SINGAPORE: Licensed funeral parlours with embalming facilities will have to ensure that they allow only experienced embalmers who have taken basic infection control courses to work at their premises, under new rules for the industry.
The new conditions are aimed at improving and uplifting the standards of funeral services in Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a press release on Tuesday (Jun 23).
Licensees were informed of the new conditions, which were jointly developed by NEA and the Association of Funeral Directors Singapore (AFD), on Monday.
The new conditions come after at least two high-profile incidents over the past year that thrust the industry in the spotlight.
In January this year, NEA said it suspended the licence of Century Products funeral parlour, after a mix-up resulted in the wrong body getting cremated. This happened after an employee of funeral director Harmony Funeral Care mistook the man's body for the dead relative of another client when collecting it from Century Products' embalming room.
Separately, reports in June last year said that a man had his mother’s body moved to another funeral parlour after Fook Sow Undertaker in Geylang Bahru allegedly left her body uncovered.
Under the new conditions for licensees, all embalmers who work at funeral parlours with embalming facilities must be registered with NEA and have attended the Basic Infection Control Course conducted by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
They must also have carried out embalming procedures on at least 25 bodies in Singapore, supervised by another registered embalmer.
Licensed premises must keep an up-to-date record of their embalmers and their apprentices.
The new conditions also include two points that were previously covered in circulars to licensed funeral parlours on Jun 3 last year and Jan 10 this year about their regulatory responsibilities for maintaining a proper system for body identification and controlling access in and out of the licensed premises.
Under the new rules, licensees must now ensure that spaces used to hold bodies, including the embalming room, must be restricted to authorised personnel at all times.
Additionally, they must also have a system in place to identify each body, from the time it is received to the time it is removed from the premises.
"NEA will not hesitate to take firm action against licensees for non-compliance, including suspension or cancellation of the funeral parlour licence in the case of egregious offences," it said.
GUIDELINES FOR HANDLING DECEASED
NEA also said on Tuesday that it has jointly developed guidelines with AFD for the handling of bodies in funeral parlours. These apply to all funeral parlours, with and without embalming facilities.
The guidelines, which are available on the NEA and AFD websites, outline the approach from collection of the deceased at the place of death, management of the body within licensed premises, preparation of the body, and removal of the body from licensed premises.
They also cover the development of standard operating procedures.
Some best practices include providing a logbook template, a checklist for receipt of the deceased at the place of death, coloured identification tags, proper verification procedures between parties, and maintenance of a personal protective equipment list within the embalming room.
“Funeral directors play an important role in the grief journey of the bereaving families we serve,”said Mr Ang Zisheng, president of the AFD.
“These new guidelines encourage funeral professionals to practise them diligently according to our code of conduct, to enhance professional funeral services in Singapore.