Winter season is when pest pressure clusters around the exterior of commercial facilities. Pests will attempt to gain access to the structure to get out of the cold, rain and snow to seek warmth and sources of food and harborage.
Denying pests access to a structure requires facility and property managers to take pro-active steps to ensure their plants and warehouses are buttoned up before winter arrives. This includes an emphasis on exclusion.
In the Food Safety Modernization Act-era implementing preventive controls – of which pest exclusion is a key element - to deny pests access to a facility is preferred by third-party auditors and inspectors.
Sprague knows it is far easier to prevent a pest infestation than to eliminate one after they've gained access to your facility. This means facilities need to develop and carry out an effective pest exclusion program starting with a thorough inspection both inside and out.
The goal of the inspection is to identify structural (i.e. cracks in the foundation, missing vent screens, missing door sweeps and weather stripping) or operational deficiencies (i.e. poor sanitation practices, failure to inspect incoming shipments) that could provide pests access.
Sprague encourages QA, facility managers and maintenance and engineering staffs to use the following pest exclusion checklist to seal up structures and protect them against pests:
- Foundation Areas
- Roof/Roofing Materials
- Ventilation and Utility Openings/Chimneys
- Exterior Landscape
- Exterior Doors/Windows
- Loading Docks
- Supply rooms and furnace rooms
- Employee locker rooms, break rooms and cafeterias
- Inside machinery (motor compartments are a favorite)
- Warehouse/storage areas, especially areas where raw food ingredients are stored
- Carts on which food is transported within facility
The findings of the inspection will help determine what corrective actions are needed to fix the issue(s), provide a long-term remedy and maintain a secure “pest shield” around your facility.
Once the corrective actions are identified an action plan needs to be developed. The plan will include a timeline to complete the required repairs, exclusion practices, etc., document what was done and if the steps taken achieved their intended purpose – to mitigate the risk of pest access.
In this new era of increased scrutiny from second- and third-party auditors and inspectors, it is a must that all corrective actions be documented. The report should be placed in the facility’s pest management file so it can easily be accessed and shared with auditors and inspectors.
The timing of the inspection is also important. Facility managers and their pest management partners should conduct the inspection before winter storms arrive.
Follow up inspections – especially after major weather events like ice storms, heavy rains or high winds - should be made periodically to ensure the corrective actions are intact and doing their job.
The Winter Weather Forecast
What does the weather forecast look like this winter for the diverse regions Sprague services? According to the venerable Old Farmer’s Almanac, here is what Mother Nature has in store:
Winter will be warmer and much rainier than normal, with below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will occur in early and late December, early January, and mid- and late February, with the snowiest periods in early January and mid-February. April and May will be warmer and drier than normal.
Winter temperatures and precipitation will be above normal, on average, with the coldest periods in late December, early January, and early February. Snowfall will be above normal in the north and below normal in the south, with the snowiest periods late December, early and late January, mid- to late February, and early March. April and May will have temperatures below normal in the north and above normal in the south and will be slightly drier than normal.
Winter temperatures will be near or cooler than normal, with rainfall above normal in the north and slightly below normal in the south. The coldest periods will occur in late December, mid-January, and early February. Mountain snows are already above average, with the stormiest periods in late December, and early January. April and May will be cooler and drier than normal.