The Inspector's Toolkit: preparation and good communication
How do you normally engage with a client regarding a forthcoming inspection/visit?
Most of my inspections are ‘contracted’ which means the client has agreed to formerly scheduled visits. These visits are usually either annual or bi-annual. Contact to arrange the inspection is usually via email, 6 to 8 weeks in advance of the scheduled month.
Some of the inspections are scheduled in conjunction with the pest control contractor’s technical inspections. This is usually when the client has quarterly inspections. In simple terms, Kiwa Independent Pest Consultancy delivers two audits, and the contractor completes two visits as technical inspections.
New clients will tend to agree dates and timescales at the point of contacting Kiwa IPC.
Inspections overseas are becoming an increasing feature of the consultant’s work plan. The arrangements for the investigation are usually agreed mutually between Kiwa IPC and the client following agreement over costs. Somewhat inevitably, flight availability has an influence over when the inspection can take place.
What typical preparations might you make prior to visiting a client?
If the visit is to an existing client, then I would usually read the previous report before the inspection just to remind me of the findings from the last audit.
The Kiwa IPC audit will usually include a ‘documentation review,’ which increasingly will be accessed online. If the documentation is online, the login details will be requested, and the review completed. The advantage of the online approach is that an insight into recent events and operations can be obtained.
If the site is new to Kiwa IPC then I will usually check the ‘rodent resistance status’ of the area before the inspection. This is done via the Rodent Resistance Action Committee (RRAC) website. The issue of rodent resistance is becoming a growing issue across Europe.
Overseas audits have many more operational elements to arrange, for example, flights – transfers or car hire – hotel etc. Additionally, and most importantly, I check my passport is in order!
What is the typical process of a visit, start to finish?
Typically, the scheduled inspection will follow the following elements:
- H&S Documentation. It varies by client, but usually there will be some health and safety documentation to complete. This can also include completing ‘permits to work’ and/or site induction training.
- Opening meeting. This is where site operatives can vocalise any issues or concerns. Additionally, it can be useful to get updates to key issues previously raised in the last inspection.
The second purpose of the meeting is to agree the format of the day (accompanied or unaccompanied by site) the times and areas to be inspected.
- Inspection. The inspection process and procedure will depend on the type of site activity. Food production facilities or flour/feed mills tend to be more complex inspections in comparison to say warehousing and distribution sites. Food production sites will include the fabric of the site, production line machinery and warehousing and dispatch facility.
Common to all will be the inspection of the external building fabric and environmental conditions. Our approach is always to ensure the site is robust and pest entry or attraction to the site is avoided.
- Close out meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to give a brief summary of the main findings from the inspection. This will include observations which are key to the site, and which may pose an immediate risk to products and process. The meeting will also cover a brief overview of the pest control contractor’s performance.
- Inspection Report. All inspections are followed by a detailed report, which is supported with photographic evidence/references.
If the site is experiencing pest activity, our inspection reports will always include a ‘control strategy’ element. Our objective is to ensure our clients have a clear path to achieving and maintaining control of pests.
Additionally, an important part of the report is the ‘Quality Assurance’ (QA) assessment of the pest control contractor. It’s always good to know the independent view of the contractor’s performance. Any areas for improvement to the pest management regime are clearly detailed and populated with suggestions for service improvements.
What are the most common issues exposed by your investigations and do things differ in the UK from any overseas experiences you have?
It is difficult to say what is a ‘common issue’ as sites vary massively, from 17th century mills to state-of-the-art modern buildings. Some sites have machinery which predates the turn of the 1800’s and others which have completely automated processing which is the result of bespoke design.
It’s important though not to forget the omnipresent risks:
- Hygiene. I always check the sites’ Electronic Fly Killer units and I’m looking for the presence of small black flies. Species such as fruit flies or drain flies can lead the investigation into hygiene arrangements, for example, floor drain maintenance, wastewater management or lack of ‘housekeeping.’
- Intrusion risks. Pests entering the site are not always attributable to poor building fabric. There is also a strong link between rodent intrusion and door control. Poor door control is a common issue across the UK and Europe. Keeping doors closed when not in use or unattended is a topic which should be regularly re-briefed to staff. Those members of the site who complete QA inspections should also be on the lookout for open doors.
- Building fabric. It will come as no surprise to hear that ‘proofing’ against pest intrusion is a common part of our inspection reports. It should be remembered that rodents (mice) have a proofing gap size of 6mm – that is surprisingly small. Using the right materials to proof buildings is also important. Our report will suggest example materials that have a pest proofing legacy.
- Language. Somewhat obviously language tends to be the big overseas issue, or so it would seem. My experience is that English is widely spoken, however, getting the ‘meaning’ or nuance across is the real issue. [By way of an anecdote: I was in a closing meeting in a food production site in Sardinia, with at least 8 site personnel in the room. One employee was translating for both sides. All was going well when the meeting exploded with people shouting and pointing at me. After what seemed like hours (probably 10 minutes in reality), they stopped, shuck my hand warmly and walked out. The employee translating advised that the factory director was upset that I wanted to work through lunch as timings were tight. Compromise was achieved by restricting lunch to one hour.]
Can you think of any aspects of visits that may be more challenging and how you overcome them?
Probably the most challenging aspect of the audit comes when the site processes themselves are supporting pest activity. It is not uncommon to hear statements such as ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it…’ Clearly, my job is to highlight the risks and the opportunities to negate those risks. That means being very clear and concise with the feedback to site.
Sometimes that resistance to change processes comes from outside sources and not the site itself, for example the pest control contractor. Again, being clear about the risks and the opportunities is vital.
As the auditor/inspector it is important to remember our job is to ‘advise’ – albeit in the most compelling manner possible.
What skills do you think are most critical to doing your job?
A curious mind (nosey) – ‘I can’t walk past a closed door.’
Focus – solution focused – ‘how can I solve this one?’
An open mind – ‘nobody has a monopoly on good ideas.’
A good communicator – both ‘spoken’ AND ‘written’ word are critical in aiding understanding of ‘what has to be done.’