The Challenges and Dangers of Cleaning Up After a Violent Death

Cleaning up the scene of a violent death is never pleasant, and the assistance of experienced professionals is always recommended. However, there are more reasons to exercise caution than the upsetting nature of the work. 

At Aftercare, we have a proud record of fast, efficient, and thorough violent death cleanups. We recognize the importance of sensitivity, respect, and compassion when emotions are likely running high, and people may still be in shock. This article looks in detail at the challenges and dangers of cleaning up after a violent death, from handling hazardous contaminants to psychological impacts and more.

The Psychological Challenges of Violent Death Cleanup

As experienced and professional as cleanup crews are, they are still human underneath those protective biohazard suits. Some scenes can take a heavy toll on the psyche, leading to severe, disabling mental challenges, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Client Demands and Expectations

Any scene that bears witness to a scene of deadly violence leaves an indelible mark on those who discover or experience it. Clients and other witnesses often experience severe shock and trauma and cannot always be relied upon to act rationally or respectfully. Any scenario where raw emotions and horror are so prevalent presents a significant challenge to those charged with cleaning up the mess, and professional cleanup crews must be trained in handling irrational, distressed individuals. Approaching a scene of violence from the perspective of the client raises some factors to take into account in any problematic situation involving violent death, including:

  • Unrealistic expectations—In their heightened, agitated emotional state, some clients want the job to be performed immediately. While this is understandable, protocols must always be maintained, and no corners can be cut to speed up the process. 
  • Desire to assist or otherwise interfere—From a simple benevolent wish to help to more fraught emotional ties to objects and areas of the location, clients may try to involve themselves in the process. This can never be allowed. 
  • Respecting privacy—It pays to remember that a cleanup crew might be handling a client’s most sensitive, sentimental items and documents, and they will understandably wish to preserve their privacy. 
  • Sensitivity—Cleanup crews must remain calm and professional in the face of unreasonable, erratic behavior from clients who may be in shock. While they cannot be allowed to interfere or hinder the process, all attempts must be made to consider their feelings and behave with tolerance and compassion. 

Handling Dangerous Biohazards and Mitigating Health Risks

Each scene where a violent death has taken place is unique and brings its risks, logistical issues, and other challenges. The most critical aspect of any cleanup is the handling of potentially hazardous materials, including, but not limited to:

  • Blood
  • Bodily fluids
  • Mold and fungus
  • Drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • Feces and vomit
  • Unknown chemicals or other substances

Coming into contact with blood or bodily fluids at any scene is extremely dangerous, as these substances can contain and transmit a wide range of diseases, bacteria, parasites, and other unpleasant organisms. Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) and Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM) can, and have, led to severe illness and even the death of cleanup crew members and are not to be taken lightly. Some dangers include:

  • HIV AIDS
  • Hepatitis (B and C)
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
  • E. Coli
  • Norovirus
  • C. Difficile 

Additionally, cleanup professionals risk exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals that, if not adequately protected against, can lead to lung, kidney, or liver damage.

The Importance of Quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Lacking the proper equipment and protective clothing is dangerous and can expose professional cleaners to the aforementioned hazardous substances. Cleanup technicians must be provided equipment that is:

  • Suitable for purpose
  • Premium quality
  • Well-fitting
  • Sanitized
  • Properly maintained 

Aside from providing adequate protective equipment and tools, any reputable cleanup company must understand best practices when dealing with dangerous contaminants. Anything used at a contaminated scene must be appropriately sanitized or disposed of responsibly per government regulations.

The Physical Demands of Violent Death Cleanup

Picture working inside a constricting, hot, and suffocating biohazard suit for extended periods. Now imagine the physical act of cleaning and decontaminating shocking scenes and using various tools and equipment. Violent death cleanups are not easy and require strength, physical fitness, and mental fortitude.

Comprehensive Training and Compliance with all Applicable Regulations

Adhering to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards is a non-negotiable aspect of any biohazard cleanup and remediation. While OSHA gives guidance and sets standards, the American Bio-Recovery Association (ABRA) provides training and universally recognized certification.

Ensuring that cleanup professionals understand the dangers of working with contaminated materials and fulfill their duties safely and responsibly is vital in reducing incidents and negating the threat of any situation. Trainees will learn that exposure to bloodborne viruses includes:

  • Direct contact with broken skin 
  • Injury caused by biological fragments like bone
  • Inhalation of contaminated airborne particles
  • Contact with blood or bodily fluid that can splash into the eyes, nose, or mouth.

OSHA standards ensure that any employee who will come into contact with BBP knows how to protect themselves with the appropriate PPE, safely avoid exposure, and decontaminate anything removed from the property to prevent post-cleaning contamination elsewhere.

Leading bioremediation companies must train their employees in OSHA standards and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requirements regarding other hazardous aspects of the job, including:

  • Hazard Communication
  • Fall Protection 
  • Lift Safety
  • Heat Safety 
  • Protective Equipment Protocols 
  • Power Tool Safety

Conclusion

To summarize—Cleaning up after a violent death is an unpleasant, dangerous undertaking and not one to be attempted by the inexperienced or unprepared. It requires skill, knowledge, a stout constitution, and, most of all, adherence to the stringent safety practices and regulations designed to protect the cleanup crew and anyone else who might be affected. 

Contact us

If you have any questions or comments about Aftercare and our commitment to the highest safety standards in the industry, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We offer a comprehensive range of premium cleanup services, and our experienced, qualified representatives will provide you with all the advice and information you need. Aftercare is here to handle the jobs most people don’t dare contemplate, and we never compromise on safety, attention to detail, or ultimate client satisfaction.