As a Funeral Director I have to comply with a wide range of legislation, external environments often present planning and strategic difficulties. Where do I start?

As a Funeral Director I have to comply with a wide range of legislation, external environments often present planning and strategic difficulties. Where do I start?

You should have a plan in mind of how your safety system should operate, what training your employees need, who will carry out risk assessments and how these will be communicated to those affected. You should also have a system for monitoring safety arrangements, which should include corrective action when this is necessary. This organisation, together with the arrangements necessary for implementation should be stated in your Health, Safety and Environmental Policy – a legal requirement if you have more than five employees.

Regrettably perhaps, the need for supporting documentation is inescapable; however all such documents should have a clear purpose. That said the need to manage health and safety should be mirrored by evidence of such management. Supporting evidence may be crucial if called upon to defend legal action, whether of a civil or criminal nature.

Clearly a large part of health and safety ‘compliance’ revolves around the need to complete risk assessments. Apart from those that apply to almost all businesses, such as fire safety, general workplace, first aid etc. certain tasks completed by undertakers require a particularly detailed and thorough approach to topics such as manual handling and COSHH.

By its very nature, much of the business carried out by undertakers involves site visits, in addition to activity at the main base. It may therefore be helpful to break tasks down into three sections as follows:

1. Controlled Environment (main offices / facilities).
Here, planning is relatively straightforward, though no less critical. Risks associated with embalming etc. are well documented and a comprehensive COSHH assessment is required. Manual handling relating to both body and casket is fairly routine, as the environment is familiar.

2. Uncontrolled Environment (body recovery).
A significant area of concern is body recovery in a wide variety of circumstances, potentially involving many different, sometimes extremely challenging environments. In such circumstances, difficulties associated with manual handling are matched with the challenge of carrying out risk assessments. The duty to manage safety however, applies to no less a degree. It may help considerably for staff to be trained in the performance of ‘Dynamic Risk Assessment’. This is a technique developed and used by police, fire and military personnel. It is a way of assessing risk in a wide variety of changeable and unpredictable situations.

3. Semi-controlled Environment (service and burial).
Whilst funeral arrangements may be similar in many respects, there are certainly a large number of ‘variables’ in terms of the range of environments and circumstances encountered. Here it may be appropriate to employ a system combining certain attributes of dynamic together with more mainstream, written assessments. A general familiarity with commonly visited locations will doubtless assist the process of risk assessment, however this should be complemented by site visits to any unusual or unknown locations, to enable a ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessment to be carried out.

Finally, it would be wise to remember that the safety of those driving at work is as critical as any other workplace risk and should be assessed accordingly.

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posted on July 14, 2010
in Specialist Trades
about author Britrisk Safety
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