Load-shedding ‘speeds up decomposition’: funeral parlour regulator

Some funeral parlours are battling to keep bodies cold and prevent decomposition due to power cuts around the country.
Image: 123RF/Fernando Gregory Milan

Funeral parlours are battling to prevent bodies from decomposing because of load-shedding.

This was the shocking revelation from Johan Rousseau, executive chairman of the Funeral Industry Regulatory Authority (Fira).

Rousseau said on Monday said that, like many other businesses which did not have generators, there were some funeral parlours who struggled during load-shedding, especially the smaller ones.

Rousseau took to the group’s Facebook page to share images of how bodies began to blister, with the skin starting to peel off in some cases, as the lack of proper refrigeration speeds up the decomposition process.

Rousseau told TimesLIVE that before 2013, it was not a requirement for all funeral parlours to have generators. However, seven years after the law was put in place many smaller parlours were still without generators and were, therefore, at the mercy of Eskom.

“We understand the fact that a funeral parlour does need to have a generator but where do emerging funeral parlours generate the capital to put in a generator?” asked Rousseau.

“The Health Act 63 of 2013 was amended by the department of health to force funeral parlours to have a generator, but prior to that it was never the law. Without consultation and government assistance, and funding of those generators, the funeral industry could not comply. They amended the laws without consulting the industry,” he said.

Rousseau said funeral parlours also suffered damage to their refrigeration units, compressors and motors because of the power surges.

He said while he sympathised with families who had the unfortunate experiences of collecting decomposing bodies for burial, funeral parlours could not be held liable.

For now, they were calling on government to subsidise the funeral industry, which would ensure all of them got generators. Rousseau would not share how many funeral parlours under Fira did not have generators, but said the number was quite high.

He said a mortuary worked the same as the fridge in the home. “There’s a misconception that there is a lot of ice in  a mortuary fridge but actually, it runs between 2°C and 3°C. Depending on whether it is winter or summer, a person can go into a state of decomposition much quicker, especially if there is open wound, like if it is an accident or unnatural cause. With the deceased being closed with plastic, that makes decomposition happen faster.”

Fira said it was in consultation with its legal team about taking action against Eskom.

“Funeral parlours are rendering an essential service so we will hold them accountable legally,” Rousseau said.



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