Crematorium Technician/Cemetery Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Crematorium technicians and cemetery workers carry out the practical work involved in cremating and burying the dead, and maintaining crematoria and cemetery grounds.

Crematorium technicians' work includes the following:

  • Before a service, they clean and prepare the chapel and ensure the cremators are operating correctly and safely.
  • They meet the funeral cortege and escort the mourners into and out of the chapel. They also deal with any enquiries from members of the funeral party, and may be responsible for playing recorded music during the funeral service.
  • Once the funeral is over, technicians are responsible for the cremation, ensuring that the identity of the deceased is maintained throughout the process, and attending to the storage and disposal of the cremated remains.

Other aspects of the job include record-keeping and administrative duties, accompanying visitors to existing memorials and assisting with grounds maintenance.

Cemetery workers:

  • Measure and mark out grave spaces.
  • Use mechanical excavators or hand tools to dig graves.
  • Use timbers and special hydraulic equipment to shore up the sides of graves safely.
  • Ensure there is safe access to the graveside - removing anything that could be dangerous to mourners and installing secure platforms around the edge of the grave.
  • Fill in the grave after the service, taking care not to damage the coffin.
  • Place flowers and tributes, being careful not to damage them.
  • Move memorials and headstones, inspecting them for damage and making safe any that are dangerous.
  • Maintain equipment, such as digging machines, water pumps, hydraulic and timber shoring equipment.
  • Maintain the grounds, including grass cutting, hedge trimming, tree works, seasonal bedding planting, shrub maintenance, litter picking and sweeping roads and paths.

Crematorium technicians and cemetery workers have contact with other crematoria and cemetery staff, clergy, funeral directors, council officials and general gardening staff. They usually have some contact with relatives or friends of the deceased.

Crematorium technicians usually work from Monday to Friday, although hours of work may vary at different crematoria. They might have to work late to complete the day's cremations. If the crematorium allows funerals on Saturdays, they may have to work during some weekends.

Cemetery workers usually work from Monday to Friday, but hours of work can vary. Weekend work may sometimes be necessary.

Crematorium technicians spend most of the time indoors and are required to stand for long periods. They may also need to do some outdoor work. They need to be smartly dressed when working in public areas. Clothing is often provided.

Cemetery workers mainly work outdoors in all kinds of weather. The work is very physical and sometimes dirty, with lots of climbing and bending. The job might also involve using heavy machinery and chemicals. They may need to wear protective clothing for most of their duties.

Salaries start from around £12,000 to £17,400 a year. With more experience, it is possible to earn about £20,000.

Senior staff in supervisory roles can earn between around £20,000 and £25,000.

Salaries for crematorium technicians and cemetery workers are usually based on local authority rates for manual workers. There may be additional pay for working overtime. Those who work in or around London may receive an extra cost-of-living allowance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Crematorium technicians and cemetery workers are employed by local authorities and private burial and cremation companies throughout the UK. There are around 250 crematoria and several thousand cemeteries and burial grounds in the UK. A total of around 1,800 people are employed in this work.

More people are employed in cemeteries than at crematoria.

Jobs may be advertised in local newspapers, in Jobcentre Plus offices and in vacancy sheets published by local councils. They may also be advertised on the internet, including the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) and the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA) websites, and on www.lgjobs.com.

Education and Training

There are no formal academic requirements for entry, although some reading and writing skills are necessary.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training for cremation technicians is normally on the job. Before they can operate cremators without supervision, technicians must follow either The ICCM's BTEC-accredited Cremator Technicians Training Scheme or, The FBCA's TEST scheme.

Training in both cases is work based, with supporting material from the ICCM or the FBCA. Trainees study by distance learning and have an appointed mentor at the crematorium. Courses can take six months to a year to complete and may involve written and practical tests. The ICCM Scheme leads to the BTEC Intermediate and Advanced Certificate for ICCM Crematorium Technical Operations.

Cemetery workers may train through the ICCM's Cemetery Operatives Training Scheme, which is run at Berkshire Agriculture College. The Scheme includes:

The Health and Safety and the Burial Process course (four days). This covers all aspects of burial procedure, including initial preparation, excavation and machinery maintenance, as well as ethics and customer care.

The Excavator Operation Certificate course (three days). Students learn how to use large machinery safely without damaging turf or memorials.

The Safe Mowing in Cemeteries course (two days for pedestrian mowers and strimmers and an extra day for ride-on mowers). This covers health and safety, accident prevention, turf protection and the protection of memorials.

Alternatively, cemetery workers may have training via the FBCA's Cemetery Training Programme. This involves an employer choosing the training elements for a worker and the training being delivered on site at the cemetery. It can include the use of excavators and other machinery (including mowers), shoring, the recording and repair of memorials and all aspects of health and safety.

Workers may also train in safe handling and the use of chainsaws, pesticide sprayers and other equipment.

Crematorium technicians and cemetery workers may work towards a Level 3 Award, Certificate or Diploma in amenity horticulture.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A crematorium technician and a cemetery worker should:

  • Be tactful and sensitive to people's feelings about death and bereavement.
  • Be physically fit.
  • Be able to follow instructions and procedures.
  • Work accurately and safely.
  • Be able to work without supervision.
  • Have a flexible attitude to work.
  • Understand health and safety risks.
  • Have some knowledge of gardening.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are good prospects for crematorium technicians to become managers, if they are prepared to move around the country when vacancies become available. There is also an administrative side to crematorium work, and it is possible to begin as an office administrative assistant and move up to the level of crematorium registrar.

Those who progress into cemetery management can attend the three-day ICCM Cemetery Operatives Training Scheme (COTS) Managers' Awareness course. It covers health and safety and organising the system of work for the whole burial process.

Managers with experience can take an ICCM correspondence course. Completing certain modules leads to the award of an ICCM Certificate in Cemetery Management or in Crematorium Management. Completing all seven modules leads to the ICCM Diploma in Management Studies. The addition of a thesis leads to the award of the Diploma with Honours and a BTEC Higher National Certificate in cemetery and crematorium management.

There is little opportunity for promotion in practical cemetery work, although some organisations have supervisors. Cemetery workers who also carry out clerical duties can, with further training, progress into cemetery administration positions. With enough experience and training, it is then possible to move into a managerial role.

Get Further Information

The Cremation Society of Great Britain,
1st Floor, Brecon House, 16/16a Albion Place, Maidstone, Kent ME14 5DZ
Tel: 01622 688292/3
Website: www.srgw.demon.co.uk

The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA),
41 Salisbury Road, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 3HA
Tel: 020 8669 4521
Website: www.fbca.org.uk

Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM), City of London Cemetery, Aldersbrook Road, Manor Park, London E12 5DQ
Tel: 020 8989 4661
Website: www.iccm-uk.com

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