It can be easy for facilities managers working in their office blocks to have an idea of cleaning and cleaners ingrained in their minds. Easy for them to forget that there are other, vastly different, environments, where cleanliness is just as vital. Sarah Southworth, of Specialised Cleaning Services, takes you through the ins and outs of trauma scene cleaning
WHAT IS A TRAUMA SCENE?
A trauma scene is defined by the circumstances behind it i.e. where someone has suffered injury or death. The definition naturally relates to a person’s emotional response to the scene. We are typically faced with scenes where there has been an altercation resulting in injury or where somebody has committed suicide and we have even assisted the police in cleaning up a property which was used as evidence in a murder trial.
Our most extreme cases are where we attend a property with an undiscovered death, which is where someone has died and the body has remained in situ for some time. As you can imagine, these are particularly upsetting, extremely unpleasant and throw up their own set of hazards to consider.
Trauma scenes fall within the broader definition of an ‘environmental clean’ which is a site that is extremely dirty. This could be anything from a house that is occupied whilst ‘off grid’ i.e. has no running water and therefore no rubbish collection services, through to a property that has been occupied by drug users or hoarders, and we have even been faced with one scenario where a dog had been left in a room and never allowed out, meaning it was literally living in its own waste.
HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM A STANDARD CLEANING PROJECT?
There’s a broad range of considerations when approaching a trauma clean. It goes without saying that the health and safety risks are much higher than a standard domestic clean as there is a risk of contamination from a number of pathogens including TB and HIV.
The way we approach a clean also differs. For example, because we are dealing with hazardous waste, we’d work from the outside of the room inwards, working in pairs, with one person holding a waste bag and the other filling it. This means that we are always working in a clean space and wouldn’t inadvertently contaminate a clean space.
When we first attend a project, we begin by surveying the whole area to put together a plan of approach. We also put together risks assessments to ensure that we are prepared for all eventualities, broken glass, needles, unstable floors and dangerous pests such as fleas and scabies mites which are all things we are regularly faced with.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is naturally key in this respect. We often don’t know what we are going to be faced with when approaching a trauma clean, so the van is fully equipped with things like haz -mat suits, shoe covers, needle gloves and masks.
One recent project we attended involved the home of an individual who had ‘hoarded’ for a number of years. The situation was so severe that we were unable to enter the property through the front door and we were required to enter via a window. The stench was indescribable and we were faced with layers of rubbish that covered a number of hazards including rotten food, and human waste. The piles of rubbish we had to walk on were a few feet high and we also had to establish a safe exit route should any of the piles of waste collapse or catch fire.