Council criticised for obese corpse limitations

A COUNCIL has been blasted after warning undertakers it can only cremate one obese person a day on health and safety grounds.
South Lanarkshire Crematorium in Blantyre. Picture: HemediaSouth Lanarkshire Crematorium in Blantyre. Picture: Hemedia
South Lanarkshire Crematorium in Blantyre. Picture: Hemedia

South Lanarkshire Council have written to funeral directors informing them they can only accommodate one service a day for people weighing over 21 stone.

They said the extra workload involved and ‘health and safety issues’ meant that overweight people had to be cremated before 11am at their crematorium in Blantyre.

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The crematorium can cater coffins weighing up to 45 stones but have said only one casket will be accepted each day.

The move has been criticised by funeral directors who say it is discriminating against the families of overweight people.

Andrew Ironside, who runs a funeral directors in Biggar, said: “To me the council are discriminating against people who are over that particular weight.

“In fact with the weight of the coffin it will be people who are 20 stone and over.

“I think if they were challenged legally I don’t see how it would stand up in court.

“I don’t like it and I think it is very unfair that funeral directors will have to tell bereaved families that their loved ones can’t be cremated on a particular day because of these guidelines.”

In a letter sent to local undertakers, Danny Maxwell, the council’s bereavement service manager, said: “When receiving heavy coffins into the crematorium we must follow certain procedures to ensure a dignified service is given to both the deceased and their family.

“There are also certain health and safety as well as manual handling issues that have to be considered.

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“The instructions from the manufacturers are that cremations of a larger size should be the first cremations of the day.

“As we have a policy of not holding the deceased to the day after the service please note that the latest service will be 11am for a funeral service when the deceased is 140kg/21 stone or more.”

Critics have also pointed out that the policy will punish families from rural parts of Lanarkshire who will have to travel long distances to services early in the morning.

Funeral directors have previously told how they have been forced to call in fire fighters and cranes to move supersize coffins.

Mourners have also been asked to sign waivers preventing them from suing for compensation if they injure themselves while carrying mammoth coffins.

Stephen Kelly, the council’s head of facilities, waste and ground services, said: “We are one of the few councils in the country with capacity for larger coffins up to the maximum weight of 285kg/45 stones.

“There has been no change in our policy, however, we are reminding funeral directors that when receiving heavy coffins we must follow certain procedures to ensure a dignified service is given to both the deceased and their family.

“As with all services at the crematorium we will work with funeral directors to facilitate any request from bereaved families.

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“We can, in certain circumstances, facilitate two funerals for larger coffins on the same day.

“This is subject to certain health and safety and SEPA regulations together with manufacturer’s instructions that we must follow as the cremations process requires to be started from a lower than normal cremation temperature.”