By: Tabitha Loose2 min read
A new BBC TV comedy is shining light on the work of crime and trauma scene cleaners – but how close to reality is the on-screen portrayal?
When a national newspaper wanted to find out what being a crime scene cleaner is really like, it came to national specialist cleaning company SafeGroup.
Comic and TV actor Greg Davies – famed for BBC TV comedy Cuckoo and C4’s wacky game show Taskmaster – has delved into even more challenging territory with his new show, The Cleaner.
It seeks to demonstrate how even the difficult task of cleaning up spaces where violent crimes or sudden deaths have occurred can be a source of humour, albeit of the darker kind.
SafeGroup founder Steve Broughton is impressed with the programme’s attempt to rise to a big challenge. But, he says, television viewers do not get the full experience through the small screen.
He says: “One thing that you can’t get across is the smell. Where there are lots of body fluids to clean up, especially if they have been left for some time, the smell is the first thing you notice.
“But after a short while, you get used to it and can get on with your work. Our teams know they’re doing a very special task and want to do it well. They use the latest protective clothing, cleaning equipment and techniques.
“We’re doing something others can’t or don’t want to do, and that includes the conventional emergency services. They rely on us to make challenging sites perfectly clean and hygienic again, and we’re proud to be about to support them and other clients in doing that.”
Crime scene insight
Steve was one of four experienced SafeGroup crime and trauma scene professionals the Daily Mirror interviewed to gain a true insight into carrying out the most challenging cleaning jobs in the UK.
He tells how a SafeGroup team was called in to clean up pints of gloopy blood from a stairwell after a man who had been high on drugs fell through a plate glass window as he tried to burgle a hostel.
“We understand these jobs can be very challenging, which is why we very much support our colleagues in carrying them out,” Steve explains.
“That includes providing a free confidential counselling service, if they need it. However, everyone has different ways of coping, and knowing you’re doing an important job that’s helping others helps a great deal.”
And humour in crime scene cleaning? “Some of the situations we deal with are so unusual, and sometimes downright bizarre, that you have to see the funny side,” says Steve. “But the over-riding feeling, in my experience, is the urge to do a good job and show care for the people involved.”
Longstanding SafeGroup specialist cleaner Steve Carr has one big advantage. A near-fatal road accident more than 20 years ago left him with no sense of smell.
He is also now used to the sometimes gory sights he experiences, but the stories behind the trauma cleaning projects can be very sad.
Sense of achievement
He tells about an elderly lady who became trapped by so much rubbish in her home that she had to crawl through it to get out. “Taking a very dirty and unhygienic place and making it spotlessly clean again gives me a real sense of achievement,” Steve adds.
SafeGroup Operations Manager Ryan Colquitt explains how sensitivity and respect for all people involved in the cleaning project is central to SafeGroup’s trauma scene cleaning work.
“We’re often in close contact with relatives and neighbours who are very upset by what’s happened,” he explains. “Many of them are very grateful that we’ve been able to remove all signs of the terrible things that may have happened to friends and loved-ones. We’re making it easier for them to overcome their grief and trauma.”
Specialist cleaner Yankie Blair is driven by this desire to help people in difficult circumstances. She says: “I have a skill and the experience needed to clean the worst things you can imagine, so I use it to make lives easier for others. When I arrive at a job I think, ‘What do I have to do to make this place perfect again?’”
The message is, being a crime scene and trauma scene cleaner may be challenging but it is also very fulfilling, both in terms of technical job satisfaction and the opportunity to show compassion and help others.
SafeGroup provides the training, protective clothing and specialist cleaning equipment its teams need to carry out these extreme cleaning tasks, while pay and job-related benefits are highly competitive.
Steve Broughton said: “If carrying out this cleaning work at the sharp end interests anyone, we’d be glad to hear from them. There are plenty of other kinds of cleaning jobs we do, so the variety of our work is unparalleled in our industry. No two days are ever the same.”