Pest control industry expert Robert Prosser shares his top three tips for termite management work from an insurance and professional indemnity perspective.
Many pest managers chase termite work, and for good reason – termite management has the potential to be the most profitable segment of a pest control business. You’re in business not just to kill bugs, but to make money. Right? Naturally, when your hard-earned money is in hand you want to keep it. With most treatments, this is fairly easy.
However, termite treatments are another matter entirely. They certainly aren’t without their risks; there are plenty of ways to lose money both during and after a termite treatment.
Mistakes can be costly. Termite work is not like general pest work – a callback on a cockroach or spider job may hit the profit margin, but a callback on a termite job can also leave you open to legal action.
Tip 1: Take your time
Over my many years in the Technical Department at Rapid Solutions (and before that, many years as a pest manager), one thing re-occurs as a major contributor to termite treatment failures: rushing the treatment. Not allowing for time to try and locate the nest or attempt genuine colony control is one key factor that can increase the chances of treatment failure.
Providing you budget for colony control activities in the treatment proposal, the time taken to attempt colony control will – in most cases – offset the risk of future callbacks and potential treatment failure. Of course, achieving colony control is far better than just attempting it.
Don’t forget, the current Australian Standard says, with some conditions, that management of the termite colony attacking the property “shall” be the first process undertaken. This isn’t a directive aimed to make things difficult; elimination of the attacking colony reduces the insect pressure on the structure and increases the effectiveness of subsequent steps taken to protect the property.
Tip 2: Understand all potential risks
The chemical arsenal available today is absolutely mindblowing in its variety and effectiveness. Having said that, as good as modern soil treatments and baiting systems may be, no system is 100% effective. That’s why reducing termite pressure by eliminating the colony reduces the risk of a treatment breach.
What’s more, there can be hidden faults in the construction of the building that can allow termites to re-enter if the colony isn’t eliminated. A crack that shouldn’t be there. A hidden gap in the structure’s building fabric. Although it shouldn’t be done, a simple nail through an ant cap can bring the whole job undone if the colony is still active in the area.
In short, don’t rush a termite job and don’t underestimate what could go wrong. Allow time to carry out comprehensive nest elimination activities and price the job accordingly. This ensures you maintain profitability on the job and removes the temptation to hurry. Obviously you may need to explain to the customer why multiple visits are necessary, but this can demonstrate your expertise and set you apart from competition.
Tip 3: Get the paperwork right
Outside of the treatment itself, poor paperwork can have legal implications not only severely impacting profitability, but potentially ruining the business. Make sure you budget for appropriate time to create comprehensive reports and paperwork to support the treatment. There are two key elements to focus on: the treatment proposal and the post-treatment documentation.
In the treatment proposal your treatment recommendation should be to install the best termite management system for the situation. Your customer may not want to install the top of the range solution, but you should recommend it. If they choose a lesser treatment or some physical factor discovered during treatment means the agreed system cannot be installed, this needs to be recorded. It is essential to note the limitations to the treatment, and whether they were a result of the customer’s decision making or became evident during treatment.
In the treatment records it’s important to take time to note all installation aspects both in writing and photographically, documenting everything that happened on site. Photographs showing the installation in stages (and depicting the reason for any deviation) can be extremely helpful to you should things go sideways. This may be the difference between keeping the money you earned for the work and having to pay out a claim if termites enter or re-enter the property.
A real-life claim example
One termite claim that I remember very clearly, highlighting the benefits of good photographic evidence, was a pre-construction installation.
The professional pest manager installed collars on the penetrations installed by a plumber. On completion, he noted the number of collars and drew his site diagram on his certificate. Importantly, he also took photos of his installation.
The building was later attacked by termites. The owner lodged a claim that the pest manager had not done his job properly at the pre-construction stage. However, it was dismissed because the pest manager’s photos showed he installed 12 penetrations, all with collars affixed. The termites had entered via a thirteenth penetration that was not there at the time. The plumber had returned after the collars were put in place and installed another drain but failed to tell anyone.
Reporting requirements may seem onerous, but using a real-time reporting app such as our free Rapid Inspect app makes it easy. Plus, it ensures reports are compliant with Australian Standards – further helping avoid insurance claims.
Time may well be money, but when it comes to termite treatments, spending time (and pricing your services accordingly) will undoubtably save you money and protect your business.
Robert Prosser, Technical Officer and Industry Expert, Rapid Solutions