Crime scene cleanup
Crime scene cleanup as performed by is a term applied to specific situations involving blood, bodily fluids and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). It is also referred to as biohazard remediation because crime scenes are only a portion of the situations in which biohazard cleaning is needed. Such incidents may include:
- Accidents or acts of intentional harm and/or intentional self-harm
- Decomposition or unattended death
- Mass trauma
- Industrial accidents
- Infectious disease contamination
- Animal biohazards (e.g. feces or blood)
- Regulated waste transport, treatment, and disposal
Television productions like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have added to the popularity of the term Crime Scene Cleanup. Australia, Canada and England have added it to their professional cleaning terminology. As a profession, it is growing in popularity because of media exposure and the growth of training programs worldwide.
The generic terms for Crime Scene Cleanup include trauma cleaning, crime and trauma scene decontamination ("CTS Decon"), biohazard remediation, biohazard removal, blood cleanup and crime scene clean up. The State of California refers to individuals who practice this profession as Valid Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioners.
Types of cleanup
Crime scene cleanup includes blood spills following an assault, homicide or suicide. There are many different sub-segments, named primarily after additional collateral, contingency, or preconditions, regarding the presence of non-blood borne organics, toxic irritants [tear gas, crystal velvet powders etc.]or vectors. However, it is the legality of charging a fee for mitigating potentially harmful biohazard situations that differentiates a registered crime or trauma practitioner from any general restoration, carpet cleaning, janitorial or housekeeping service.
Crime scene cleanup began primarily as a local or regional small business activity but maturity and consolidation has created some larger entities in the industry; only a few nationwide companies exist, although some national carpet cleaning and restoration companies franchises have added crime scene cleanup and biohazard removal to their services. Due to the legal and ethical complications crime scene cleanup is often its own business entity or a separate division.
In recent years, trauma cleaning companies like Atlanta Trauma Services have themselves diversified to include additional services such as cleaning and disinfection of hoarding homes, meth labs or other drug labs, vehicle trauma scenes, and infectious disease decontamination.
Employees who perform crime scene clean up typically think of themselves as "second responders" and are trained in compassion and sensitivity when working with crime survivors and family members who may be affected by the situation. A crime-scene cleaner needs at least three qualities: a strong stomach, the ability to rationally detach from his or her work, and a sympathetic nature. It can be an emotional job.
While the field of crime scene cleanup is not specifically regulated as a class, most if not all of the activities performed by biohazard cleanup teams in the United States are regulated or fall under best practice guidelines from governing and advisory bodies such as OSHA, NIOSH, DOT, and EPA. Those who hire a crime scene cleanup company should make sure that they are properly trained in applicable federal and state regulations and can provide documentation of proper biohazardous waste disposal from licensed medical waste transportation and disposal companies. If in California or Florida the client should confirm that the company is registered with the State Department of Health. A few states such as California, New York and Florida are the only states that explicitly require registration or licensing for crime scene cleanup. Other states may require biohazardous waste transport permits from the D.O.T.
In the US, OSHA requires that exposure to blood-borne pathogens be limited as much as possible due to the assumption that the blood and biological material is infectious. Most actions taken to limit exposure fall under cross-contamination protocols, which provide that certain actions be taken to avoid further spreading the contamination throughout otherwise clean areas. CTS De-con companies should have in place, an exposure control plan before beginning work on any trauma scene. Under employee safety and cross-contamination protocols, the following OSHA regulations may pertain to bioremediation.
- OSHA29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2)(ii)- Initial Assessment of Work: Must assess work site for potential hazards to employee safety. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200, et seq.- Hazard Communication Protocol: Required to establish what chemicals are used and that they are properly labeled.
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(2)(i);29 CFR 1910.1030(e)(2)(iii); 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(1); and 29, CFR 1926.1053 – Work Practice & Engineering Controls and Safety: Having done the initial assessment, must determine damage, potential hazards, equipment needs, egresses, work routes, possible complicating factors, ladder/scaffolding safety protocols, availability for hand-washing/sanitization wipes.
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030(d)(1) – Method of Compliance: Ensure employees are following all OSHA-mandated engineering and work practice controls through proper supervision, written documentation and photographs.
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030(c)(2) – Exposure Determination: Determine employee safety concerns due to exposure to biological materials.
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(1) – Hazard Signs and Labels: Hazardous areas must be demarcated; use of biohazard tape and establishment of zones separates and identifies hazardous areas.
The crime scene cleaners' work begins when the coroner's office or other official, government body releases the "scene" to the owner or other responsible parties. Only when the investigation has completely terminated on the contaminated scene may the cleaning companies begin their task. Often times a crime scene cleanup crew will work with investigators to make sure no possible evidence is tampered with during the property cleanup.
Standard operating procedures for the crime scene cleanup field often include military-like methods for the decontamination of internal and external environments. Universal precautions recognized worldwide are the cautionary rule-of-thumb for this field of professional cleaning.
Cleaning methods for removing and sanitizing biohazards vary from practitioner to practitioner. Some organizations are working to create a "Standard of Clean" such as ISSA's K12 Standard which includes use of quantifiable testing methods such as ATP testing.
The first specialty trade organization for this field of cleaning was the American Bio-recovery Association, ABRA. Clean Trust (AKA IICRC) is a certifying body for the cleaning trade in general. ISSA is a global standards body and trade organization of professional janitorial and cleaning professionals.
In popular culture and the media
Crime scene cleanup as a profession has been featured sporadically in popular culture and the media. It first showed up in films when Quentin Tarantino produced Curdled, then after an eleven-year hiatus in the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle, Cleaner, and most recently when Amy Adams and Emily Blunt teamed up for Sunshine Cleaning. On television it has been featured in a smattering of documentaries aired on The National Geographic Channel and The Discovery Channel, as well as reality series such as Grim Sweepers. In print and online it’s been the subject of Alan Emmin's book Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners, been featured in an Entrepreneur Magazine Ten Off The Wall Businesses profile, and in a piece on six figure jobs that appeared on CNN. Another book is "Aftermath,_Inc.: Cleaning Up after CSI Goes Home". An extensive article on all aspects of crime scene clean up was published in the forensic science section of Discovery's How Stuff Works.
- "Crime Scene Cleaning". Disaster Restoration, LLC. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
- Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners
- Murder Scene Mop-Up: 10 Off-the-Wall Businesses - Entrepreneur.com
- CNN:Six Figure Jobs