Memorial inspection procedure


Memorial safety inspection

The procedures

The new guidance issued from the Ministry of Justice 2009 sets out a risk-based approach to help authorities and other operators develop a proportionate approach to managing the risk associated with memorials.

This guidance has been developed by a sub-Group of the Burial and Cemeteries Advisory Group, which advises the Ministry of Justice on all aspects of burial law.

The sub-Group represented burial ground operators, memorial masons and cemetery managers as well as the Health and Safety Executive.

The insurance industry and the Local Government Employers were also consulted.

Burial ground operators should have systems in place to control the risks from memorials to their employees, contractors, friends’ groups, volunteers and members of the public.

They owe a general duty of care to visitors and other members of the public. Responsibilities are also set out in various legislation covering burial grounds, e.g. the Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Order 1977.

Where the operator is an employer or self-employed person they also have duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and associated regulations such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

They owe a general duty of care to visitors and other members of the public. Responsibilities are also set out in various legislation covering burial grounds, e.g. the Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Order 1977.

Where the operator is an employer or self-employed person they also have duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and associated regulations such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Ownership of memorials

Ownership of memorials remains with the family of the deceased

Only when the memorial poses a significant risk, such as imminent collapse in a way that could lead to serious injury, does immediate action need to be taken to control the risk.

If a memorial poses a serious risk then, in the interests of public safety, attempts will be made to contact the grave owner as soon as possible.

Memorial risk assessments will be reviewed and updated if necessary.

Memorial registration scheme

Memorial masons

Only those persons who are on the Council’s list of approved monumental masons, and who provide annual evidence of Public Liability Insurance Cover, in the sum of not less than five million pounds, to indemnify Bassetlaw District Council against any claims arising from any acts or omissions, will be allowed to carry out any form of monumental work in the Council’s cemeteries.

Before erection of any monumental or other work, a drawing thereof, on the appropriate form provided for the purpose will be submitted to the Cemeteries Officer, together with the fees, no monument may be erected or inscription made unless approved by the Cemeteries Officer.

The whole of the materials used in the construction of any memorial shall be of the best natural stone or other quarried material and must be approved by the Council’s Cemeteries Officer.

No artificial, synthetic, wooden or metal structures will be permitted.

All memorials fitted after April 2004 must comply with NAMM fixings/Code of Practice

Inspection procedure

Memorial safety inspections will be carried out by two operatives working as a team.

Only staff trained to the NAMM Inspection & Safety Assessment of Memorials in Burial Ground with Guidance of The Ministry of Justice 2009 will carry out safety inspections on Headstones or Memorials.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn at all times.

All memorial inspections will be recorded on the inspection form firstly receive a visual check to identify if there is obvious danger and shall also indicate the safest approach to carry out the physical hand test.

The hand test. If the memorial moves with a constant hand pressure and will continue to fall, which could lead to an injury, then the memorial will be recorded as un-safe.

Operatives must always be aware of Headstones/Memorials that are made-up of more than one section or blocks.

Operatives must always examine the top section first and work down the memorial, this will avoid such elements of the memorial falling and potentially causing injury during any inspection.

Process for assessing monument safety at our cemeteries

Does the monument have obvious signs of defect, e.g. sloping significantly, undermined/subsided, structural damage?

If no:

  • Action
  • Record findings. 

The assessment is now complete and no further action.

If yes:

  • Carry out stability check
  • Is the monument considered to present a significant health and safety risk?
  • Go to action and read guidance notes.


If they can be done without personal risk - lay the monument down.

Record findings

Make arrangements for the most appropriate remedial measures to be carried out in line with the guidance.

Guidance notes

Is there an increased risk to the monument's stability due to its location:

  • Near roadways or paths including "known shortcuts"
  • Near monuments with historical or local interest
  • In an area showing evidence of anti-social behaviour / activities.
  • On significantly sloping or uneven ground.
  • Near to others showing obvious signs of frequent visits / activity by members of the public.

Does the monument have:

  • A height or base ratio more than 3:1 or height more than 18” (450 mm), or
  • Unusual structural features, or
  • Multi-Part components, or
  • Particularly low resistance to erosion

Memorial safety team

The Memorial Safety Team will:

  • Carry out a visual check on all memorials
  • Is there an increased risk to the monument’s stability due to its location: See process for assessing.
  • The hand test will be used in accordance with the assessed level of risk.
  • Record of all visual and hand tests undertaken with detailed information on individual memorials tested.
  • Record of any significant risks to be dealt with, taking account of the numbers of people who may be exposed, and the likelihood of the risk.
  • Record of any reasonable precautions taken to ensure the remaining risk is acceptable.

Some memorials in high risk areas may need specialist inspection and advice so appropriate procedures are in place to call on the Council’s Engineers in the first instance.

Where a memorial is found to pose a significant risk then a means of making safe will be considered which is proportionate to the level of risk.

In the majority of subsequent inspections a visual test will be sufficient, unless an individual memorial is considered to pose a more significant risk following the visual test. In such cases a full visual and hand test will be undertaken.

Temporary measures

  • Warning Signs will be placed on or near any memorial found to be unstable
  • The memorial could be cordoned off with hazard warning tape and / or barrier mesh
  • The memorial could be set into the ground
  • The memorial may be laid down, only if absolutely necessary
  • Mechanical support to the memorial (metal or wooden support) would only be considered in rare circumstances where there is no reasonable alternative and is not undertaken on a routine basis.

We also ensure that press releases to advise the public and the press of all inspection work and why it is necessary to undertake it in accordance with the Ministry of Justice 2009 Guidance.

We will ensure Notices are displayed within the Cemetery grounds. These are to warn the public of the potential dangers of memorials, advise the public who to contact with any queries or concerns.

We will need additional signs to advise of inspections taking place and where necessary fulfil any other obligations under existing health and safety legislation.

If a grave owner is unhappy about the authority’s decision to identify their memorial as being unstable a meeting can be arranged at the burial ground where they can witness a further inspection of the memorial.

Frequency of inspections

Inspections of all levels of risk will be carried out on a minimum frequency of once every five years.

Any memorials showing early signs of instability will, in the interests of public safety, be monitored every 12 months.

Any memorials considered to be in such a condition where there is an immediate risk of them toppling and causing serious injury to members of the public will be immediately assessed and a decision taken on how the memorial will be made safe.

Due to the diverse nature and complexity of these memorials, a visual check of all joints and any other area of weakness will be carried out. The Memorial Safety Team will inspect the memorial to see if it is safe enough or warrant any further testing.

If you require further information please contact The Cemeteries Office either by emailing or by calling 01909 533 487.

Last Updated on Wednesday, May 8, 2024