What It Takes to Become a Crime Scene Cleaner
There is an old saying in the newspaper business that “the news never sleeps.”
In the field of crime scene cleaning, there exists a similar saying.
“Tragedy has no schedule.”
As morbid as that sounds, the job of a crime scene cleaner is an important emergency-based one that keeps businesses, homes, government facilities and other public places safe and sanitary. And it is likely an industry that not many people know exists — until they need it.
What Do Crime Scene Cleaners Do?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs in the U.S. is projected to grow at 8.8% between 2017 and 2029, with computer engineering and advanced manufacturing leading the way.
Though, the industry of crime scene cleanup — also referred to as bio-recovery, biohazard remediation, forensic cleaning or trauma scene restoration — is not a position requiring a college degree itself, it is highly technical in nature, necessitating a lot of specialized skills, training and a specific personality. Crime scene cleanup is considered a “hazardous material removal” occupation, and the BLS anticipates about 5,700 job openings each year (also an 8% increase) on average over the next decade due to workers who transfer to different occupations or enter retirement.
Not to be mistaken with the job of a “crime scene investigator,” crime scene cleaners specialize in the cleaning of blood, bodily fluids and other potentially dangerous materials — and these are also the main reasons why it’s imperative that professionals should handle crime scene cleanup. Typically, after investigations are complete, crime scene cleaners enter the homes, businesses and other places where crimes or accidents occur. On any given day, they could be found cleaning up after suicides, homicides or decomposition after an unattended death discovery.
The work of a crime scene cleaner is sporadic and, most often, requires you to be on call 24/7. On average, a crime scene cleaner may spend between 9 and 12 hours cleaning up one site, using specialized tools and chemicals (sometimes in a hazmat suit, in tight or warm spaces). Because they are often dealing with biohazards, crime scene cleaners learn to follow specific health and safety guidelines set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect themselves and to make spaces safe and sanitized.
Training to Become a Crime Scene Cleaner
Though formal education is usually optional to become a crime scene cleaner, specialized training is almost certain to be a requirement of the position. Job site Indeed.com recommends completing biohazard handling training, personal protective equipment (PPE) training, medical waste training and blood-borne pathogen training before seeking a career in this field. While OSHA’s training guidelines are typically followed in the U.S., crime scene cleanup training varies from state to state.
In addition to this, most crime scene cleaning employers will have their own set of standards they will expect you to overcome and abide by. These may include training and certifications from programs offered by trade groups, like OSHA, but also the American Bio-Recovery Association.
At Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc., specifically, all new crime scene cleaners receive five days of in-house orientation training during their first few weeks. This training covers the OSHA-mandated training (HAZCOM, PPE, equipment, tools, safe driving, blood-borne pathogen training, exposure control plans and more!), and discussion of the company policies, including our integrity and ethics policy (which is modeled after state and federal employee policies). Following this, Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc., technicians take specific training for crime and trauma scene decontamination (two days with a third-party instructor and one day hands-on, in house training). Next, technicians will participate in a 40-hour OSHA mandated training for hazardous waste operations and emergency response protocols.
Our technicians finish out their training in-house, learning procedures for drug decontamination (mostly for fentanyl, but also meth residue). All employees have certain certifications they must receive, submit to proper background checks, pass drug tests and are required to carry a valid driver’s license.
The business sometimes requires a hardened disposition and a strong stomach, but it is not just about erasing all traces of death from a scene. Crime scene cleaning and biohazard remediation is also about rebuilding lives, which is why possessing the right kind of temperament for this job is necessary.
How to Know if Crime Scene Cleaning is the Right Fit for You
Attitude is everything in a field where gore, gross filth and grief are the most frequent visitors to any scene. If you’ve ever wondered who cleans up after a murder, you have your answer in “crime scene cleaner;” the job is not for the faint of heart.
Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc., Founder and CEO Stuart Frandsen said that the job can take an emotional toll on a person, with the most difficult part of the job being seeing bad things happen to good people, especially children.
Case in point, crime scene cleaners need a combination of both soft skills and technical crime scene cleaning skills. Some of the most useful skills you should possess for this field of work might include having:
Keen attention to detail
Sometimes things (by things, we mean blood and/or bodily fluids, of course) get into cracks and crevices or seep much deeper than you might expect beneath carpet or flooring. These aren’t the only reasons this job might require you to have uber awareness of the job you are conducting, but your attentiveness could mean the difference in someone being safe within their surroundings or potentially coming into contact with something that could harm them. Attention to detail saves lives!
Compassionate cleaning is one of the cornerstones of Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc.’s business philosophy, but for any crime scene cleaning company you work for, this is also an important trait to possess. You will find yourself coming into contact with people who have experienced challenging and/or traumatic events. Possessing compassion as one of your soft skills is a must for this job.
Interpersonal communication skills
Along with compassion comes good interpersonal communication skills, or the ability to communicate effectively with clients. These are individuals who are likely experiencing one of the worst days of their lives (think suicide cleanup or unattended death discovery, etc.). Knowing how to gently and succinctly communicate with someone when they are likely grief-stricken or in shock is another important soft skill for a job involving trauma scene recovery.
Knowledge of biohazards
To perform your job safely, it goes without saying that you need to have some knowledge of how to deal with biohazards and other potentially dangerous materials (re-visit the section above on crime scene cleaning certifications and training recommendations!).
To clean thoroughly and effectively, crime scene cleaners need to possess some level of physical fitness. The job can often require a great deal of physical exertion that could be anything from scrubbing a spot on your hands and knees to pulling up carpet or floorboards.
In addition to these skills, Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc., also seeks individuals who have a positive attitude and show empathy for others. According to Frandsen, having volunteering experience and/or past experience helping with emergency situations are also desirable traits. For context, many of Alabama Bio-Clean Inc.’s, current technicians have first responder, military or law enforcement backgrounds.
Frandsen’s background in the restoration industry gave him useful skills in remediation and safety. Preference of and having a healthy respect for a clean environment — or rather, returning an environment to a state of cleanliness and organization — were some of the useful traits that Frandsen possessed that eventually led him to choose the field of biohazard remediation.
Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc.’s Door (or Inbox) is Always Open to Potential New Crime Scene Cleaners
It’s not the job for everyone but, despite the sometimes grim nature of the scenes needing cleaning, it is a job that can be filled with satisfaction. After working in the crime scene cleaning field for more than 15 years, 11 years of which have been spent specifically running his own biohazard remediation company, the best part of the job to Frandsen is still the thankfulness expressed by his clients. Helping individuals rebuild their businesses or homes in the aftermath of a traumatic event — which has the potential to lead to them successfully rebuilding their lives, that of their families or their employees — makes a tough job a rewarding one at the end of the day.
Alabama Bio-Clean, Inc., is always looking for potential new hires who are eager to learn, who have compassion and who are hard workers. If you think you have an interest in the crime scene cleanup and biohazard remediation industry, please reach out to us with your resume or inquiries at email@example.com.