Pest control and the law

When you think of pest control, the law probably doesn’t cross your mind. However, there is a lot of legislation surrounding the control of pests in the UK and concerning what you can and cannot do. Here’s our brief guide to pest control and the law. 

Legislation

It may surprise you, but pest control has been written in UK law for 70 years. The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 allows local authorities and licenced businesses to carry out pest control where there is a significant risk of damage being caused by pests such as rats. It also enables action to be taken when there’s a risk of contamination for companies that store or manufacture food products. It’s important for landlords to be aware of their duties in this situation, and they are responsible for keeping their properties free from pests. 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is also an enabling piece of legislation that forces employers to carry out pest control in order to protect employees at work. While it’s not directly a pest-related law, it’s extremely relevant. Failure to take care of a pest problem which potentially has health and/or safety ramifications can lead businesses to be fined significantly. Therefore, this legislation forces employers to perform pest control when it’s required. 

In a similar vein to the above, the Food Safety Act 1990 is designed to protect us from the detrimental effects of pests, such as disease and damage to property. The Food Safety Act demands that establishments that handle food take proper precautions to prevent pests from contaminating their food. It also compels business owners and people in control to hire professional pest control services to ensure any pest problems are dealt with to the highest standard. 

COSHH

These pieces of legislation are primarily aimed at professionals with a responsibility to our health and safety, but there are laws and customs in the UK which affect how individuals and private pest control companies deal with pests. For example, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations 2002, as the name suggests, dictates the way certain substances and chemicals can be used. 

Pesticides, insecticides, or any other chemical used for pest control are bad for our health, as such, COSHH must be followed. Chemical baits and poisons must be placed and contained appropriately so as to not cause harm to humans (or animal species who aren’t the target). Similarly, when spraying chemicals, it’s important to be specific and targeted. A scattergun approach to spraying harmful chemicals is a violation of COSHH, and any reputable pest controller will avoid doing so. 

Methods

We always advise against taking pest control into your own hands for your own safety and to ensure the aforementioned legislations and regulations are followed. However, we know that some people still attempt it occasionally. In doing so, you risk breaking some laws that you may not know about and being prosecuted as a result. It’s not worth the risk. 

Some methods of pest control, such as glue traps or drowning traps for rodents, are fairly common, but we strongly advise against their use. Using these types of trap are unethical and you may face legal ramifications. A better alternative is the break-back trap, which provides an instant, painless solution for rodents that are caught. If you do use these traps, be sure to follow all instructions they come with. 

Other methods you should avoid include: self-locking snares, bows and crossbars, explosives (unless you have the relevant licence for certain firearms), or using live animals as bait or decoys to lure pests. 

Protected species

It’s also important to be aware of protected species. Species that are endangered or may cause harm to a local environment must be handled in a certain way or left alone altogether. For example, keeping or releasing grey squirrels into the wild is an offence. It is also illegal to disturb bats that are roosting, regardless of where they are doing so – even if it’s inside your home. 

Additionally, bees are a protected species, and their numbers have been in decline for many years. As such, we must be careful when dealing with them when they enter our homes en masse. The best and most sustainable course of action is to have the Queen (and hive) relocated to a new location instead of using chemicals or some other destructive form of best control. In all these cases, it’s best to call a professional

If you have a pest problem and are concerned with how you should act, get in touch with us immediately. Our pest control experts will give you the best advice on what steps to take in order to remain on the right side of the law and, most importantly, safe. Here at Inoculand, we have over a decade’s experience in dealing with pests in and around London. We understand the dangers and hassle that pests cause, and we’re more than happy to help.