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07 March 2018

Rocket Van! Van safety for the professional pest controller

Feature business practice | PPC90 March 2018

Van safety for the professional pest controller

Quick view
  • HSE says work vehicles must be regularly maintained, repaired and inspected
  • The DVSA has a comprehensive guide to daily checks
  • By law we have ensure chemicals are stored correctly and safely
  • When in the company van you’re representing your business
  • In 2012-16 tool thefts rose by 30.5% and average claim values by 40%

Sometimes it feels as if we spend as much time in work vehicles as we do out on jobs. How often do we take the time to really appreciate our trusty vans? Technical Manager, Dee Ward-Thompson investigates how to keep vans legal, safe and on the road.

They’re your office space, equipment store, filing cabinet and, more than occasionally, your breakroom. To paraphrase Elton, we end up stuck in them for a long, long time ('til touchdown brings me round again). But having a pest control van is a big responsibility.

We’ve put together a safety guide that every professional pest controller should take note of. After all, failure to keep your van safe can result in expensive downtime, penalty points and fines and, in the worst case scenario, serious injury. In 2015, 1,732 people died on British roads and the more time you spend on the go, the higher your chances are of having a serious incident.

General van safety

General pest control van safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that by law, every employer must make sure that work vehicles are:

  • Safe
  • Right for the job
  • Driven safely
  • Accessed safely
  • Regularly maintained, repaired and inspected.

That doesn’t mean as an employee you don’t have your set of responsibilities too.

Vehicle manufacturers are always finding ways to improve safety with everything from stability control, airbags and ABS to the more advanced safety kit such as lane keeping assist, auto city braking and adaptive cruise control. But if you don’t understand how these features work, then they’re not going to be of much use.

Make sure you and everyone on your team understands what features your van has and how to use them. More accidents happen when in an unfamiliar vehicle, so it’s essential you make an effort to get familiar with it before you get out and about. Go for a short test drive if it’s your first time in a particular van. Dare I say it? Try actually reading the manual.

Daily checks

Daily checks for your pest control van

If you’re an employer or manager, we recommend that you empower your technicians so they can do some simple vehicle checks every day. At a team meeting or on a training day, go through the checklist and make sure everyone understands what they need to do before they go to their first job.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has a comprehensive guide to daily checks. They even have a helpful handout that might be useful to have in the van at all times. It might seem like overkill, but who are we to argue with the DVSA?

Inside the vehicle, check:

  • Foot and hand brakes
  • Horn and steering
  • All lights, including indicators and
  • brake lights
  • For any warning lights 
  • Mirrors are aligned
  • All glass is clear of obstructions (dirt, stickers, frost, snow)
  • Seat belts are secure and work correctly
  • Wipers work and you’ve got washer fluid.

Outside the vehicle, check:

  • The battery is secure and not leaking
  • Brake fluid, engine coolant, engine oil, power steering fluid, windscreen washer fluid and water levels are correct
  • Fuel cap is securely fitted 
  • There are no leaks around the van
  • Bodywork damage or sharp edges
  • All doors shut properly
  • Exhaust isn’t kicking out excessive amounts of smoke (this could indicate an engine problem)
  • Tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm and are sufficiently inflated
  • Tyres have no visible cuts or cords visible (you can get three penalty points on your licence for each tyre that isn’t safe and legal)
  • Equipment is adequately secured.

You can find the full guide and the handy overview document at gov.uk/government/publications/van-drivers-daily-walkaround-check

Pesticide storage in your van

Pesticide storage in your van

Part of our jobs is carrying around potentially hazardous materials, and therefore pest control technicians have a whole host of other considerations compared to your average tradesperson.

We have legal duties as professional pesticide users to make sure our chemicals are correctly stored and safe. Spills can be dangerous and time-consuming.

Tips for storing pesticides in your van:

  • Check the load carrying area is free from anything that might damage containers
  • Mark the load carrying areas with all the appropriate danger warning signs
  • Never carry pesticides in the cabs of vehicles 
  • Make sure you have a suitable fire extinguisher somewhere in the vehicle (and that all technicians know how to use it)
  • An eyewash station should be available and easily accessible within the vehicle in case of pesticide spillage
  • Make sure you can clean your hands in your van
  • Get a chemical spillage kit suitable for pesticide spillage
  • Record the amount of pesticide
  • being carried in the vehicle and keep it in the cab (we have a template for this in our Vehicle Storage Code of Best Practice)
  • Make sure you have PPE equipment stored somewhere it can’t be contaminated
  • Check the lids and caps are securely fitted before you leave a job
  • Take all empty containers and packaging back to your fixed store.

You have a duty to keep your pesticides secured against unauthorised access. Try to work within sight of your van – especially in areas where the public may have access. Always make sure your vehicle and the pesticide cabinet is securely locked when unattended!

Did you know that if you're a BPCA member, you should be following the Code of Best Practice for storing pesticides in your van? You can refresh your memory by visiting here bpca.org.uk/codes

On the road

On the road safety for your pest control van

Let’s not labour the point, but bad driving is the number one cause of accidents on the road.

Remember, when in the company van you’re representing the whole of your business. If you do something daft, you’re making your whole organisation look unprofessional.

If you hear things slide around in the back, you’ve not loaded your van very well, so it’s essential that you pull over and secure your load before you continue. You’re carrying hazardous cargo, so use your throttle, brakes and steering smoothly. You don’t want to get to a job and find you’ve had a nasty spill – that’s not the first impression you want to give your clients!

Speed limits for goods vehicles

And remember, vans have different speed limits to cars. Make sure you’re following the speed limits on a particular road. It might be the work van, but it’ll be your penalty points and fine.

Security and protecting your equipment

Security and protecting your pest control van

Tradespeople are reporting more and more vehicle break-ins every year, and it’s a constant fear that someone will get into your stuff while you’re parked up somewhere.

Simply Business did a study last year and found that between 2012 and 2016 there was a 30.5% rise in the number of tool thefts and a 40% growth in the average value of claims.

Although pest control vans are rarely targeted by thieves, by the time someone has broken into your van to check you don’t have any tools they can easily sell, it’s too late. The damage inflicted on your van can put you out of commision for days and repairs can be expensive.

You can fit a tracking device to your vehicle but this can be expensive, and you’ll probably end up paying a monthly fee to maintain the tracking system. You can even get WiFi cameras and security lights for vans if you want to go all out.

Tips for keeping your kit secured:

  • Remove valuable equipment from the van at night
  • A “no tools kept in van overnight” sticker is a cheap deterrent 
  • Keep your vehicle parked in a busy area
  • Mark your equipment with an ultraviolet pen and perhaps register your kit on the Immobilise Register
  • Check your insurance adequately covers your equipment in the van.

CAN YOU ADD ANYTHING?

Got your own tips for staying safe on the road? Tweet @britpestcontrol or send your tips to hello@bpca.org.uk

WE WANT YOUR PPC IDEAS

The article was suggested as a topic by a BPCA member. Have you got a subject you want PPC to cover? Send your article ideas to hello@bpca.org.uk

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Dee-ward-thompson-Staff-BubbleDee Ward-Thompson
Technical Manager

1 March 2018  |  PPC90

Source: PPC90

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