The need for qualified pest control operators

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There is a heightened awareness around responsible pest control due to the world?s drastic climate changes and increased tourism activity.

The role of the Pest Control Technician/Operator (PCO) isn?t often discussed as a career option, as the unglamorous side often overrides the importance thereof.

Lack of awareness has caused a real need for PCOs in South Africa.

The hospitality, tourism and domestic markets are realising the need for professional help more and more, as unwanted or unknown bugs and pests are tough to deal with.

Do you want to work in Pest Control?

Recently Rentokil - one of South Africa's, and indeed the world's, leading providers in pest control - answered a number of questions:

1. What is a Pest Control Technician?

Also called a PCO (Pest Control Operator), he or she commercially applies pesticides to control pests. This person has to be registered with the Dept of Agriculture as a PCO in order to apply pesticides. This used to be done annually, but will be done once every 3 years from 2009.

2. What does a day at work entail for him or her?

A PCO will collect his or her worksheet and pesticides (only approved pesticides) from the office daily or weekly. His typical day will involve driving to clients, inspecting premises for pests, treating pests, advising clients on recommendations to minimise infestations and completing reports as required.

3. Is there some formal training that technicians go through in order to qualify for the position? What is it and where can it be obtained?

Companies will provide some in-house training. The PCSIB (Pest Control Services Industry Board) offers a 2-year PCO course with 10 Subjects, and recently launched a 3-day short course to enable candidates to get registered quickly with the Dept of Agriculture. The PMA (Pest Management Academy) also offers 3-day courses in basic and advanced Pest Control subjects.

4. Often people perceive it to be a dirty job, is this perception true?

Yes, this can be a dirty job, as one has to go into basements, ceilings, dirty areas to do thorough inspections and treatments. PCO?s often have to get on their hands and knees to find the actual harbourages of the pests. However, most premises can be quite clean, neat and tidy. Despite it being a very manual job, it does require the expertise of a highly skilled and technically minded person.

5. When it comes to infestation situations, should the technician be able to handle squeamish situations?

Yes, the technician needs to be confident in front of his clients. The technician needs to be diplomatic and sympathetic as well. He/she needs to be professional and sensitive to the client?s feelings. A technician should always have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter - i.e. thorough understanding of the biology of the pests and understanding of the chemistry of pesticides. This will enable the technician to find the most effective solution and eradicate the unpleasantness that pest infestations create.

6. Is there room for promotion in the field?

Yes. The technician can be promoted to a senior technician (by writing in-house exams or by experience). Technicians can be promoted to a supervisor (through experience and studying some Supervisor courses). Technicians can also become sales consultants, QAC (Quality Assurance Coordinators) or Service Managers through hard work, experience, further studies and the correct attitude.

7. Is there a need for technicians or is it a popular career?

Yes, there is a great need for qualified technicians. It is not a popular career currently, because of the ignorance of this field and the lack of marketing. Added to this, public perception is often that this is a very manual, maintenance job and doesn?t require skill - however, this is quiet the contrary.

8. What are the worst situations technicians have dealt with in the past?
Technicians have died in fumigations due to ignorance or negligence. The chemicals applied in the past were far more dangerous and resulted in poisoning incidents. Also, if you have an unskilled/unqualified person conducting pest control they could have detrimental impacts on the health and safety of the public and damage the environment.

9. Could you name the basics of what is required from this career, such as hours, working conditions, etc?

A lot of overtime may be required due to client requirements. Work may have to be done at night and over weekends and sometimes holidays as well. A valid driver?s licence is required. Good people skills are required. Patience and tolerance are essential as one will be dealing regularly with all kinds of people. Good health is a pre-requisite as one will be exposed to chemicals daily. A Grade 12/Matric certificate is required.

10. How safe is it for technicians to work with chemicals?

It is safe if one always uses PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) correctly.

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