The 22 of July is International Ratcatcherâ€™s Day and commemorates the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. According to the folktale, residents of the German town of Hamelin hired a strangely dressed man to rid their village of rats by playing his flute. Upon finishing the task, the townsfolk refused to pay him his agreed price, so the Pied Piper returned, and played his flute while the children followed him. He then disappeared with them all, never to be seen again.
Fast forward several hundred years to our modern Ratcatchers; or Pest Control Officers (PCOâ€™s). What goes into the making of a successful PCO, and how do they spend their time? We interviewed Rafeeq Smith from Rentokil Cape Town, to find out.
How does one become a PCO?
In order to work at Rentokil, you need to have a P number. This means that you are registered with the Department of Agriculture as a qualified Pest Control Operator. In order to register with the department, you need to have completed – as a minimum – a 3 day short course in basic and advanced pest control through the Pest Control Management Academy. There is also the option for further study; a longer course that can take up to 2 years of self study, thatâ€™s the course I completed. Iâ€™ve been qualified for 12 years, and have had 16 years experience in the field. Rentokil also provides ongoing in-house training for all their technicians.
What does your job entail?
My job is to eradicate pests from my customerâ€™s premises, and maintain a healthy environment where safety is a priority. I take a huge amount of pride in keeping my customers happy and healthy.
What is an average workday?
I collect my approved pesticides from the office approximately once a month, and as all our work gets loaded to our PDAâ€™s, my morning starts with me checking my PDA to see who Iâ€™m visiting for the day. Each technician works in a specific zone, and we try to see between 7-9 clients a day, so itâ€™s important to know your zone well to ensure the best possible planning. My zone covers mostly commercial customers, including High Dependency customers who get audited. Each customer has their own preferences in terms of when we service so I do my best to work around those requirements. A typical visit will involve inspecting their premises for pests, treating any infestations, advising the customer on any recommendations and discussing with them any specific concerns they may have. I only really visit the branch a few times a month, either for a branch meeting, a planning session or to restock.
What do you love about your job?
I eat, sleep and drink pest control and I LOVE being able to deliver exceptional service; being able to eliminate a customerâ€™s pest problem is definitely the most rewarding part of the job and makes me really happy.
Whatâ€™s the hardest part of being a PCO?
Sometimes it can be difficult to get the customer to understand that killing a pest is not the only solution to the problem. Effective pest management is a partnership between us and the customer. We discuss the process of pest management with our customers to ensure that they understand the need for good housekeeping and proofing, but sometimes all they want you to do is spray. We always try to find the safest solution to a pest problem; one that won’t be harmful to the environment, animals or people.
Work stress – on a scale of 1 to 10?
Iâ€™d probably say between a 5 and 6. We do have the odd problem client; those cause me stress because I donâ€™t want to disappoint them. We often try everything to get an infestation under control and itâ€™s stressful when it fails due to the customer not following simple housekeeping recommendations or suggestions.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
I hope to grow and give back into the business. I would really like to share my passion and knowledge of pest control in a training role, or possibly even in a sales role.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have 3 daughters: 8, 6, and 2 years old, so spending time with them is a priority for me! Iâ€™m very family orientated, and having a happy family is important to me.
Have a pest problem? You can rely on the Rentokil ratcatchers to deal with the problem safely and effectively. Contact us for expert advice and pest control services.