Health & Safety

Agents of destruction: why pest management is essential in logistics

By Mark Nicholson

March 2017

Why pest management is essential in warehousing and logistics

We all know that poor handling by a powerful forklift truck can destroy the value of an entire pallet load of goods. As Mark Nicholson warns in the following article, a single mouse dropping has the power to do the same thing.

Whether it’s a dropping, a feather, a piece of nest material or an insect, evidence of contamination by pests may result in rejection of products. Even if it’s a non-food delivery, and even if each item is individually wrapped, the customer might refuse to take it if the container is contaminated.

Hubs for pest transmission

Warehouses, distribution centres and their associated logistics and transport operations are in a difficult position when it comes to pest control. Pests can get into the supply chain from the outside environment through a multitude of docks or via movement of staff and visitors. And they can be shipped into your premises from all over the world.

Once there, they will often find ideal conditions in which to live and breed. They may move around to find the part of your workplace that provides the best temperature and shelter. They may also discover a variety of other stored goods to feed and shelter them.

You may not have had a serious problem to date, but you should be taking preventative action now. A pest control expert can predict and prevent infestations, saving you from a nasty surprise and a lot of expense. Importantly, your strategy should look not only at your own site but at the potential for pest problems elsewhere in your supply chain to affect you.


Mice and rats are high on the list of unwanted warehouse visitors.

The cost of ignoring pest risks

Here are just some of the reasons why you should take preventative action to protect your business:

  • Increasingly stringent food regulations and discerning customers – making contaminated products unsaleable
  • Loss of reputation, customers and contracts
  • Compensation demands from businesses to which you have transmitted pests
  • Employees’ morale – who wants to stay in an infested workplace?
  • Spread of illness via contaminated food or air – did you know that a single pigeon’s droppings and feathers can carry and transmit more than 60 diseases?
  • Damage to your property through gnawing and burrowing – electrical wiring is a particular favourite for rodents
  • Corrosion of metal structures through birds’ droppings
  • Prosecution for breaking hygiene laws
  • The expense of eradicating pests – which is much higher than the cost of preventative measures

Pest control and the law

If you handle any kind of foodstuff or food ingredient, whether for human consumption or animal feed, you need to abide by EU legislation. The key principles are set out in the EU General Food Law Regulation No. 178/2002, and each country will have its own further requirements.

There is also legislation relating to the spread of invasive alien species which may be damaging to human health, to crops or other areas of the economy, or to the balance of nature. EU Regulation 2016/1141 lists the species currently of concern.

In addition, the EU has laws on the use of pesticides and other pest control methods. Instead of trying to do it yourself, it’s best to leave this to a good pest controller who knows the law.

How to keep pests under control

The first thing you should do is get a pest control professional to survey your site, record existing pests, identify risks and set up regular monitoring. Here are some actions you can take, in consultation with the specialist:

  • Keep all potential pest entry points closed whenever possible – including loading dock and other doors, parked vehicles and pedestrian doorways
  • Install barriers such as well-sealed, self-closing doors, fly screens and air curtains
  • Install pest proofing, such as exclusion netting for pigeons
  • Maintain a pest exclusion zone around your site’s perimeter, by removing a strip of sheltering vegetation and, if necessary, asking your pest controller to monitor it
  • Keep your premises neat and clean, including kitchens – and make sure food packaging saved for recycling is contained to avoid attracting vermin
  • Deprive rats and mice of food, water and shelter – including access to spaces in walls, roofs and ventilation shafts – and bear in mind that some can use vertical pipes to reach higher places
  • Design your racking and storage layout to include an inspection aisle between your products and the wall, to help with pest monitoring
  • Make sure staff know how to recognise signs of infestation, and are aware of what should trigger a request for pest control action
  • Inspect every incoming shipment for signs such as gnawing, shredded material and dust
  • Segregate different types of product to avoid cross-contamination
  • Rotate stock, to give pests less time to become established, and whenever an area is empty take the opportunity to inspect and clean it
  • Regularly clean out lorries, containers and other transport facilities, and make sure areas where they are parked or stored are kept pest-free
  • Think about the whole supply chain and not just your own premises – could your suppliers be putting you at risk?
  • Keep records of pest observations, outbreaks and actions taken – these will be useful to the pest controller when working out strategies

A single mouse dropping can be as destructive to product value as a collision with a speeding forklift truck.


Modern pest management is much more sophisticated than this.

What the professional pest controller can add

Aside from a lot of relevant knowledge and expertise, on which a cost-effective pest prevention strategy for your premises can be based, the specialist has access to the latest control techniques.

You should really leave trapping, poison baiting, fumigation or any use of chemicals to the professional. Today’s technologies include things like deterrent noises and smells, insect growth regulators, insect pheromone monitors and automated baiting. There are also online systems to help in maintaining records and ensuring rapid action when needed.

Ideally, your pest controller should use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. This involves a blend of physical, chemical and biological methods to keep the pests under control, economically and with minimal use of pesticides.


Pests can find many entrances to your supply chain.

Choosing a pest controller

In the UK, look for members of the British Pest Control Association – – as they are obliged to meet a range of quality criteria. A European Standard for Pest Management Services, EN 16636, has recently been established, and a number of companies have now achieved this certification.