Pest manager Jay Turner shares his learnings after undertaking the biggest liquid soil termiticide treatment of his career.
What began as a routine quote enquiry ended up being one of the biggest perimeter soil treatments (‘barrier’) of my career so far. The call from the boss (aka wife) came in that afternoon, “On your way home can you just swing pass ‘un-named’ aged care facility, they want a quote on some pest management.”
I just figured they were after some pest management for their kitchens or at best some termite management on one area of the complex. How wrong I was – they were after a full perimeter soil treatment around every building on the site! Let’s just say I was a little bit stunned at first, and I’m sure my point of contact must have noticed my eyes widen as I tried to quickly gauge the size of this property. The sheer scale of this task didn’t really begin to register until my measuring wheel ticked over into four figures – 1250 metres was the final tally, but still not convinced, not only did I remeasure it again, I also measured it up on Google Earth as well!
The first step was to discuss possible termite management options. Surprisingly, after discussions with previous pest management companies, a baiting and monitoring system had been ruled out by the owners. Normally large scale complexes such as this favour baiting and monitoring systems, as they typically fit within their annual budgeting a bit better and are less disruptive during installation. Cutting and removal of the concrete was also subsequently ruled out once we started discussing the logistics of the task. So a drill and inject quotation, with a non-repellent termiticide, was agreed upon.
Being such a large project, our generic proposal template and pre-agreement forms had to be tweaked a bit from our usual domestic client paperwork. Possibly the biggest clause was a 50% up front payment; the outlay for materials and wages for such a large job and potential delay in payments normally associated with commercial work (based on experience), wasn’t something that my small business could absorb.
The other clause we highlighted was the “no liability for services damaged” condition. There were seven separate buildings all with multiple power, water and phone lines, as well as sewerage services, feeding in and out and absolutely no service plans to use as a guide. There was even gas to the kitchen and also optic fibre cabling, the risk of hitting one of these services was very real!
Unexpectedly the call came in that the aged care facilities head office had approved our proposal. I have to confess to being a bit daunted by the task ahead of me and a few profanities slipped when my wife broke the news to me. To put things into perspective, 1250m is 1.25 km which equated to 6250 holes to be drilled, 12,500 litres of emulsion to be injected, filling my 200 litre tank at least 63 times, 13 bags of concrete plugs and 30 bottles of termiticide. My back was already beginning to ache.
Then that horrible feeling kicked in that I had miscalculated and underquoted. A quick double check of my figures confirmed my predicted percentage profit margin would still be the same as if I was doing multiple domestic installs. Despite being a good space filler for our quietest time of year, there was a good chance we would have to turn down other works to complete this job, and I also had to allow for any other unexpected hurdles which might eat into the profit margin.
The planning stage of this project was the key to making this instalment run smoothly. I met with the facilities operations manager several times on site to do a walk around, to ensure we were both on the same page. That is, we met with his requirements on noise, timing, resident safety and security, and he met with ours on power, water and access to locked and gated areas. The additional visits also helped me identify any other hurdles I may have overlooked during quotation, such as 50 or so air conditioner units. Fortunately the external units were mounted on brackets, which we were able to loosen, and wriggle the units forward enough to allow drilling behind.
The risk assessment was also extremely critical during the planning stage. This wasn’t one of those domestic jobs where we could simply rock up on the day, do a quick walk around, identify any potential hazards and then get stuck into it. And unfortunately vacating all residents from the site was obviously not an option. The two biggest concerns we both identified were hitting a service and tripping hazards.
Even though we had it in our pre-agreements that we were not liable for any unknown services hit, it was an event I was keen to avoid. The thought of hitting gas or shutting down the water supply at an aged care facility was giving me nightmares. So it was agreed to engage a service locator that I had used previously on a few domestic jobs. The result is that all the utilities pipes are marked out, colour coded so you know what they are, and the depth at which they run. This proved to be an invaluable exercise as multiple services were located that had a real risk of being hit and the job was completed without a single incident!
Tripping is always a hazard we deal with when working with leads and hoses. But in this case the reduction in tripping hazards was extremely important, with multiple doorways and elderly residents. A broken hip was another event that was giving me nightmares. We reduced this risk by putting together a specific safe work method statement, which included limiting any leads that crossed pathways, used door mats and visual aids (witches hats, signage) over leads if they have to cross a path, along with a spotter when working outside doorways. Any leads or hoses not actively being used were rolled up and stowed away. No falls occurred – yay!
With the main risks identified and procedures put in place along with our usual safe work method statements, Kills bed bugs, lice & dust mites hopefully we had it covered. Ensuring that the instalment ran as efficiently as possible, to meet our timeframe was equally important. My original Bosch drill was starting to show its age, with the clutch beginning to slip and my back up Ozito drill wouldn’t cope with eight hours a day of drilling. So I decided to splash out on two new Bosch hammer drills and stock up on plenty of quad tipped drill bits and a few injector tips.
Being efficient during the injection process was also equally important. I’ve never been a fan of flow meters for various reasons, so I normally calibrate the flow using the stopwatch on my phone, but a stopwatch on a lanyard freed up my hands and saved my phone battery. A bum bag holding the concrete plugs saved me from reaching for the bag of plugs constantly. With the stopwatch and bum bag I was able to plug the previous hole while injecting the next, a big time saver over 6000 holes.
With the equipment sorted, all I had to arrange was the labour. As luck would have it my techs younger brother was between contracts from his usual occupation as a chippie. So the plan was for me to inject, with the two brothers drilling ahead of me and also cleaning up behind me. This way we were able complete section by section rather being spread out over the whole site.
Not only was it a physical challenge, but it was also a mental challenge. The boys initially found it overwhelming when they first laid eyes on the size of the site. The key was to tackle it one day at a time. Each day would begin by stepping out our target for that day only and identifying any potential hazards so that we were all well aware of them. This way the project didn’t appear so daunting.
It’s one thing to be on the drill all day but another to be on it every day for two weeks. So halfway through the job, I treated the brothers to an early finish and a traditional Balinese massage at a local luxury spa – I didn’t want them breaking down on the job!
The whole job was completed within ten working days, two days ahead of my proposed timeline. Apart from a noise complaint from a few residents as it interfered with their bingo game, and a dementia ward saga, the whole instalment was performed better than I could have envisioned.
I doubt this was the biggest drill and inject job ever attempted, but it was a fair effort for my little business. Hopefully this article provides an insight into how I have approached a job of this magnitude, providing a few useful tips and confidence to other small businesses to take on similar challenges. Planning, price and preparation are key; take time to plan and consider all the detail, price according to your calculations and profit targets (not to your client’s expectations) and make sure you are fully prepared before starting and have considered all eventualities.