Our reporting analysts share insights into pest-related safety concerns reporters have raised with CIRAS.

We listen to reporters who raise a variety of concerns in and around their workplace. Over the past year, we have been hearing more concerns about pests. Here, we share what we know from this and previous years. 

What is a pest?

In our context, a pest is an animal or insect that is causing a nuisance or potential harm to humans because of its presence or behaviour in the working environment.

Types of pest concerns

In the financial year so far, we have received nine reports about pests. This includes concerns about pigeons, rats, mites, and wasps. The reports are from different sectors, including train operating companies, urban metro, and bus companies. The pests have been found in a mix of locations such depots, mess rooms, and train stations. 

The number of pest concerns processed so far this financial year is more than double what we processed in 2022/23 and more than triple the number for 2021/22. In other years, CIRAS has processed concerns about other pests, such as mice and flies.

The health and safety risks of pests

The presence of pests in workplaces or passenger environments is unpleasant to experience, negatively affecting people’s morale. It can also create a risk for people’s health. Pigeon and rat droppings can carry diseases that humans can contract, and this is often what reporters are most concerned about. Pests’ presence also impacts hygiene, especially if they are present in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as mess rooms. Additionally, wasps can sting anyone in their surroundings, and some individuals may have allergic reactions. 

We also see that the presence of one pest can encourage others. In one of our reports, about pigeons at a bus depot, a mite issue developed when the mites were drawn to the pigeon droppings.

Pests can also introduce risks to infrastructure. Rodents can chew through wiring, which can result in electrical hazards, and continued bird droppings can create a slip hazard. We processed a concern about bird droppings creating a hazard on a staircase at a railway station. 

How our members reduce the risks associated with pests

Pests can be difficult to deal with, and reporters often say the issue is ongoing because of this. According to reporters, companies knew about 40% of the issues raised in all the pest concerns we have processed since 2021, but they perceived that the issues had not been suitably resolved before they contacted CIRAS. 


Members often describe deep cleaning in response to pest concern reports, typically alongside disinfecting. They do this wherever there has been evidence of pest activity, and it helps reduce the risk of anyone falling ill due to exposure to pest droppings.


In response to pigeon concerns, our members use several techniques to try to curb the problem. Some of these are reactive and some are preventative. 

Nest removal and culling are ways to eliminate pigeons already at a site, but if the site is open-air, such as a train station, then the pigeons often return. Therefore, the best responses from members include preventative measures being installed. There are a variety of deterrents, such as the following, which our members have used in response to CIRAS reports:

  • Netting – This prevents pigeons nesting in areas above or behind the netting.
  • Spikes – This prevents pigeons perching on objects and equipment such as CCTV cameras or depot machinery.
  • Fire gel – Similar to spikes, this prevents perching where it is placed. This substance looks like fire to pigeons.
  • Bird scare laser – This discourages pigeons from congregating in a location.
  • Birds of prey – These are predators to other birds and therefore encourage them to move away from a location. 
  • Doors – Closing any doors to a space, if possible, stops pigeons entering.
  • Food – Removing food sources, such as unemptied rubbish bins, can prevent pigeons being attracted to a location.
For further ideas, the Rail Safety and Standards Board has a research publication on humane measures to deter birds, which may help you better manage this pest problem in your company. 


Our members focus on using bait boxes to combat rat infestations. This is not always for an active infestation. It can also be to mitigate the future risk of rats. Members also carry out regular inspections for rodent activity and, as with pigeons, ensure that there are no easy-access food sources. Keeping areas, particularly bin storage areas, as clean and tidy as possible also deters rats.

Eliminating access points is also important for preventing rats from returning. Members have sometimes changed bin types at sites reported to have rat problems, as some bins are more accessible to rodents than others. For example, some bins have a drainage hole at the bottom, but this can also provide access for rodents. Bins with a plugged hole prevent this. In another report, a reporter described rodents reaching the staff kitchen through holes behind cupboards.  


There are also some general ongoing actions members have taken to help prevent pest issues returning.

  • Ensure there is good housekeeping.
  • Tidy the location to remove items no longer required, or store them in better areas.
  • Check bins to ensure they are not full or overflowing.
  • Check daily and weekly that no further issues appear at the locations affected.
  • Act swiftly should any new pest activity appear.

Some reporter feedback

Feedback on the pest reports we have processed tends to be very positive – with issues heard and resolved. Here are a few quotes from some of our reporters: 

‘Thanks for all your help. This issue is now resolved.’

‘The company has done what they said they would. They’ve been great.’

 ‘I’m very pleased with the response, [it’s] really appreciated.’

Raise your concerns

If you are concerned about a pest issue, we do encourage you to report this via your internal, company channels, as this is usually the quickest way to get issues resolved. 

We’re here to listen when you prefer to report safety concerns with your identity protected, if you feel you can't use internal reporting channels, or if you've tried to without success.

Raise a concern 

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