The police, fire department and crime-scene investigators who arrive at a crime scene perform crucial tasks in the aftermath of a death. But they don’t, as a general rule, clean up. The cleaning is ultimately left up to the family or loved ones. In the past, these types of cleanups would be washed up by a simple garden hose and towel, mopped up with household chemicals, or at the very best cleaned by the mortician.
In 1970, under President Nixon, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) was passed. Under this legislation, employers were to be held responsible for worker safety and their exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Although OSHA had regulation for employees contact and exposure, there was no agency to protect the home/business owners from improper cleaning procedures and illegal dumping of biohazardous medical waste. Throughout the years, OSHA and ADEQ have raised the standards for the Crime Scene Cleaning (CSC) Industry and filtered out unqualified construction, restoration, and carpet cleaning companies. As more and more of these companies stopped offering CSC because of the extensive training and compliance required by State and Federal agencies, a niche industry was born.
The CSC Industry is becoming a vital ally to police depts., fire depts., constables, property management companies, body shops, funeral homes and various state agencies, such as victims witness and homicide survivors. After a tragic incident, it is helpful to have someone unattached from the family clean the scene as it can create painful memories. Customers will have peace of mind that the scene is properly disinfected and free of any infectious diseases. CSC companies keep businesses OSHA compliant by preventing exposure of bloodborne pathogens to untrained employees.
Each state has their own rules and regulations for CSC companies. A CSC company must possess a contractor’s license from the State Registrar of Contractors. The contractor’s license is required because biohazardous waste cannot be removed from many common household building materials. For example, drywall, carpet, permanent fixtures, and other porous materials must be removed if contaminated. Secondly, a Biohazardous Medical Waste Transportation License from ADEQ or the use of a licensed waste transporter is required. Without this license, biohazardous waste cannot be properly disposed at certified facilities. CSC companies are also required to be OSHA compliant. This includes bloodborne pathogen (BBP) training, respiratory fit testing, and training, written BBP exposure control plan, and providing a method to remove and properly store biohazardous waste. Lastly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires companies to use EPA approved chemicals for the removal and decontamination of biohazardous waste.
The largest issue within the CSC industry is illegal dumping. Within the ramifications for transport, there is an underlying grey area. A company is required to possess a Biohazardous Medical Waste Transportation License or have a licensed waste transporter pick up the waste. Since most CSC jobs happen after the hour’s transportation companies are open, CSC companies who use a transporter and get a call after hours are faced with a decision. A) Pass the job onto a properly licensed company, or B) Illegally transport and dump waste. If biohazardous waste is illegally transported, it is usually illegally dumped. Proper disposal facilities will not accept waste from anyone other than a licensed transporter. Through the research of OSHA, ADEQ and EPA, we know the dangers of illegal dumping. Hepatitis can remain dormant for up to a year and is reactivated with just a drop of water. If biohazardous waste containing hepatitis is illegally dumped and made its way to a water supply, we could see a mass outbreak in our city.
Bio-Solutions Emergency Cleaning Services was created to be a guiding light in a dark industry. Not only do they possess all the required licenses, meet or exceed OSHA, ADEQ and EPA requirements, but Bio Solutions also extensively trains employees in grief counseling and trauma intervention.
Typically, when we think of a loved one dying, we think of it in a peaceful way, in a hospital or with a loved one at their bedside. We want to think of them in a deep sleep and in a better place. However, throughout the United States, there are hundreds of deaths a month that do not end up peaceful. Many lives are taken each month in ways that leave bio hazard cleanup need cleanup. The reason for the need of a crime scene cleanup is even if it is a natural death, clean up is required due to the blood loss, body decomposition, and debris that is left from a body. A body left sitting for more then one day or a death in which a wound occurred, such as a suicide or homicide, releases fluid that is a bio hazard.
Although a person is able to cleanup after a death themselves, the issue of safety and ability to complete the cleanup correctly comes into play. When decomposition takes place in a body, their are a number of fluids, including blood, urine and feces, that seeps from the body. This body matter can start to move into floor boards, carpeting, and furniture, depending on where the body might lay. As well, in the case of a homicide or suicide, you are dealing with a tragedy that usually involves a gun wound, and therefore, blood splatter and the trajectory of the blood splatter becomes an issue. Clean up in matters such as this may involve removing drywall, ceiling tiles, floor boards, carpeting, and again furniture that has been affected by the death.
A crime scene cleanup business uses specific tools like special lighting to determine what areas are contaminated. Technicians will then develop a game plan for what items can be picked up and cleaned and what areas must have restoration work completed. After the cleanup and restoration is done, then the contaminated material, such as furniture, walling, floor boards, and anything else removed from the home must be transported by a licensed transport unit to a nearby incineration facility. Safety must not be left behind, and so, the methods of completing this transportation safely is imperative.
Cleaning up a scene where there is any body fluid, such as blood, urine, or feces is dangerous. There are numerous diseases, such as HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis, MRSA (a highly contagious bacterial infection), and staff infections, that are carried by bodily fluids. For this reason, hazmat training is required for major crime scene clean up services to not only make sure they know how to do a death cleanup but also how to protect those cleaning up the scene. To assure the cleaners are prepared, competent, and that further tragedy is avoided during the cleanup of a death, trained crime scene clean up employees will go through many clean up simulations before they are released into the field. As well, employees learn how to wear protective gear correctly to make sure they can minimize exposure to blood and body decomposition debris. The protective gear typically includes hazmat suits, goggles, tight fitting and thick rubber gloves, and steel tipped boots. Trained crime scene clean up employees are also trained to be cautious of their environment by knowing the potential dangers. Finally, before a cleaners goes into the field, they typically have to go through a number of vaccinations and make sure all their shots are up to date. It is necessary to assure that these employees are capable of dealing with these scenes both physically and mentally.
Before crime scene cleanup teams are even allowed to begin their work, police investigation teams do a thorough investigation of the scene, bagging and tagging all evidence. However, while providing their scene remediation services, professional technicians are careful to look out for and preserve any potential evidence, especially anything that might be of use to the forensics teams.
For example, after a successful convenience store robbery, the robber escaped to his vehicle and drove away as the injured clerk, losing blood, alerted the police. Emergency response teams arrived at the store in minutes and quickly ordered an ambulance to take the clerk for medical help. The injured store clerk was able to give police detectives a detailed description and the police were also able to review surveillance videotape.
After a thorough examination of the crime scene by the CSI team, a professional clean up company, called in by the police, begin to clean the mess left by the robbery. As they were cleaning the area by the counter, one of the technicians noticed a small speck of blood that had been missed by the police as it was so small. Apparently, the robber had scratched himself on a metal appendage attached to the counter when he drew his gun.
Police detectives were notified of the discovery. One of the cleanup technicians showed it to the police. As this company frequently conducts suicide scene, meth lab, odor removal and other death scene cleanups as well as blood and trauma scene cleanups, they have experience working with police and identifying substances.
The police ran the blood for DNA analysis and compared it to samples they had in storage at the county jail. A previous defendant whose photograph matched the image in the convenient store's video footage was identified. An address for the man was found at the courthouse and the perpetrator was arrested and convicted.
While this is not a common occurrence, one of the primary qualifications necessary for trauma scene remediation work is an attention to detail. Crime scene cleanup is not like janitorial service. Professional biohazard cleaner teams are tasked with eliminating potential hazards from blood and bodily fluids, wherever they happen to land. For this reason alone, these cleanup teams are required to thorough and pay special attention to details. However, if it a source of great pride whenever something like this happens and the team is able to assist the police in their investigation.