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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Council bans ladder use over wasps

Besides wasp stings, working at heights was thought to be a hazard of the job for pest control officers charged with removing the insects’ nests. But not, it would appear, in the modern era of health and safety.

A pensioner who contacted her local council for help with a nest of angry wasps outside her bathroom window was told nothing could be done, because the job required climbing a ladder. Pendle council in Lancashire claimed that using ladders was too dangerous when environmental health staff were required to wear protective clothing and carry poison.

David Whipp, a local councillor, said: “Unfortunately, you do not find wasps nesting on the ground.

“People wearing cumbersome suits managed to land on the Moon. Presumably, we would never have got there if the health and safety brigade had their way.”

Officials stood by the policy yesterday, saying it was safer for staff to apply poison to nests with a pole.

Pendle Council in Lancashire has been stung by criticism that using ladders is too dangerous when environmental health staff are wearing a bee keepers' smock and hood, and carrying poison.

But officials stood by the policy yesterday, saying staff were better off applying the poison with a pole.

The row blew up after a resident was turned down for the service after telling the council the nest about 20ft off the ground - could only be reached by ladder.

The elderly pensioner was concerned that the nest was just above her bathroom window on her terraced home in Barnoldswick, Pendle, and she could be stung in the bath.

Local councillor David Whipp said: Unfortunately, you do not find wasps nesting on the ground, although it would be better for the people doing the risk assessments if they did.

But its a barmy situation if people employed to tackle nuisances at a high level are not allowed to go up a ladder to do it.

People wearing cumbersome suits have managed to land on the moon. Presumably, we would never have got there if the health and safety brigade had their way.

Perhaps the council needs to advertise for Spider Man to carry out this work.

Coun Whipp is pressing for a review of the councils policy which follows a row four years ago when putting up 30 flashing speed signs was delayed by the need to train staff to climb a 4ft ladder.

Pendle Council said yesterday it was not legally required to remove wasps nests but did so for £26, compared to £100 from a commercial firm.

Services Director Philip Mousdale said: Our staff can deal with nests at, or below, eaves level by using an extendable stick to apply the poison rather than climbing ladders.

We cleared 238 very effectively in this way last year. He stressed that this method is safer than using ladders.

Wearing a bee keeper's suit and climbing a ladder whilst carrying a container of the poison is hazardous, he continued.

Not only is it safer, using the extendable stick also means one person can do the job and saves transporting and handling ladders. It is therefore also far more cost effective.

He added: Probably only about 1 per cent of nests are above eaves level.

At this height, for example on a chimney stack, theyre very unlikely to pose any danger or bother to people or animals. Its usually better to just leave the nest alone.

We can deal with internal nests where a property has a loft. The council was contacting the resident who requested the service to see if it could help her.

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