It took five years and three bill designations, but history has finally been made in Georgia with the passage of Georgia Act 566. The first bill (HB 149) died in committee, the second (SB 153) was vetoed on the last day, but HB 417 survived. 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 now leads the country for the betterment of the industry and its victims.
“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.
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 they can obtain a surety bond. Companies able to provide these items 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 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. 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 approved continuing education credits.
As of this article in late summer 2020, there are merely eight companies properly registered with the Georgia State EPD; 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 who 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.
Behind the Regulation
What led state lawmakers to act on regulating this industry? It was fueled by a desire to weed out bad apples who mistreated customers with unethical practices and/or untrained work. 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 intense that lawmakers could see a pattern of predatory practices. Some of the grievances accumulated were of companies that had little or no training and were missing areas of blood splatter or tissue fragments, which were later very unfortunately found by a family member, triggering them to relive the loss.
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 owner’s yard sale or would become a flea market find. Other families would find themselves a victim of price gouging only to 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. Thankfully, the company doing the dumping was caught on video surveillance cameras.
Impact on Claims Process
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 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. In addition, 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 suit 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 or by visiting the GaBRA.org webpage under Service Providers.
Consumer AND Contractor Protection
Even though this bill is set up under regulations, its primary purpose to protect the consumer from predatory practices from bad actors in the industry. However, it doesn’t stop there. Georgia Act 566 makes it illegal for an employer to ask or force an employee to clean up a trauma scene. Action 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 State’s 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 averaged $80,000 for the employee. In laymen’s terms, a convenience store manager cannot ask an employee to clean up a trauma scene. Even property managers are not excluded. An apartment manager cannot ask a maintenance worker or porter to clean up a scene. The property manager or management company must hire a vetted company 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. https://www.americanbiorecovery.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 who 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
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