The depth of the required documentation for pest management services has evolved considerably over the past 40 years. This is especially true when it relates to the food industry and other commercial industries. Simple matching of the client information with the pest and pesticide application records was once considered sufficient. More sophisticated programs, in response to client requirements and pest management needs, have emerged over time. Some of the documentation requirements are driven by regulations and third-party audits but superior pest control results are also driving change. The most effective pest management strategies rely on an assessment of data and changes in response to what the data is telling us. For example, information provided by pest trending reports is essential in deciding program direction and timing of treatments. Data drives the program.
The need for comprehensive and detailed documentation does have its cost. Pest management professionals may spend as much time or more on completing documentation as performing pest remediation services. As the demand for more data increases, solutions for efficiently managing the data are needed. Technology offers solutions on how to better record and retrieve information. Overtime, the electronic tools available to the pest management industry have progressed. Partial electronic documentation packages were once the norm. Now companies are offering programs in which all documents are available electronically. Examples of complete electronic documentation packaging include McCloud’s LogIt and Copesan’s Rapid Trax E-logbook. With these systems, the client is provided a tablet, such as an iPad, to retrieve and view all records. Binders with paper documentation are eliminated or at the very least, not required.
The road to the incorporation of electronic technology for pest management began in the 1990s when pest management firms started using PDAs and barcodes to record trap inspections and results. Previously, traps were inspected and manually dated on a sticker or special card using a pen or a hole punch. Not only was this system time consuming but it was less accurate in terms of recording and transferring trap capture data. The pest management professional was required to write notes regarding the pest captured and transfer those notes to paper forms held in a binder at the end of the service. Legibility was and is a problem for any handwritten documents and can affect the ability to satisfactorily view the information by clients, quality assurance staff members, regulators, and auditors. As a result, the trend has been for less handwritten documentation and at least some electronic records. The initial process and conversion to electronic data capture was streamlined through the use of the PDA. Other information such as pesticide application and conditions conducive to pest development are also recordable on the PDA and more easily read as handwritten notes have become more obsolete.
Electronic Documentation Benefits
The new tablet based documentation eliminates the need for two different record keeping systems. All documents are available electronically. When only some documents are stored electronically, those overseeing programs remotely can only see the electronic data. Site visits are required to see the complete package. Programs of the past where some of the documentation was housed in binders and some electronically often required additional steps and effort to access all of the data. Trending for example wasn’t always easily accessible, even on the computer. The conversion to one system has eliminated this hassle. All is accessed from the touchscreen of a tablet.
The demand for more detailed and diverse recorded information has extended beyond outlining services performed. Updating documents such as equipment maps, licenses, certificates of insurance, labels, and SDS (safety data sheets) are one of the most challenging documentation compliance related issues and lend themselves well to an electronic format. Failure to keep these documents updated can result in poor food safety audit scores, regulatory issues, and difficulty in finding and tracking all installed equipment. Under the tablet systems of Logit and Rapid Trax E-logbook, these documents are sourced electronically. This provides easy access for those needing to review the documents as well as remote access for updating. Just like with the service documents, quality assurance departments for both the food facility and pest management company can electronically review the documents without visiting the food facility site. The documents can also be remotely updated via computer when needed. Documents like SDS and pesticide labels can be changed and updated by the product manufacturer at any time. Having the ability to quickly react to those changes in an efficient manner is a major advantage and can now be performed offsite. In addition, if a new product has been used, systems like Logit will automatically add the label and SDS to the client records. Once a pesticide is applied, the label and SDS are automatically added to the client’s records. This helps ensure that the labels and SDS are present and available for all products used.