Schools must manage pests to prevent injury, disease and damage to property and people, maintain buildings in sound condition, minimise disruption to teaching and sporting activities and prevent the spread of pests from the school into the surrounding community and environment. Pests in schools can include rodents, bats, birds, possums, snakes and insects such as ants, cockroaches etc.
This page has been prepared with information on the methods of pest control and ways to minimise the risks that the use of pesticides in schools may present
The first step in the pest control process is to understand the conditions pests need to survive, reproduce and spread, as well as to predict which pests may create problems and the time and location these problems are most likely to occur. E.g. rats and mice are known to cause great damage to buildings and equipment.
On top of the danger of disease, rodents also pose a fire hazard due to their ability to chew through electrical wiring and cables
Once pests have been identified you should find the most effective control method that presents the least risk to the environment and human health. Such methods include:
- mechanical controls – mechanical pest control is the management of pests using physical means such as fences, barriers, or screens. It also includes methods such as trapping or weeding
- managerial controls – includes hygiene and sanitation, regular inspection and monitoring, landscaping to remove areas for pests to hide (e.g. snakes in debris, tyres)
- chemicals – if you need to use a pesticide, choose the least toxic chemical.
Minimising the Risks from Pesticides
The public’s concern about health risks associated with chemicals is increasing, particularly when children are involved. Schools should become aware of the pest control options available to them and take steps to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
The main way that this can be done is to time the application to minimise human exposure to the pesticide. School holidays or weekends are ideal but check whether outside groups are using school facilities at these times. It is also recommended to keep a written record of numbers of baits laid and recovered to prevent them being forgotten or missed. If baits are left for long periods they can deteriorate into a powdery form that can be inhaled.
Schools should always aim to implement preventative measures rather than reactive measures such as the application of pesticides. Some simple preventative measures that can be applied are:
- restricting where food is eaten
- moving dumpsters and food disposal containers away from the school
- repairing and maintaining leaking pipes
- pressure cleaning food service areas
- sealing cracks and crevices
- instituting sanitation measures
- cleaning gutters and directing water flow away from buildings to prevent saturation
- educating students and staff about how their actions affect pest management and control.