We have been cleaning up our dead since Cain and Abel.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that we all die and sometimes it leaves a mess behind that others are responsible for cleaning up.
Every year, there are approximately eight murders, 12 suicides and four undiscovered deaths — people who die and are not found for three or more days — per one hundred thousand people in North America.
This does not account for auto accidents, home invasions, tear gas, home mishaps and altercations, all of which, statistically speaking, is very difficult to compile.
Many of these scenes need the help of professional bio-hazard remediators (crime and trauma scene cleanup technicians), who have training and the fortitude to enter the site and clean up the mess left behind.
And, this can pay handsomely.
There are opportunities in our communities to help those stricken by tragedy or to help a family with work that seems insurmountable or grotesque.
If you have a servant’s heart, and are willing to help those in your area remove all sorts of debris and clean these properties, you can add quite a bit of revenue to your bottom line.
The average bio-cleaning company makes about $400 per man-hour.
Some people think these amounts are a result of overcharging those who are in a distressed situation.
If a bio-cleaning company worked its employees a full 40 hours per week, week in and week out, perhaps there would be room to see a reduction in the hourly charges.
But, the truth is, for the amount of physical and psychological risk taken and the cost of maintaining a company of this kind, these charges are in line with standard business practices.
The smaller markets are still in need of bio-cleaning companies to step up to the plate and help their communities with these tragic situations.
Even operating a company on a part-time basis still makes good business sense for the money that can be made.
In most states, just about anyone can get into the bio-hazard cleaning industry with little or no training — should they want to.
But, before Joe Carpet Cleaner gets into this service, he needs to consider a few things.
He needs to know that OSHA regulates the bio-cleaning industry by means of the Bloodborne Pathogen Rule 1910.1030.
This regulation states that each company that engages in such a service where the employees have a “reasonable anticipation” of coming into contact with blood or other potentially infectious material (OPIM) must have a written “exposure control plan.”
That plan will set the perimeters of conduct through certain engineering controls and training. A thorough understanding of this plan needs to be accomplished and documented before the technician goes into the field.
He and/or his employees need to receive a hepatitis B vaccine at the company’s expense.
As a practical matter, technicians should have training in a certain amount of epidemiology, specifically disease transference.
Knowledge of the different kinds of pathogens and bacteria that can be lying in wait for the right opportunity to “set up shop” in a host will prove to be a protection.
Getting the work
So, you’ve done your homework and decided this is for you.
You have to get the work. You need a marketing program.
When we started, we were the only bio-cleaning company in our entire area.
If you wanted a professional bio-cleaning company to come in and clean up a trauma site, it would have to be my company.
The main way we marketed our company was through “referral agents.” This was a term we used for those who would be the most likely to know where these sites existed and have contact with the families; namely, all medical examiners (ME), coroners, law enforcement, funeral directors, ambulance companies, etc.
As we approached law enforcement and coroners, we were told, in many cases, that they could not refer our company because that would create a “conflict of interest.”
Even though these agencies openly refused to give referrals, on many occasions, they would. The reason was explained this way: “If you have a grieving family in front of you, learning yet another horror — that they may have to clean up the mess left behind — the referral agent, in all good conscience, could not walk away and leave them wondering where they could get help.”
And, of course, we encouraged that behavior.
As the years progressed, entrepreneurs exploded into our industry; now there are hundreds of companies across the United States and Canada performing this work.
As competition heats up, we are finding that some companies are seeking ways to enhance their chances for a viable, stable company through dubious means.
Instead of learning how to market their companies in a competitive field, they are trying to thwart the process.
Some have relatives in positions of government bureaucracies that build relationships with referral agents; some owners are law enforcement or ex-law enforcement, firefighters or county officials, and have an inside track to investigators who are friends. Others have obtained county contracts to remove and transport body remains for the coroner’s office and leave literature behind.
Basically, you will want Yellow Page ads. Most books today carry a heading for “Crime and Trauma Cleanup,” “Accident Cleanup,” or “Biological Cleanup.”
You will want an ad under “Carpet Cleaning” that states “Blood Removal.”
Relationship marketing still plays a big part, so membership in apartment associations, lodging associations, etc., will prove to be useful if you participate.
How much to charge?
Charging for the removal of blood and tissue isn’t cheap, but anything that deals in these substances has a very high cost attached to them.
Since what we do is called “bio-cleaning” or “crime and trauma scene cleaning,” the consumer equates the word cleaning as a service that is provided at a low cost, and in this instance that would be a very wrong assumption.
The work that is actually being performed here is bio-hazard containment or management. It is being performed in areas that are difficult, and on surfaces that are not meant to have blood and tissue deposits.
Specialized knowledge is then applied and reinforced by government regulation.
Should the technician not take the proper precautions and the time necessary to do the job right, lives are at risk.
People who die of these diseases never die pretty.
Companies in coastal areas tend to have higher charges than the Midwest, and areas of heavy regulation — New York and California — can have “reasonable and customary charges” that run even higher.
The national average for a typical bio-cleaning is about $3,200 to $4,000, and the average time on the jobsite performing the work is four to six man-hours.
Some companies elect to send one technician; others will always send two for no reason other than safety.
Hundreds of companies have started this service only to find it is something they can’t handle, or they cannot maintain a trained staff, which makes the service all the more valuable.
What are some reasonable and customary charges?
Typical charges you will see are listed here* and they may or may not fully reflect charges in certain areas or line items by every company.
Tools of the trade
The tools of the technician in the field are typical to those used in other related fields of endeavor, such as construction, fire and water restoration, etc.
It is important to note that you should consider each tool used in the cleaning of these scenes contaminated and not for use outside of the bio cleaning scope.
These tools are as follows:
Work kit (considered contaminated)
- Scrapers (putty and razor)
- Carpet razor
- Hammers (claw hammer and small sledgehammer)
- Chisel sets for wood and metal
- Wrench and socket set (metric and fractional)
- Wrench set (socket and boxed/open-end)
- Pry bars (one each of several sizes)
- Saws (small hand saw, electric circular saw, Sawzall)
- Electric and hammer drill
- Electrical extension cords with ground
- Work lights
- Flash light
- Electric kitchen knife
- Absorbent (paper towels and pads)
- Absorbent (granular)
- Spray bottles (trigger and pump)
- HEPA vacuum
- Air scrubber (optional)
- Ozone (optional)
- Heater (optional).
- Gloves (inner surgical, outer utility, leather)
- Duct tape
- Face shield (minimum fluid barrier)
- Suit (Class 3, Bloodborne rated)
- Chemical refill concentrate
- Absorbent refill
- Razors (bulk boxed)
- Sealant paint
- Extra filters for vacuums
- Trash bags
- Zip lock baggies.
Obviously, depending on your own needs, you can deduct materials or add materials to this list. It’s better to have too many supplies than not enough.
Know your terms
In the bio-cleaning, or bio-recovery world, there are many terms we use that come from the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Rule 1910.1030.
One of the most important of those terms is “Universal Precautions” because this one term encompasses several other important terms within the rule.
When I’m teaching a basic bio-technician course, one of the first things I teach my students is how important definitions are to our understanding of the entire industry.
If you learn these basic definitions, you will begin to learn what it takes to perform the task given you.
You also need to note that these definitions are the basis of your liability, as well.
The term “Universal Precautions” means: “An approach to infection control.”
Notice it does not say that it is “Infection control,” but that it is only an approach, meaning further elements are added to make it whole.
It is a course of action you take when you are bio-cleaning an area.
It is as simple as saying what Michael Gerber said in his book The E-Myth: “This is what we do, and this is how we do it here.”
The other terms that I require my technicians and students to learn pertaining to “Universal Precautions” are:
- Engineering controls
Let’s take a brief look at what these terms mean in the realm of crime and trauma scene cleanup.
Blood means human blood or human blood products, or components of blood.
Sharps means any object that can penetrate the skin, including but not limited to, needles, broken glass, broken capillary tubes, exposed ends of wires, wood splinters, razors, etc.
Contaminated means the presence or “reasonably anticipated” presence of blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM), or may contain sharps.
Decontamination means the removal of contamination, or complete removal of any object contaminated that cannot be cleaned and sanitized.
Engineering control means any objects or items that have been engineered and produced to remove or isolate the likelihood of exposure to bloodborne pathogens; this is your personal protective equipment (PPE), tongs, spatulas, grab extenders, etc.
Work practice controls means controls that reduce the likelihood of exposure by altering the manner in which a task is performed. One of the most widely used work practice controls that people are very familiar with is being taught how to properly lift a heavy object and the weight limit are you allowed to lift by yourself.
Sanitization — some use the term “disinfect” — means simply to destroy the most harmful microorganisms and bring surfaces to a safe level for handling and use.
Rules and regulations
By seeing these definitions, you begin to understand some of what crime and trauma scene cleanup entails.
If by gaining that little bit of practical knowledge opens up to you how we might approach a death scene and remediate it, then you begin to understand why definitions are so important.
Each industry has its own lingo or words and phrases they use that are specific to that industry, which is why each government regulation starts out with an overview or summary of what it is about, and then goes right into definitions — assuming that industry is regulated by the government.
By knowing these definitions, you also know there are specific items and procedures that regulate and standardize the work.
As was stated earlier, your knowledge of these definitions is the basis of liability for you and your company.
It will be imperative that you learn each of these and know how they interact with the work of crime and trauma scene cleanup.
Protocols are policies put into place that have to do with future situations.
An example of this would be the protocol of dealing with evidence that is found by the technician.
Our protocol states that all work will stop and no further disturbing of the evidence or the surrounding area is allowed.
The authorities are called for instructions as to what they want us to do.
Get started, but be careful
If you find that you really want to provide this service for your community, then I would seek out the appropriate training that gives you abundant and necessary information, coupled with hands-on simulation.
I tell my students that I’m there to “strike the fear of God” in them, and then teach them how to stay safe and do a great job for their clients.
This is a great add-on service to your already existing business, but can be a stand alone business if you have the tenacity it takes to establish yourself.
On average, it takes upwards of two years to really establish this service; it is not a get-rich-quick type of business.
There will be times you will wonder if it was worth getting into at all. However, you will need to focus on the goal.
I am asked every month how I can do this job day in and day out, and my reply is that I focus on the positive.
Every time we are called on, we are helping someone to cope and manage at a desperate time in their lives.
My company’s trademarked USP is “Care, Concern, Peace of Mind”™ — this is what we “really sell.”
We only do the bio cleaning to get to the USP.
Don M. McNulty is founder and president of Bio Cleaning Services of America Inc. www.biocleaningservices.com. He currently trains and certifies technicians through the Basic Bio Technician Course, which is sanctioned by the American Society of Bio Technicians www.ctsdecon.org. Feel free to contact McNulty through his website.