Customer and Worker Perspective on Integrated Pest Management Thursday June 23, 2011
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This morning I was browsing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educational websites. The University of Massacheussets IPM Extension provided a definition of IPM that is consistent within the industry. What I found somewhat unique about the site was that it identified an IPM point system that was applied to numerous crops, such as this scorecard of Apple IPM guidelines. I really don’t know much about how to score IPM practice for apples, but it is as good a scoring system as any.What I have noticed as a weakness in IPM is the lack of focus on customers and workers. The entire methodology, though derived from a concern for the environment seems myopically focused on the pest and the target of treatment. When the Pest Control Operators of California first attempted to create an IPM certification they came up with a scorecard, but it was later dropped from consideration. I can’t say for sure, but I believe there was too much difference of opinion over what point values should be ascribed to what method. Ah! The devil is in the details.

I wonder what would the IPM scorecard look like if the customer was formulating it. I don’t think the scorecard would focus on whether a home was perimeter sprayed or what type of sprayer was used.

I suggest points would be ascribed to such things as: Does the pest control technique employed sent pesticide through my windows? Does the pesticide get left to drain into the street? Does the pesticide leave noxious odors? Does the pest control method eliminate or minimize risks to my pets and children? Does the pest control technician provide suggested changes that would ease the occurrence of pests? Does the pest control technician talk to me or just spray whatever? Does the pest control technician leave a mess in my house? Does the pest control technician use products with labels that I feel comfortable using at my house?

What would be on the pest control worker’s IPM scorecard dreamlist?

Can I get the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep me free of pesticide residues? Can I get a clean change of work clothing for each day, with additional clothing in reserve on my truck? Can I not get so many stops that I need to rush, so that I won’t get sloppy with my work? Can I get equipment that will help me reduce injuries? Can I get help when I ask for help? Can I get those extras, like booties, so I won’t make a mess in someone’s home? Can I get a wider variety of pesticides to use, so I don’t have to rely on Termidor for everything? Can I get some sick time, so I don’t feel a financial need to come in sick, when I am more prone to create an accident or get my customers sick? Can I get some IPM education and certification? Can I get the truck repairs I need so that I am less likely to be in a potential chemical spill accident? Can I be given time on my route to actually talk to my customers instead of me feeling like “a spray jocky?” Can someone give me some real professional and corporate training instead of rushing me into the field?

IPM point systems have some value, but they can reduce innovation, by codifying the methods and values as perceived by a board of regulators or academics. There may be other methods of assuring good IPM without such a quantitative approach that is ok in the laboratory, but not all that practical when moving through a pest control worker’s daily routine.

Green pest control, including IPM involves a state of mind wherein you are thinking of not just micro-techniques that help reduce risks while solving pest problems. The feelings of workers and customers need to play a larger role in the definition of green pest control and IPM. At Hearts Pest Management, we don’t want workers to think they are doing IPM just because they use a granular instead of a hand sprayer or a hand sprayer instead of a power sprayer. Ultimately, the question is whether or not the pest control service helps or damages the micro-environment and the macro-environment. It’s not just about the apple! It’s about people, pets and the environment.

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