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Urban pest control operators in Australia
  1. Ewan MacFarlane,
  2. Geza Benke,
  3. David Goddard,
  4. Malcolm Sim
  1. Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 E MacFarlane
 Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, The Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia; Ewan.MacFarlane{at}

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Occupational tasks of domestic and commercial pest control operators in Australia

Domestic and commercial pest control is the management of undesirable animals that intrude on human activities in commercial or residential settings.1 Although the spectrum of control measures available in the modern pest control industry now includes non-chemical methods, especially for larger animal pests, the application of chemical pesticides remains a necessary tool for pest control operators. Over the past 50 years, pesticide production and usage has increased dramatically worldwide, revolutionising the management of pests for the protection of public health and property.2,3 In the Australian context, pest management is an important activity; termites alone cause tens of millions of dollars damage in Australia every year.4 Occupational exposure to pesticides is an important issue among the pest control workforce,5 and the potential exists for both acute and long-term human health consequences.4

This paper summarises the occupational tasks of Australian domestic and commercial pest control operators, the spectrum of occupational hazards presented by their work and general measures for the control of these hazards. This paper describes the situation in the Australian pest control industry, and, although the principles will be applicable to urban pest control workers in other countries also, there may be differences associated with environment and culture, such as differences in pest species, pesticides used, application methods, educational requirements, laws, regulations and protective clothing.


Pest control operators deal with a variety of pest animals in food-handling premises, industrial sites and private homes, as well as in human service locations, such as schools and hospitals. Food-handling premises are particularly attractive to a variety of pests, and control of those pests safeguards public health by reducing the risk of microbial contamination of foods. Table 1 shows the main types of pest relevant to urban …

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  • i Sodium percarbonate-based laundry soaking powders are readily available, used for sanitising babies’ nappies and other household laundry soaking.

  • Competing interests: None declared.