Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Signs New Law Regulating the Crime and Trauma Cleanup Industry
After five years with three bill designations, the first bill (HB 149) dies in Committee, the second bill (SB 153) is Vetoed on the last day, but Georgia House Bill 417 makes it to the Georgia Governor’s desk for a historical signature as it becomes a law. Thus, creating the nation’s first Crime and Trauma Cleanup Law to regulate the industry. Gordy Powell President of the *Georgia Bio Recovery Association and co-owner of Georgia Clean and Associates, LLC stated “This is a huge game changer for the betterment of the Trauma Cleanup Industry. This new law will not only protect victims from being re-victimized, but Georgia will lead the country for the betterment of the industry and its victims. “
The registry and regulations of what is now Georgia Act 566 will be processed and overseen by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. Business owners will be required to be fingerprinted, background checked, provide proof of General Liability Insurance and proof of being able to show that they can obtain a surety bond. Companies able to provide these services will have to also be registered with the Georgia EPD and show that the business has a relationship with an autoclave for the proper cradle to grave operations for all generated RTW / Regulated Trauma Waste. Currently this will be a registration process for the business to show to the State of Georgia that the company owner(s) have met all requirements by the state to become a credible service provider for crime and trauma cleaning services in Georgia. The goal is in a couple of years to return to lawmakers and have Act 566 amended to where not only the business is registered, but the individual biorecovery technician can become licensed in the State of Georgia showing they have accomplished the level of education required to become a licensed biorecovery service provider. To renew a license the individual biorecovery technician will also have to show where they have achieved Continuing Education credits.
So, what was it that lead state law makers to act on regulating this industry? Well, like every industry there are some bad apples that left a bitter taste on how some consumers were being treated by a few unethical or untrained companies. After lawmakers were shown documentation of how some consumers were being revictimized by either untrained or unethical business practices, it was decided that a standard needed to be initiated and put in place. Some cases of revictimization were so intent that lawmakers could see a pattern of predatory practices. Some of the grievances accumulated were of companies that had little or no schooling and were missing areas were blood splatter or tissue fragments were found by a family member that would horrify them into reliving the tragedy. In other proven cases families of an unattended death (decomposition) would be told that “everything” in the dwelling was contaminated, and the house would need to be emptied. Further investigations would uncover the contents of the home showing up at the business owners yard sale or would become a flea market find. Other families would find themselves a victim of price gouging to only find that a lien had been placed on the family home. One of the most horrific abuses uncovered was the dumping of human remains in local landfills. Yes, there were companies not only dumping human remains in a landfill disguised in a black contractor bag from cleaning a trauma scene, but some companies were found discarding human remains in dumpsters behind shopping centers. This would create an entirely new death scene investigation for public safety and detectives. Only to be thankful that the company that was dumping the human remains was caught on video surveillance cameras. “I’m glad to sign HB 417 to create a level playing field in the crime scene clean-up industry and protect Georgians from bad actors,” Governor Kemp said.
As more information is shared on this new law, many companies providing trauma cleaning services are reaching out to learn more about the state’s registration process. To date there are merely eight companies that are properly registered with the Georgia State EPD and the number of companies looking to register has far surpassed that number. This now proves how many service providers may not know how to properly remediate a trauma scene, much less how to dispose of human remains respectfully.
There are those that strongly oppose government regulations. This new law was created more for the victim and the surviving family. Having the business owner(s) made accountable was just a byproduct of the bill. Sometimes the lock on the gate is simply there to keep an honest person honest.
So, how does this impact or aid the insurance industry in processing claims?
Companies that provide crime and trauma cleanup services must provide a “Good Faith” estimate to the homeowner, family member or acting agent before providing services.
If a company provided trauma cleaning services, and that said company is not a registered company or firm with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and cannot provide a valid Georgia Trauma Services Registry Number, the carrier has the right to refuse payment on the claim and the property owner(s), family members and its heirs are protected for any acts of collections and/or liens on the dwelling. This is to include any suite or collection actions against the carrier.
By January 2021, you will be able to locate and cross reference a registered service provider in the state of Georgia either on the state webpage (no domain name yet), or by visiting the GaBRA.org webpage under Service Providers.
So, how does this benefit the Bio Recovery Industry and my business?
Even though this bill is set up under regulations, it’s primary purpose to protect the consumer from predatory practices from bad actors in the industry. Georgia Act 566 makes it illegal for an employer to ask or force an employee to clean up a trauma scene. Actions can be taken against the business owner(s) and is punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000 per incident and additional punitive actions by the Georgia Secretary of Sates Office. This also gives the employee who was forced to clean a trauma scene the right to take legal action against the employer. Settlements in the past have favorably averaged $80,000 for the employee. So, in laymen terms a convenient store manage cannot ask an employee to clean up a trauma scene. Even property managers are not excluded. An apartment manager cannot ask a maintenance man or porter to clean up a scene. The property manager or management company must hire a vetted company that is on the state registry list. Should the property manager or owner not hire a company on the registry list they can also be fined and sanctioned by the Secretary of State’s Office. This can be a tremendous marketing tool for trauma cleanup companies. The bottom line is that if there is a crime, accident, trauma or death scene in the State of Georgia, it must be remediated by a company or firm that is listed on the Georgia SOS webpage. GaBRA.org will also maintain a duplicate list of the same service providers that will be more easily accessible than the State of Georgia’s Registry List.
What else do I need to know?
In the event of a declared public health emergency or a state of emergency, the Georgia SOS shall be authorized to issue a temporary registration for compliant business owner(s) for up to 90 days or at the end of the event. Act 566 does not pertain to the medical health care industry and protects homeowners that may want to clean a trauma scene themselves. This also protects the homeowner and helpers should they invite their church members to assist in the cleanup.
*Gabra.org is a Chapter of the American Bio Recovery Association