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How to Become a Crime Scene Cleaner: Career & Salary Information
There is a job for everyone to do at a crime scene. While we often get caught up in the glamor of detective work, investigative work, and crime scene work, there are so many more facets that often go overlooked, but that play an integral role in the work that gets carried out at a crime scene.
One such role is that of a crime scene cleaner. When most people hear the word cleaner, they roll their eyes at a list of house cleaning chores that seem to be endless. But crime scene cleaners play a vital role in crime scene work.
Becoming a crime scene cleaner requires more than a mop and a bucket. From requiring certification to handle and dispose of toxic and decomposing waste to having the stamina and strength to handle such work, there are many processes and protocols that you would need to be equipped for.
Are you interested in pursuing this extremely specialized, niche, and undoubtedly interesting career? Let us take a deeper look at the intricate workings of this job.
What Is A Crime Scene Cleaner?
We know that there are many different crimes, some extremely gruesome and others not quite as bad. But we are often left wondering who cleans up after the crime is committed? After all, in all police and investigation television programs, we never really see a clean-up crew. We are only ever shown the 'interesting' parts.
But cleaning up a crime scene can be just as interesting as doing the actual forensic analysis of evidence. As straightforward as the title states, a crime scene cleaner is responsible for coming on to a crime scene once the physical investigation of the scene has been completed. They are responsible for cleaning up and removing waste that isn't considered evidence.
They are also responsible for cleaning up what may have been left from any materials that were already taken as evidence. For example, in the cases of blood splatter, it is neither realistic nor necessary to collect every droplet of blood from the scene. Usually, just a sample is taken. What remains would need to be cleaned by a crime scene cleaner.
What Does A Crime Scene Cleaner Do?
While a crime scene investigator cleans up a scene after investigators have completed their duties, they also ensure that the integrity of the evidence on the scene is maintained to some extent.
Crime scene cleaners need to ensure that although a crime, to varying extents, may have occurred in a specific space, the space is once again usable without any signs that a crime was ever committed there.
This often means not just sweeping up glass and washing away blood but also removing body parts and other brutal remnants of a crime scene. While forensic specialists and coroners would be the ones to remove any bodies from the crime scene, the crime scene cleaner needs to clean up whatever remains.
This often involves more than sanitizing spray and a couple of wipes. Depending on the nature of the crime, a crime scene cleaner may need to remove hazardous, flammable, and even decomposing body parts. Considering that some noxious gases may be present, they must wear protective gear, including masks and even hazardous material suits.
They are also required to clean all surfaces with specific enzyme solutions to ensure complete and thorough decontaminating the crime scene.
It goes without saying that if the thought of giving your home a sweep or washing dishes immediately turns your mood upside down, this is not necessarily a role that would suit you.
Crime scene cleaners must be physically resilient and have great stamina because they will need to move furniture and ensure that all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned – both seen and unseen.
Considering that blood and other fluids may permanently stain carpets and other materials, these items would need to be removed, which certainly takes some elbow grease to do correctly.
Additionally, crime scene cleaners may work as individuals or as a team which may be beneficial in ensuring that more ground is covered.
While a house robbery may not require a crime scene cleaner to sweep up glass and set all moved furniture back in place, they are required where crime scenes are more gruesome.
There is also a specific time frame in which they would be required to come in and clean the crime scene to avoid odors from setting in and to allow former inhabitants of the space to utilize the space once more.
This means that crime scene cleaners are required to work at varying hours and may even be required to clean a scene during the early hours or late hours of the night.
Steps To Become A Crime Scene Cleaner
Step One: Make The Career Decision
Before you jump straight into cleaning, you need to ensure that this is the career path you are hoping to pursue. It requires strong arms and an even stronger stomach.
Step Two: Get Qualified And Certified
While candidates selected for the role of crime scene cleaners don't necessarily need a qualification beyond a high school diploma or a GED, they often come into this role through previous experience working as an emergency first responder, paramedic, or having a role in the military.
If they have come into the role of crime scene cleaner from another related role, they would have field-related experience, and they would have a qualification such as a CPR certification, or an associate degree as a paramedic or an emergency medical technician.
Additionally, crime scene cleaners must have the training, which entails on-the-job training and blood-borne pathogen training from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Step Three: Begin The Application Process
Once you have your training, you can begin your job search either at private companies or within the criminal justice sector.
Step Four: Seek Support
Taking on the role of a crime scene cleaner means exposing you to some gruesome and disturbing sights. In many cases, you may be encouraged to seek support from others who hold a similar role to you.
Step Five: Obtain Your Permits
In some cases, and even in some states within the U.S., you may be required to obtain special permits to remove, transport, and handle hazardous materials.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Crime Scene Cleaner?
In addition to having a certification from OSHA, many crime scene cleaners require an associate degree as an emergency medical technician.
What Is The Average Salary For A Crime Scene Cleaner?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median salary for hazardous material removal workers was $46,300 in May 2021.
What Makes A Good Crime Scene Cleaner?
To choose the most effective and efficient method of cleaning a crime scene, the skills that crime scene cleaners require are decision-making skills. This will allow them to select the optimal methods for the job.
They need to be detail-oriented and have the excessive physical stamina to handle bending, lifting, and maneuvering in different spaces.
What Gear Do Crime Scene Cleaners Need To Wear?
Crime scene cleaners are required to wear certain personal protective equipment (PPE) that will protect them from any hazardous substances and from being subjected to foul smells.
This PPE ranges from masks and gloves to full hazmat suits.
What Characteristics Do You Need To Be A Crime Scene Cleaner?
Aside from needing a strong stomach, you would need physical stamina and a clear mindset. You would also need to have enough confidence to seek psychological and emotional help as and when you may need it.
What Is The Job Outlook For Crime Scene Cleaners?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the roles of hazardous material removal workers are expected to grow by 7% over the next decade between 2020 and 2030.
Following the career path of a crime scene cleaner may not be the role of which you have dreamt. It may have been more of a nightmarish image if you have dreamt of this role. However, if you have the traits to succeed in such a job, being a crime scene cleaner is a great career prospect that does provide you with skills and financial stability.
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