by Hayden B. Baldwin

As crime scene investigators perform their daily duties what hazards are they coming into contact with? Other then the normal aspects of police work the crime scene investigator faces a host of other duties that could be hazardous to his health or the health of others.

Most of his duties encompass processing of crime scenes. This sounds non-life threatening until you consider several factors. These factors include but are not limited to the fingerprint powders and chemicals used by the crime scene investigator. Some of the chemicals used are carcinogenic while others may cause long range health hazards. Standard caution procedures are used to prevent a health risk to the crime scene investigator but do they always use these precautions? We can train, educate, and demand these procedures are followed but it is really up to the individual officer to follow the safety guidelines.

Besides the chemical and powders used in crime scenes the crime scene investigator is subject to a whole host of other hazards. Biological fluids such as blood, semen, saliva and urine are handled on a routine basis. These fluids can contain any of the following diseases: AIDS, Hepatitis B, Measles, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Tuberculosis. Safety precautions are used in the collection of items that may contain these fluids but are we really aware of the consequences? Not only must the crime scene investigator be aware of his health risk but that of laboratory personnel and the investigators own family.

There are still other hazards to the job of processing crime scenes. The crime scene investigator may use an Electro Static Dust Print Lifter, a Laser, an Alternate Light Source or other electrical appliances in processing the scene. All of these items can cause electrical shock if not properly used and grounded. Besides the electrical shock the investigator must use extreme caution when using the Laser, Alternate Light Source or Ultra-Violet light to prevent damage to the investigators eyesight.

There are many other hazards associated with the investigators job that are usually not considered. The biggest one would be job stress. The investigator not only is required to perform under all conditions he is usually required to do these with little or no sleep. Trying to recover the maximum amount of evidence from a multiple homicide, under severe conditions, with little or no sleep, he still must perform to his maximum. While doing all this he still has the responsibility to consider all health safety procedures.

The crime scene investigator is usually taken for granted, but he must never forget the health risks he encounters.