Latest UK pest control and management news for professionals

31 May 2022

Should the pest management sector be licensed?

Technical | PPC107 June 2022

At PestEx a panel took part in a discussion titled 'Licensing is coming: look busy'. Here are the highlights.

Should the pest control management sector be licensed BPCA PPC107

Papers, please! Pest professionals already operate under certain licensed conditions for some of the work we do, such as bird control and Glis glis.

Rodenticide stewardship and other voluntary qualification checks at the point of sale are already established. Formal requirements are likely to broaden further with glue board licensing on the horizon.

We’re left with some big questions:

  • Is it better that the activities of a pest professional are licensed on a piecemeal basis, or should we push for a fully licensed sector?
  • Should it be the pest technician who is licensed rather than just some of the activities they undertake?
  • Should professional products only be available to trained users?
  • As a sector, are we ready for licensing?

BPCA Chief Exec Ian Andrew on licensing

To be absolutely clear, there are no plans from BPCA or the UK governments to implement licensing for pest control. That said we can’t stick our heads in the sand – it might well come in at some point.

Much of our work already comes with licensed conditions and there’s no doubt there will be more that will end up licensed. We need to be ready for that.

Different sectors get licenced at different times and for different reasons. Often it takes some horrific circumstance – like a death that led to the gas sector being licensed. Most recently, tattoo artists have been licensed because of the risk of infections.

Pest controllers deal with substances that can cause illness, even if death is unlikely. So we absolutely need to be ready if tragedy comes to the sector.

We’re clear that BPCA members, in particular, are well positioned for licensing. We suspect much of the broader sector is too, although there’s no way for us to confirm that as we don’t have the visibility in those areas.

As a sector, we’ll find ourselves caught out if we don’t get things in place should licensing happen.

However, all the marks of professionalism that we would need in order to obtain a licence, like qualifications, CPD and so on, are all criteria of BPCA membership anyway. That makes our members uniquely future-proofed.

This is about readiness, about getting to the point where we’re confident that we can prove to the government, or anyone else, that we are professional.

Ian Andrew, BPCA Chief Exec

If you look across the channel to our neighbours, most European countries have some form of licensing for pest controllers.

The situation in the UK is quite rare in that we aren’t licensed, although there have been schemes unfolding over the years that came close to it.

The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use Stewardship scheme is like a licensing system, so we have a lot of good frameworks that can be built upon.

This is about readiness, about getting to the point where we’re confident that we can prove to the government, or anyone else, that we are professional.

From a quick show of hands, we see that about two thirds of the audience believe we should be licensed.

BPCA Training and Development Manager Karen Dawes on demonstrating professionalism

A licensing scheme will have, at its heart, a skilled and competent workforce; BPCA and its members have already been doing quite a bit of work around that to provide the building blocks should licensing ever come.

One of the things that you will already know about is BPCA Registered, an individual recognition and CPD scheme we launched in 2019.

It enables individuals to demonstrate that they’ve got the training and the qualifications. And because we recognise unstructured learning, that also goes quite a way to demonstrating competence.

It’s going extremely well, with nearly 3,000 individuals already on BPCA Registered.

Last year a BPCA working group, part of the Professional Standards Committee, was tasked with exploring what a qualification framework would look like five years from now.

If we started with a blank piece of paper what would the basic qualification for a pest professional look like and what would be needed?

A licensing scheme will have, at its heart, a skilled and competent workforce; BPCA and its members have already been doing quite a bit of work around that to provide the building blocks should licensing ever come.

Karen Dawes, BPCA Training and Development Manager

Another avenue we’ve been working on is the assessment process, to make sure that we can assess the ability to conduct pest management competently.

This morning you might have seen the 3D competency assessment ‘TechAssure’ over on the BPCA stand.

Last year, we received funding through Ufi VocTech to develop a competency assessment that mimics a realistic environment, where pest controllers can enter, move around as they would in a real job and be able to identify the pest causing the problem and the best treatments.

This will give technicians the ability to demonstrate competency in a safe but realistic way.

We also have another working group that’s exploring gap analysis of practical training that BPCA currently offers.

It’s all good preparation for if licences do come in, as we’ll have those building blocks already set in place.

BPCA Head of Technical and Membership Dee Ward-Thompson on licensing history

I’ve been around the industry quite a while now, and every grey hair I’ve developed is from being in pest control.

When I first joined the industry there was very little that even looked remotely like licensing, but in the intervening years I think we can all agree the landscape has changed quite a lot.

Government has never really been keen on licensing pest controllers. However, over those years we have seen more and more things that come in that either are described as licensing or look like licensing.

If we think back to 2015, that was quite a turning point for pest management companies. Stewardship came in and, while that isn’t a licence per se, it does require rodenticide users to gain a qualification.

Then, if you think of insecticides, most of you will know that when you go to manufacturers and distributors to buy their products, they expect you to show your competency in one way or another. So it’s not licensing as such but you will have to show some sort of qualification.

Then we nearly lost aluminium phosphide, and I know Karen was really involved and so was RAMPS when we came under attack on that front.

Everyone involved worked really hard to keep that product on the market, but you have to have a qualification. So again, they didn’t call it licensing but you have to have a qualification now to buy aluminium phosphide.

Government has never really been keen on licensing pest controllers. However, over those years we have seen more and more things that come in that either are described as licensing or look like licensing.

Dee Ward-Thompson, BPCA Head of Technical and Membership

How many of you remember the day that, all of a sudden, the general licences got revoked? That was a very stressful year and it put the sector under a lot of pressure.

Fortunately, they were revised and now most pest control companies are familiar with having to apply for a licence.

The closest thing to what we’re hoping for when it comes to glue board licensing, which is incoming, is licences for controlling Glis glis. In terms of knowing what to expect, it’s worth doing some CPD and having a look at those, to see how they work.

In short, you have to be qualified, you have to have had experience in capturing Glis glis or an equivalent mammal and then you apply for a licence. That licence lasts you for a year and you can trap them up and down the country.

So, like with Glis glis, not having to apply for a glue board licence on a case-by-case basis is an ideal situation, otherwise we worry it won’t be workable.

Discussion time

As you can see, we have already been operating under various licences and more are expected. However, those are for certain types of pest control and we just don’t know whether or not every individual will need to be licensed to do general pest control.

Does the government want us to be licensed? The simple answer is no, they have got no appetite for licensing. Does it mean it won’t ever happen? No, but absolutely not at the moment.

Rather than having it thrust upon us, our aim is to make sure we’ve got the right things in place if that day comes.

We’re in a much stronger position now than we’ve ever been to face something like that.

And, of course, licensing operates differently across the four nations of the UK, but none of the four governments have any appetite for general licensing of pest control.

Q: I think we should be pushing, if we can, for licensing of pest control as a sector. The reason I’m thinking that is because on different fronts we have problems with products being misused and then taken away. So if we had proof of professionalism, we could protect our toolkit and the future of our industry. But how do you prove someone is a professional?

Ian: A definition of a professional pest controller was signed off by CEPA a couple of years ago and it’s what BPCA membership criteria covers. So that’s training, qualifications, CPD requirements, competency and so on.

So, that definition exists, and these are the marks of a professional and we are fortunate that BPCA members meet that definition.

We’ve still got some work to do on the competency element as Karen mentioned, but I’m sure most businesses have got a way of signing off staff to do the job.

Q: Does BPCA want pest control to be licensed?

Ian: I think it could do members a lot of good if we are licensed, but obviously we don’t want you to have the additional burdens that a licensing regime would bring.

But if it is only that you’re showing your training, your qualifications, your CPD and some sort of assessment of competence why wouldn’t we? All of these things are in place already, across most of our members.

Q: What worries me is making sure that the licence is the same in all four nations across the UK. Otherwise it won’t be a level playing field and companies that operate across multiple nations will have a difficult time trying to manage it all.

Ian: Absolutely, if it was going to be that all pest controllers need to be licensed then my stance would be it’s got to be the same across the nations, so a very good point.

Q: Would a licence stop amateur use of pesticides?

Dee: It’s a big topic with our membership - lots of our conversations with the government suggest that they are not going to get rid of amateur use products ever, it’s not going to happen.

What we have seen over the last few years is a change in the amount of product that amateurs can buy, so the actual toxicity to the LD50 and pack sizes is less for amateur users.

But, as far as the government is concerned, we always need to give people the option to do it themselves. And you know, if you think about other things that we can actually buy, such as bleach for example, there are products that are quite dangerous.

When HSE grades things it uses criteria like how dangerous it is for the environment, how dangerous it is to the end-user and so on. Amateur pest control products, if used in the right way, don’t show a huge risk as far as HSE is concerned.

I think even if licensing did come out for professionals, amateur products are never going to go away.

It’s a big education piece really: making the public aware that if you don’t get a professional you could be making the problem worse. And BPCA does a lot of work around that.


Do you think pest control should be licenced? Are you against licensing the sector as a whole? Tell us your thoughts and we might print them in the next issue of PPC magazine.

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