How To Become a Crime Scene Cleaner
Strong Stomach Required
If you faint at the sight of blood or get weak in the knees when you see vomit or bodily fluids, becoming a crime scene cleaner is not for you. Many people confuse crime scene analysis and investigation with being a crime scene cleaner. However, their courses of action are very different indeed.
Crime scene sterilization involves bio-hazardous waste, body fluids, toxic waste, remains, blood, human waste and unpleasant smells. Remediation of these factors is the job of a crime scene cleaner.
Where It All Began
Historically, it was left to family or survivors to remove any remnants of violence, death, homicide or suicide. In the '80s, murder rates began to rise as did the need for sanitation services. Over the years the industry has grown into such a popular field that it has garnered television shows, documentaries and it's own cult following. Crime scene cleaners go by various names depending on where you are in the world. Other names include:
- bio cleaning
- trauma cleaning
- trauma and crime scene decontamination
- blood cleanup
- CTS Decon
Crime scene sterilization involves the removal of bio-hazardous materials post investigation. They are not allowed to enter the crime scene until the investigation is complete and are not involved in the legal process or court proceedings.
The Real Cleaners
There are numerous types of crime scenes that a cleaner will encounter. Although CSI makes it look glamorous and Dexter makes it look easy, there is a lot more involved than just cleaning up after a crime. Cleaners are on call 24 hours a day, and are expected to perform a very unique set of tasks which include:
- death cleanup
- trauma cleanup
- unattended death cleanup
- suicide cleanup
- suicide related death cleanup
- meth lab cleanup
- meth lab related death cleanup
- accident cleanup
- biohazard cleanup
- blood cleanup
- decomposed body cleanup
- debris cleanup
- filth cleanup
- hazardous material cleanup
- hoarding cleanup
- homicide cleanup
- murder cleanup
- tear gas cleanup
- tragedy cleanup
In addition to the multitude of crime scenes and cleanup scenes, cleaners must be able to decontaminate entire areas of concern. It may also be their function to act in consolatory ways to the survivors and family.
The most critical job of a cleaner is to maintain an area which is both infection and hazard free. Cleaners undergo extensive training to ensure that all regulations are followed in regards to body fluids and blood born pathogens. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) sets forth strict requirements for the disposal of human blood, body fluids, body parts, pieces and organs. OSHA requires cleaners to wear protective gear during all cleanup processes. It is required for cleaners to have a Hepatitis B vaccination and many employers will encourage or require regular blood tests to ensure employees have not been exposed during a cleanup. This is especially important after needle heavy cleanups.
In addition to the numerous types of cleanup scenes, cleaners are expected to remove any and all indication of incident, do it in a timely fashion and return the existing space to its original state as though nothing ever happened. They perform this arduous task with great risk, often long hours and sometimes extreme situations.
Salary range for a crime scene cleaner can start between $35,000 a year up to $80,000 a year. The high end salary is for persons who are dealing with bio hazard cleanup. If you don't mind working with anthrax on a daily basis, you'll be on your way to the bank. Realistically, there are not opportunities in most cities to work with bio hazardous waste on a daily basis so it's important to get excellent training and to be hired by a reputable company. You don't have to have a college degree to be a crime scene cleaner but you have to have a cast iron stomach and the willingness to do things that are thankless, exhausting and often uncomfortable - literally (hazmat suits are hot and heavy).