Schopen reflects on a decade of accidents as a PMP


November 16, 2016

Photo: © paulrichstudio

Photo: © paulrichstudio

I’m accident prone. I wouldn’t call myself a klutz, because I was a fairly good athlete in high school and college. But I am on the Mount Rushmore of individuals who get hurt frequently.

I’m not talking about stubbing my toe on a chair or hitting my thumb with a hammer. No, I’m the type of person who will end up in the hospital. For example, I’ve broken my right femur (compound fracture), my left wrist, my tailbone and my left hip. I’ve ripped my left eyebrow off of my face! When I was four, I nearly bled to death after running through a plate glass window. I’ve had surgery for a double hernia and, even more painful, I’ve had my heart broken by more than one girl.

When you have a physical job like pest management, it’s not if, but when an accident will occur. It’s only a matter of time before a kid texting and driving veers into your lane, a yellowjacket job goes bad, a customer’s dog bites you, a car battery blows up in your hands (been there, done that), etc. As I look back at the past 10 years and the accidents we’ve had at Schopen Pest Solutions, it’s a miracle we’re still in business!


During my first summer, I was on a ladder applying gel bait above a door frame for carpenter ants. Above the door was a stuffed Jackalope. As I tried to maneuver around the mythical creature, the Jackalope’s antlers hooked my shirt and caused me to lose my balance. I fell 6 feet — onto the client’s hot tub cover. The hot tub’s wood frame exploded and splintered into a million pieces.


I landed a big account with a condo association. As I was power spraying around the exterior, I tripped and fell down a hill. While rolling, I hit my hip on a railroad tie and pain exploded down my whole leg. Because I was my only employee and the mortgage doesn’t pay itself, I kept working. By the end of the week, I could barely walk. The pain was unbelievable. Years later, I was having hip problems. My doctor looked at my X-rays and said that he could see a badly healed hairline fracture just below my hip.

2008 I forgot to latch down my ladder onto my ladder rack. I was driving down a busy highway when VOOM, the ladder flew off! It didn’t hit any cars, but at least two drivers ran over it.


I visited a rodent client and saw that all of her brick home’s weep holes were filled in with expandable foam. I asked her why she would do that. She raised an eyebrow and said, “Your tech did this on his initial visit.” The tech went back to her home and cleaned out the holes while I put together an emergency meeting on why we don’t seal weep holes.


One of my techs was putting his 1 gal. sprayer into his service kit when he dropped it onto the client’s floor. She had beautiful, expensive, wood-paneled floors. The sprayer left a crescent moon decoration on her floor. At the next monthly service meeting, I made it company policy that service kits could no longer go inside a client’s home.


I was eliminating rats from a garage in an alley in Chicago. I was using the normal methods and was slowly depleting their numbers. About one month into my work, the property manager called me in a frenzy asking me what was I using in that garage because the garage blew up! He texted me a photo showing where the garage used to be. Next to that were two cars, melted down to the frames. The home and the two houses next to it were also damaged. After further investigation, we found out that the management firm didn’t know I was on the case and had hired another pest control company. They had used something flammable and blew the garage to bits.


Chicago winters are a real problem. I fell a few years ago and cracked two ribs. In 2012, one of my techs did the same thing and missed two days of work. After that second incident, I bought all of my techs special shoe grips to wear during icy days.


On a hot August Thursday, one of my techs fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a box truck. Luckily, he had his seat belt on and was okay. His truck was not. It was only five months old and I didn’t have gap insurance. I ended up paying $8,000 out of pocket. Two lessons learned:

  • a. Make sure I have gap insurance on all of our vehicles.
  • b. Try and keep my technicians’ workloads under 50 hours per week during the summer.


I don’t allow my techs to walk into people’s attics unless there is a floor. Unfortunately, I broke my own rule and allowed a tech go into an attic to retrieve an old yellowjacket nest. He slipped off of a stud and fell through the drywall.


We’ve only had three car accidents in 10 years (knock on wood); two of them by the same driver in a span of 10 months. Neither was serious, but the driver was put on notice. His record has been clean ever since.


Accidents happen. I’ve never fired an employee over an accident. I have good insurance, and we put protocols in place to reduce the chance of serious accidents or injuries.

I also keep lots of ice packs and aspirin in our office.

Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.


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