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Overtime for French coffin industry as COVID-19 deaths surge

By AFP

Added 12th April 2020 02:18 PM

At a factory belonging to Europe's largest coffin maker, OGF, in eastern France, workers are doing overtime to meet demand from families parting with their loved ones.

Overtime for French coffin industry as COVID-19 deaths surge

An employee of France's biggest coffin-maker, OGF group varnishes a coffins in Jussey, eastern France, on April 8, 2020, amid the spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

At a factory belonging to Europe's largest coffin maker, OGF, in eastern France, workers are doing overtime to meet demand from families parting with their loved ones.

FRANCE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

It's a grim truth that times are good for the coffin business when they're bad for people, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception.

At a factory belonging to Europe's largest coffin maker, OGF, in eastern France, workers are doing overtime to meet demand from families parting with their loved ones.

"Due to the epidemic, we decided to manufacture just four models of coffins that are top sellers with families" compared to the 15 types usually on offer, said factory director Emmanuel Garret.

 mployees of rances biggest coffinmaker  group work on coffins in ussey eastern rance on pril 8 2020 amid the spread of the 19 the disease caused by the novel coronavirus hoto by    Employees of France's biggest coffin-maker, OGF group work on coffins in Jussey, eastern France, on April 8, 2020, amid the spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

 

The change "allowed us to optimise production", he added.

Output has risen to 410 coffins per day, compared to 370 normally.

Workers are putting in nearly an extra hour per day.

"People have been forewarned and are ready to come in and work on Saturdays," said Didier Pidancet, who heads up the team that selects the wood for the coffins.

France has been one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus.

"We're proud to be participating in this national effort, we're doing our best to ensure that victims can have their final overcoat, as we say," added Pidancet.

 n employee of rances biggest coffinmaker  group controls coffins in ussey eastern rance on pril 8 2020 amid the spread of the 19 the disease caused by the novel coronavirus hoto by    An employee of France's biggest coffin-maker, OGF group controls coffins in Jussey, eastern France, on April 8, 2020, amid the spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

 

 

- No shortages -

 

Founded in 1910, the factory in the town of Jussey originally produced wood charcoal and flooring. At the outset of World War II it began to specialise in making coffins.

It is now part of the OGF Group, which has two factories including the one at Jussey, and makes one in four coffins used in France.

The 10 hectare (25 acre) site is responsible for the entire process of producing coffins. It strips the logs, cuts then dries the wood, which is eventually crafted and assembled into coffins. 

The wood, mostly oak, comes from local forests.

While temporarily cutting back on the number of models, the factory has made another adjustment: it has been making more larger coffins.

"Orders for larger sizes are up a bit," said Garret, although he declined to draw a link to reports that COVID-19 mortality rates are higher for overweight people.

  picture taken on pril 8 2020 shows coffins in a storage hall at rances biggest coffinmaker  group in ussey eastern rance amid the spread of the 19 the disease caused by the novel coronavirus hoto by    A picture taken on April 8, 2020 shows coffins in a storage hall at France's biggest coffin-maker, OGF group in Jussey, eastern France, amid the spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

 

While many manufacturers have encountered problems as lockdown restrictions complicate deliveries, the Jussey factory is well stocked.

"We're OK, we have three months of stocks of wood, glue, nails and varnish," said Garret.

 

- 'Play our part' -

 

Some of the factory's workers are no strangers to previous surges in deaths.

"During the 2003 heatwave we increased production to 500 caskets a day," said David Theurez, a 30-year veteran at the site.

The heatwave, which claimed nearly 15,000 lives in France, was in some ways more difficult for the factory as they had no warning and had to call workers back from vacation.

"But today, it's a bit different, you have to protect yourself as well with masks and gloves," said Theurez.

"It's a collective crisis, we all have to make an effort and play our part," he added.

The factory's workers themselves haven't gone unscathed: three have come down with COVID-19.

Fifteen others are at home, forced into isolation by existing serious health issues, or because they have to mind their children as school has been cancelled.  

  picture taken on pril 5 2020 shows coffins of victims of the 19 into the storage room of the antz funeral company in ulhouse eastern rance during a strict lockdown in rance to stop the spread of 19 novel coronavirus hoto by    A picture taken on April 5, 2020 shows coffins of victims of the COVID-19 into the storage room of the Lantz funeral company, in Mulhouse, eastern France during a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

 

Like many other French companies, the factory has had difficulty obtaining protective gear for all of its employees.

It had a local seamstress make masks for employees and work stations are disinfected regularly.

The factory's director thinks that the rapid adoption of social distancing measures and protective gear has helped them avoid more cases as eastern France has been hard hit with coronavirus infections.

"Fingers crossed," said Garret.

 

 

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