Many pest control companies, large and small, have terrific training programs for dealing with specific pests, product labels, cross-selling, etc. But we don’t see many companies that spend enough time training on their pest control equipment. How do we know this? By the types and numbers of avoidable problems we see in our pest control equipment repair shop every day.
Spending a little more time on pest control equipment training will reduce your downtime, repair expenses and missed customer appointments.
Use these “Top 10” pest control equipment training tips to create an effective equipment program, which extends equipment life and reduces headaches.
1. Train on day one. Don’t assume that new technicians know about the equipment you use — or assume that because your new technician worked in pest control at another company in his previous job, he knows what you expect. Don’t ignore equipment in your new hire orientation training.
Do your employees know how to properly and safely operate your equipment? Make sure they understand your company policies on equipment use and chemical application. For example, “XYZ Pest Control Company policy is to operate our power sprayer at 75 PSI; here is how you check and adjust the pressure.”
Tell employees what you need them to do and put it in writing in your operations manual.
2. Train on “why” as well as “how.” We are continually surprised at the number of pest control technicians who don’t have any idea how their equipment works.
An example that demonstrates this lack of knowledge is:
- A technician says his motor doesn’t work and points to the pump.
- We asked the technician, “When was the last time you checked the filter?” His response: “I didn’t know there was a filter.”
- The technician’s description of the problem was, “My sprayer doesn’t work.”
If a technician has no idea how a piece of equipment works, he will have no idea how to troubleshoot the problem or explain it to his boss or repair technician. A good description of the problem can result in faster resolution.
For example, a little understanding of the workings of a compressed air sprayer might help the technician solve simple problems like the sprayer not building pressure. Installing a new check valve is something almost anyone can do, and it requires no tools.
3. Once is not enough. Retrain periodically. Just because you trained Tony Technician on day one, doesn’t mean he is still doing what you want him to do. People forget. They get rushed. They find shortcuts. Shortcuts often shorten equipment life and cost you money. Do periodic retraining on pest control equipment.
4. Train technicians to identify and report problems. Technicians will live with problems. Many of the equipment problems we see in our repair shop are significantly worse than they need to be.
In too many instances, spray technicians have ignored problems in the hope that they will go away. Remember, “hope” is not a strategy.
Equipment problems do not get better and they do not go away. Much like the slow drip of your kitchen faucet, spray equipment problems always get worse. Small problems inevitably become big problems. Big problems cost more and take longer to fix.
When a technician reports a problem, don’t rip his head off. It will discourage him and others from reporting problems in the future.
5. Safety training. Judging from some of the pest control vehicles we service every day, safety is not always top of mind. A little attention in this area can prevent injuries, accidents, equipment damage and chemical spills.
We recommend sharing one safety tip a month with your technicians. Some examples:
- Do a quick check of equipment before driving off to ensure equipment is secure enough to remain in place in the event of a hard stop, sharp turn or accident.
- Check to make sure you didn’t leave anything sitting on the tailgate, side rail or roof, where you are sure to damage or lose it.
- Look for, anticipate and head off problems before they occur. For example, is that hose cracked and worn? Replace it before a chemical spill occurs.
- Are all hot, sharp, moving or otherwise dangerous parts shielded to prevent technician injury?
- Do you know how to deal with a chemical spill? Who will you call? What will you do? Is your spill kit stocked and in good condition?
- Is your equipment selected, designed and positioned to prevent back injury?
6. Supervisors: Trust but verify. I recommend supervisors or managers perform periodic truck inspections. Start with regular, frequent inspections and reduce frequency as inspection results improve.
Equipment inspections can be scheduled or conducted on a surprise basis. One company I know does a bi-weekly truck inspection — before the technician can collect his paycheck. Another company has one supervisor perform the inspections while another presents the monthly training meeting.
Remember, just because you told a technician that something was important during new hire training doesn’t mean he or she is still doing it. If technicians see that you are not following up, or that other technicians are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, the technician will question why it needs to be done. Equipment life will suffer.
7. Emergency field repairs save time and money. Don’t let a small problem cause major disruptions in the day’s service route.
Keep easy-to-replace parts in each truck so that minor repairs can be completed in the field. A repair in the field saves a trip across town to the repair shop. The technician can complete scheduled stops without customer impact.
Key points when creating your emergency repair kit:
- Focus on minor, easy-to-accomplish repairs that don’t require expensive tools.
- Customize emergency repair kits based on the equipment, technician, experience, etc.
- Consider technician skill when deciding the types of repairs he or she can perform. Remember: don’t send your ducks to eagle school.
- Be sure to provide training on how to use repair kits.
- Make sure technicians report the repairs they have made. When conducting truck inspections, check repair kits to see what parts are used. Track repairs to find problem areas. Modify repair kits based on what you find.
A few dollars expended and a few moments spent training technicians to make field repairs will pay dividends well in excess of your cost. Your customers will benefit as will your bottom line.
8. Pareto says, focus on the big problems. You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle — 20 percent of the stuff is responsible for 80 percent of the outcome. Pareto applies to pest control equipment problems as well. Figure out what your most common equipment problems are and create a quick and easy way to reinforce preventive action with your crew.
For example, these would be on the top of my list:
- Check and clean the filter.
- Release the pressure after each stop.
- Clean out your equipment regularly.
- Secure your equipment before driving off.
- Report problems immediately.
Customize the list based on your equipment and technician experience, and remind your technicians and supervisors.
9. Surprise! It’s winter and equipment freezes. We are shocked by the number of companies reporting freeze damage. Winter is not a surprise; we know it is coming. To prevent equipment damage and downtime, train your technicians on how to anticipate and prevent freeze damage, and what to do when it occurs.
This topic was the subject of a detailed PCT article in October 2016 (www.pct online.com/article/wild-winter/).
Remember, NEVER run frozen equipment or put hot water on it. Let it thaw out, or you will cause serious damage.
Winter is already a slow period for most spray professionals. Don’t increase your problems by allowing a deep freeze to damage spray equipment.
10. Driving safety. The majority of workplace accidents are auto-related. The vehicle is likely the most expensive piece of equipment a pest control technician uses. It is not enough to say “drive safely” and give him or her the keys.
Create a driving safety module. Get your insurance agent to help, or find resources online. Some key points to include: no speeding, no texting, what to do and say in case of an accident, who to call in case of an accident, etc.
Andrew Greess is a pest control equipment expert and author, and president of Qspray.com, the pest control equipment website. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.