A workplace accident that results in injuries and death nearly always involves the release of blood, bodily fluids, and other biological materials. As a result, OSHA regulations and standards regarding cleaning up after a worksite death is focused on the presumption that biohazardous materials will be present at the scene.
Cordon Off Scene of Worksite Death
The initial step in cleaning up after a workplace death is to immediately limit access to the scene of the death. One of the primary purposes of blocking access to the death scene is to protect other individuals from exposure to blood, bodily fluids, and other biological materials that might be contaminated with hazardous pathogens.
Another reason why access to the death scene must be blocked pursuant to OSHA standards is to protect the scene for investigatory purposes. At a minimum, the company itself is going to want to investigate the death scene. More significantly, the coroner with jurisdiction over the location of the death is likely to want to conduct an investigation of the death scene.
Personal Protective Gear at a Workplace Death Scene
When individuals are identified who will have access to the workplace death scene, OSHA regulations and standards mandate the wearing of personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. The specific types of personal protective equipment that must be worn when accessing a workplace death scene include:
- Face mask
- Apron, uniform, or smock
Depending on the nature and extent of potentially hazardous biological materials at the scene, required PPE may also include disposable shoe coverings as well as a head or hair covering.
Cleanup of Blood, Bodily Fluids, Biological Materials
The workplace death cleanup cannot commence until the coroner has completed an investigation of the death scene. Once that occurs, management has the task of ensuring that the biohazardous remediation of the death scene can be carried out safely and thoroughly utilizing company workers. If this assurance cannot be made, OSHA standards indicate that a business must retain the services of a qualified, experienced biohazard remediation service.
OSHA, as does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sets forth what can be categorized as a four-phase process for workplace death cleanup:
- Removal of blood, bodily fluids, and other biological materials from the workplace death scene
- Sanitization of the workplace death scene
- Deodorization of the workplace death scene
- Restoration of the workplace death scene to a fully safe, functional environment
Unattended Workplace Death
Thus far in this presentation, two types of workplace deaths have been noted:
Workplace death that does not result in the release of blood, bodily fluids, and biological materials
A workplace that does result in the release of blood, bodily fluids, and biological materials
In fact, there is a third scenario that would call for biohazard remediation pursuant to OSHA regulations and standards. This type of workplace fatality would be categorized by OSHA as an unattended death.
If a person dies at some sort of work location with no one else around at the time of death, and if the remains are not immediately discovered, the fatality would be classified as an unattended death. The release or lack of release of fluids and biomatter from a person’s body at the time of death doesn’t impact the declaration of an unattended death.
Within a couple of days following such a workplace death, gasses and bodily fluids begin to be released from the remains, contaminating the death scene. Because this happens within a fairly short period of time after death, OSHA regulations and standards governing biohazard remediation would come into play in this scenario as well.
Dispose of Blood, Bodily Fluids, Biological Materials, and Contaminated Items
Once the workplace death cleanup process is completed, the blood, bodily fluids, biological materials, and anything that was contaminated in the death or cleanup process must be safely and properly disposed of. Most workplaces do not have internal technology and resources designed to dispose of biohazards and items contaminated by biohazards. Thus, OSHA standards dictate that professional biohazard transport and disposal specialists must be utilized to carry away and then destroy biohazards and items contaminated by biohazards.
In California, both biohazard transporters, as well as biohazard disposal services, must be duly certified. OSHA regulations and standards reference state laws inasmuch as if these types of requirements exist, OSHA further directs that they are followed in the aftermath of a workplace death cleanup.
Retain a Biohazard Remediation Specialist
As mentioned a moment ago, is a workplace lacks a qualified remediation team that can address a death scene at a job site, a business needs to retain the services of an experienced biohazardous remediation specialist.