Inside the Business of Trauma Cleanup

If a dead body has been lingering for days or even weeks, or a home was turned into a clandestine methamphetamine lab, that’s when you call companies like Georgia Clean and Associates. Founder and Co-Owner Gordy Powell says the business of trauma cleanup is never the same from day to day, and it carries a lot of unique challenges. The goal, however, should always be to help people on the road to recovery of not only the scene but also in putting the pieces of their lives back together, he says. All of this must be accomplished in compliance with state and local regulations, and with the safety of workers in mind. Powell adds, “Sometimes you find yourself with an opportunity to experiment on job sites to see what product or equipment works better than something else. In house we call this MacGyvering. Thank you, MacGyver.”

Every Scene Is a Worst Case Scenario

Powell says technicians should never take a scene at face value. For this reason, personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital for life and safety, as is taking detailed notes and asking questions of authorities and those at or related to the scene. “Treat every scene as a worst case and be educated on not only PPE, but also what level of PPE is needed for particular scenes and be trained in each type of PPE and what it is used for,” he says. “For example, always use nitrile gloves and double layer them when at a fentanyl scene, as fentanyl can leach through the outer layer in 10 minutes. Always have a safety technician with a timer so you can doff and don the outer layer in time. The best way to prepare is to pay attention to your surroundings and read articles.”

When at a scene where fecal matter cleanup is required, technicians should ask questions such as whether the person was being treated for C. difficile infection, which is highly contagious. “We have lost good stewards of our industry due to cross-contamination infections related to C. diff,” Powell says. Technicians also need to be cognizant of leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection associated with urine from animals. He adds that some carpet cleaners have been on life support and nearly died from such infections because they did not take the proper precautions.

Be Aware of Potential Evidence, Know What to Do

During demolition, Powell says, technicians must determine if sections of a wall being removed are load bearing or if plumbing or electrical wiring is behind it. In a hoarding situation, they will want to be aware of potential trip and fall hazards, and there are U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) courses that can help technicians get up to speed. One thing he cautions against is claiming you or your firm is “OSHA certified” because the agency is not a certifying body. Taking the courses will provide you with additional expertise, but they do not lead to certification.

Technicians also may find potential evidence at a trauma scene, which is why a company should have a plan in place. At Georgia Clean, Powell says, they devised STOPP:

  • S: Stop what you’re doing
  • T: Take notes of what you have disturbed and what areas of the home you’ve been in. (i.e. if you used the bathroom, list it.)
  • O: OUT, exit the scene and do not re-enter until authorities have released it.
  • P: Place a call to authorities and report your discovery
  • P: Pay attention to your surroundings.

This plan enables technicians to have any photographs or notes they need to accompany their paperwork, not only for insurance claims but also for the authorities. Other documents technicians will need are service agreements, assignment of benefits contracts, and certificates of completion. Powell reminds technicians that they should only remediate the scene or area listed in the scope of work. “In trauma scenes, you want to create a safe environment for an insurance adjuster to walk into. Many policies exclude contents, and many companies get ‘work happy’ and just keep billing for material and labor hours that they cannot collect on,” he says. “These steps also help out the contractor should they need to go over any lined item cost associated with their services that the carrier will not cover.”

New Laws: Get Equipped, Get Educated

Georgia will be the first state to regulate the trauma cleaning industry, with business owners undergoing background checks and drug screenings. Businesses also will need proof of proper insurance and proof of regulated trauma waste (RTW) disposal. Powell explains that the goal of the 2019 regulations is to stop predatory practices and keep families from being re-victimized.

“There is a fine line between professionalism and good intentions. Yes, you must have a servant’s heart to do this work, but you still must have a good moral compass and a strong business sense,” Powell says. You need to have a balance between them. As part of that, technicians should strive to be good stewards by obtaining certifications and seeking out industry-related courses, taking classes on the latest techniques and equipment whenever possible, attending area trade shows, and getting hands-on experience with an experienced technician in the field.

This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.

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