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On dangerous ground

22 December 2015

From the risk of sharps injury and infection from bodily fluids to witnessing disturbing scenes, Monthind Clean discusses the challenges faced by biohazard and trauma cleaning providers and their frontline staff

Due to the increase in regulatory control and health and safety guidelines, there is an ever increasing need for biohazard and trauma cleaning services. Not surprisingly the emergency services do not have the time or resources to deal with biohazards such as trauma clean-ups or blood clean-ups, but more importantly, they do not have the appropriate training required to render such a scene free of biological hazards.

Training for trauma

When a biohazard risk has emerged on private property, it remains the responsibility of the property owner to organise the clean-up, regardless of attendance by the emergency services. Understandably, the guidelines and regulations surrounding any biohazard or trauma cleaning are strict, due to the potential risk to human health. Whether it is a crime scene, a traffic accident, train crash, or suicide, the possibility of infection from bodily fluids is high, and the need for ongoing training for cleaning operatives is paramount.

This training is not limited to cleaning processes and use of personal protection equipment (PPE); compliance with confidentiality procedures and diplomacy are essential in such emotive situations. Very few people can deal with the aftermath of an unexpected death or a violent crime scene without negative effects on their mental wellbeing, and it is important for management to provide supervision and support when needed. 

Monthind Clean, the East Anglian based contract and specialist cleaning company, has been providing biohazard cleaning services to a range of clients, including Essex Police for over twelve years. Simon Biggs, Monthind partner and operations director, says: “Our Bio Hazard team is staffed with experienced operatives, who carry Biosafe certification. They all have current Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and are fully vetted by the police every three years.

"All bio cleaning employees are required to undergo full training upon commencement of their employment regardless of previous experience. This is not limited to cleaning processes and includes dealing with the local press, general public, family of the deceased, and local authorities. We understand the difficulties our staff may have to face, as a result of a traumatic bio clean, which may well be a crime scene, and we have a process in place to offer counselling to the employees involved. Our staff are safely removing and disposing of contaminated materials, as well as working methodically to ensure they do not get injured or contaminated themselves, for example by safe sharps removal and prevention of cross-contamination."

'Around the clock' response

Because of the challenges of this field of work and its sensitive nature, it requires different management to that of standard contract cleaning.

Simon continues: “It isn’t just about having trained staff. You need to offer 24/7 call out and have a response team in place. A fully equipped response vehicle, ready to undertake any type of bio cleaning needs to be available for the response team. Every job is quoted for and agreed, as well as risk assessed, prior to work commencing.

"Safe systems of work and compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 must be regularly reviewed and audited. On average, Monthind undertakes in excess of 200 contamination cleans, which vary in complexity, every month; 85% of our bio cleaning revenue is generated by the Essex Police Authority, the remaining 15% of the revenue comes from our other contracts.” 

Tony Felgate, Monthind partner and director of finance adds: “Bio Hazard Cleaning is a profitable business, but it also requires significant investment: in staff, on-going training, equipment, vehicles, compliance checks, etc. It is not something to be undertaken without due consideration and needs to be managed and provided at a highly professional level. The implications of employing a less than professional company to carry out bio cleans are far-reaching, not just from a health risk perspective, but also from the confidentiality and sensitivity issue.”