests, feathers, faeces, bacteria and pathogens they carry – as well as other potential risks. These include the risk of being attacked by swooping magpies, the slip and fall hazards caused by their faeces, damage to surfaces and issues associated with food safety. All of these impact the health and safety of your client and their employees.
But let’s consider how bird management work itself impacts pest managers. Ask yourself, when undertaking bird work, are you and your team safe?
Having worked in the area of bird management for over 25 years, I am grateful to say that I, my colleagues and teammates are still here, alive and safe. While there have been a few roof falls, near misses and rescue missions needed, we as an industry have learned so much about the practical elements of bird control.
However, it should be noted that bird management by its very nature is a dangerous sub-branch of the pest management industry. While not an exhaustive list, here are the issues to consider when planning your next bird management project.
Working at height or on roofs is fraught with risk. Negotiating your clients’ facilities on elevated work platforms (EWPs) including scissor lifts, knuckle booms and the like, means the correct use of harnesses is essential for keeping safe. Use the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and remember to be mindful of hazards during your initial inspection. Developing a strong relationship with your local equipment hire company will be vital for having the correct work platforms for your project.
When netting, the work platform is only centimetres from the building, so danger is very close. Keep your fingers off the EWP rails and keep your arms within the confines of the unit to avoid pinching or worse. Using gloves will protect you from cuts and the abrasive nature of handling netting, not to the mention the bacteria-loaded surfaces in a bird-infested area.
When developing a plan for bird management, your initial task is to ascertain which permits are required for your state. These include a High Risk EWP Permit, Working at Heights Permit, Roof Safety Permit, and any site-specific or local council permits. More than likely, your client will have a list of inductions and prerequisites before work commences, so remember to consider these and include them when planning your time and costs.
Personal protective equipment
From a PPE perspective, there is no end of variations needed. Be aware that hazards associated with birds will impact the human respiratory system, hence your respirator will offer exceptional value in providing safety and comfort. The danger associated with inhaling the fine particulates of dried bird faeces – as well as the bacteria and other potential pathogens – is somewhat underestimated by our industry. PPE must be worn both for installation of systems and during the site clean-up.
Hearing protection is vital. Tools such as propane-powered nail guns register a decibel reading above 110 dB, and then there’s the ambient noise of the facility you are working in to take into consideration. With permanent hearing deterioration commencing from 85 decibels and above, high quality earmuffs should always be in use. Download a free decibel testing app on your smartphone. Test the decibel reading of your site and tools to ascertain the hearing protection required.
One of the more frightening experiences I recall is seeing a colleague electrocuted. Thankfully, they lived to tell the tale and this confirmed my rule since day one – only use manual, battery, gas or air operated tools when working on elevated work platforms. This is a moving plant (EWP), working with cables and fixed objects, and being electrocuted is as simple as there being a damaged electrical cord or a faulty facility circuit breaker. Remember, no 240v corded tools at height!
Many of the tasks involved in bird management are unavoidably dangerous, especially when working from a roof. New legislation introduced this year in some states prohibits working on roofs or at height (above 1.2 metres in some states) alone. This isn’t only due to the dangerous nature of the task at hand, but heat, dehydration, time pressure, stress in the home, mental health and other external factors can amplify issues associated with work safety. Working as a team ensures the job is carried out safely and efficiently, which in turns means the project is likely to be completed in a more timely fashion, and on budget.
Would you know what to do if something went wrong on the job? When working at height, your team must have a rescue plan. All team members should know what role they play in the event of emergency.
Can a ladder ever be safe? Rule number two in my book is: avoid ladders! In most commercial instances an elevated work platform is a safer option. When working from a ladder, tying off, harnesses, footing stability, having three points of contact and common sense are just some of the considerations before starting. Avoid working on ladders alone, wherever possible.
At all commercial sites, the completion of Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) documentation is now a prerequisite. Yes, the paperwork is painful, but it is designed to keep you and your team alert to the hazards. Reading these and signing off prior to commencing work is a tremendous reminder to even experienced team members. A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and a Working at Heights document is a minimum and should be completed by a professional. Alternatively, ask your bird management equipment supplier for templates that you can modify, specific to your project and client facility.
Above are just some of the areas of discussion when organising your bird management project. At Pest IT, our most sought after and comprehensive form of training remains ‘on the job’. On-site training is where a member of our qualified team, backed by more than 20 years of experience and thousands of hours installing and training in bird management, trains bird management companies on-site. Generally, this involves the installation of netting or other forms of complex bird management systems. We provide the training, supervision, tools and the guidelines to ensure that the installation is completed safely, professionally and efficiently.
The ‘hands on’ nature of this training is excellent for new and experienced members of the bird management industry. Our clients learn how to plan and complete the installation while also receiving instruction in the safe use of the latest tools, equipment and elevated working platforms. Professional tuition on the job will eliminate some of the trial and error associated with the installation of sophisticated bird management systems.