Crime scene cleanup
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Crime scene cleanup is a term applied to forensic cleanup of blood, bodily fluids, and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). It is also referred to as biohazard remediation, and forensic cleanup, because crime scenes are only a portion of the situations in which biohazard cleaning is needed. Incidents which may require this type of cleanup include accidents, suicide (or attempted suicide), homicides, and decomposition after unattended death, as well as mass trauma, industrial accidents, infectious disease contamination, animal biohazard contamination (e.g. feces or blood) or 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, and blood cleanup. The state of California refers to individuals who practice this profession as Valid Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioners.
Types of cleanups
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 (e.g.,tear gas) or disease 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.
With concerns about Ebola contamination in the United States, crime scene cleanup companies like Cleaning Guys of Texas and Bio Recovery Corporation of New York have been contracted by government to clean more than just crime scenes.
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.
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 DOT.
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.
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. For example, the personnel involved in the cleanup are expected to wear shoe covers, liquid impermeable coveralls, and protective eyewear. Wearing protective gloves and the use of specifically rated cleaning agents are also mandatory policies to ensure that the infectious agents such as hepatitis and HIV are killed. There are organizations who stress the avoidance of cleaning areas that officers cannot properly see to avoid accidental wounds such as needle puncture.
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 BioRecovery Association (ABRA). The largest association dedicated to the crime scene cleanup industry is the National Crime Scene Cleanup Association (NCSCA). Among other tasks, they organized cleanup procedures for Ebola decontamination in 2014. Clean Trust is a certifying body for the cleaning trade in general. International Sanitary Supply Association (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 film Cleaner, and more 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. These depictions also show an area in crime scene cleanup that involves criminal organizations. Crime fiction refer to the term "cleaner" as an expert in the destruction and removal of evidence. For example, if a murder has been committed, a cleaner is contracted to completely remove all traces of the crime as if it never happened.
In print and online, the task has been the subject of Alan Emmins' book Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners, 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 cleanup was published in the forensic science section of Discovery's How Stuff Works.
In video games and visual media, crime scene cleanup takes center focus as the main objective in the game, Viscera Cleanup Detail. Viscera Cleanup Detail is a PC game distributed through Steam that enables players to clean up blood and body remains after a Sci-Fi battle has occurred on a space station. Another example of crime scene cleanup in video games is Safeguard. Safeguard takes a more realistic and educational approach, enabling users to learn about the hazards of crime scene cleanup, as well as the equipment and tools used. Safeguard also uses virtual reality to immerse users in the crime scene environment.
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