Fighting a 50 year battle with pests

The sight of a mouse or creepy crawly can be distressing for many people but not for Christopher Barratt. This month he notches up a remarkable 50 years’ service on the frontline with Rentokil Pest Control.

It’s fair to say that he has witnessed a lot during his tenure. He’s worked on every jobsite imaginable with Rentokil, from the hulls of cargo ships, coal mines and cold storage depots, to supermarkets, funeral parlours and of course people’s homes. “You name it, I’ve treated it!” he says. “But that’s what makes it such an interesting career. Each day and each job is different.”

 So what jobs stand out in such a distinguished career?

 “One of my favourite jobs was fumigating the hulls of cargo ships,” he recalls. “I used to run a fumigation team for the South Wales and Bristol branch, so we were literally treating the hulls of ships as they were docked. It was really fascinating seeing what’s inside and understanding the ins and outs of a completely different industry. Plus, we had a really great team, which made it all the more enjoyable.”

 Christopher has witnessed a lot of change in the industry over his career, most of it for the better.

“I think on the whole, people have become much more hygiene-conscious and aware of how they can help prevent pest problems from occurring in the first place – especially infestations of rodents. For example, it’s much more common for people to follow basic steps now in trying to keep these unwanted visitors at bay, like keeping food in sealed containers, making sure rubbish isn’t left out in the open and sealing off any potential entry points to their property.”

But he says there are other factors at play. For example, cockroaches were a particular problem earlier on his career.

“They used to be all over the place in Wales and the South West. They were attracted to the coal and coke from the mines. But as coal mining became less prevalent, so too did the cockroach problem.”

And industry techniques to treat pests have improved significantly over the past 50 years.

“Our understanding of the behaviour of pests has improved greatly, which means we have become more effective at treating problems. And of course, the improvement in the effectiveness of rodenticides or insecticides has played a significant role, and it continues to evolve as some pests develop tolerances, and legislation changes. I’m sure the techniques will be different again in just a few years’ time.”

But for all the advances in treatment and technology, there are some things he prefers from the earlier days in his career. “The advent of the smart phone has been great for our customers as they can see reports and receive invoices in pretty much real time, but I must admit I preferred the olden days, with pen and paper!”

As for spending 50 years with Rentokil Pest Control, he said that decision was easy.

“The fact I have been with them for 50 years speaks volumes, doesn’t it? They’ve been good to me and it’s a really interesting job. Not just the pest control side, but the people and variation. You meet so many different people and deal with so many different industries or sectors every day – it’s so rewarding.”