Cleaning Up After a Death on Property

By Matthew Mistica, Red Response

What to do after a traumatic event or death in your community?

Law enforcement and the medical examiner have completed their investigation, left the apartment and “released the scene.” However, due to biohazardous waste that still remains throughout the living space, it is not safe for habitation. What next? It seems like every day you see crime scenes on the news. But have you ever wondered what happens when the investigation is over? Someone has to clean up the gruesome scenes. It’s best to call the professionals for occurrences such as homicide, violence resulting in blood spill, suicides, and undiscovered death. It’s a dirty job, but someone (trained and licensed) has got to do it.

Because traumatic events are not a common occurrence, many apartment communities are unsure of the next steps to take before the unit is safe for use. Being proactive and having emergency plan set in place is important so you know what to do and who to call in these unforeseen situations. It’s a scene that needs to be cleaned up and go away because someone’s going to have to do it. Let’s just not make the families or on-site maintenance do it; let the professionals that are actually trained and certified do so. I recommend having a reputable Bio-recovery company on call. Reputable companies (commonly referred to as Crime Scene Cleaning companies) are trained, licensed and insured in bio-hazard disinfection and decontamination.

First and foremost, the most important thing to consider is safety. The scene should always be off limits to curious neighbors and onlookers. If the scene is isolated to a particular apartment, lock the door or use a “do not enter sign” if the door has been broken into. If there is bio-hazard in a community area, isolate this area with caution tape. Ideally, once the scene is released to the property manager, a Bio-company should be called to remediate the scene. However, if family, maintenance or a community manager must enter (to collect belongings, photos, etc) they should be under the supervision of a trained and certified professional Bio-company due to the possible and probable accidental cross contamination, which not only compromises the scene, but everyone’s safety.

Be aware that places such as light switches and door knobs could be contaminated. Limit your time on scene and to avoid cross contamination, discard gloves and shoe booties on the floor before exiting the scene for the professionals to pick up after.

It is common for communities to have vendors on call for other unforeseen emergencies, such as water or fire damage. Using the same rationale, it is beneficial to have a relationship with a reputable Crime Scene Cleaning company, so that in the time of need, an apartment community knows who to call.

It is important to note OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard 29 CFR 1910.1030, which states the following:

“OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030 applies to all persons who may reasonably anticipate contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials in the course of their employment. This includes contact with skin, eyes, mucous membranes or contact from piercing the skin. The focus of the regulation is the creation of a written exposure control plan that describes how the employer will protect employees from exposure.”

Employers are required to implement and or perform the following:
• Exposure Determination
• Employee Education and Training
• Provide PPE to employees
• HBV Vaccinations
• Proper Waste Disposal
• Required Tags, Labels and Bags
• Required Housekeeping and Laundry Practices
• Record keeping

If the aforementioned items/requirements are not met, the employer is in violation of this OSHA regulation and can be fined up to $250,000 and face prison time depending on the severity of the offenses.

It is important to note that, for safety and liability purposes, in these times, professionals who have the required training, experience, knowledge and supplies needed to perform these tasks should be called to remediate these extreme cleaning situations.

Matthew Mistica is the owner of Red Responders, a crime scene clean-up company and AATC Member.