Memorial safety in cemeteries



Do you own a family grave or headstone in any Bassetlaw District Council owned Cemeteries

  • Hannah Park Cemetery
  • Retford Road, Manton Cemetery
  • Cemetery Road Cemetery, Worksop
  • Retford Cemetery.

Please take a few moments to read this information. It is aimed to help you understand why it is necessary for the council to carry out safety inspections on family memorials to ensure a safe environment in our cemeteries to visitors and staff.

Do you know anyone who visits a cemetery or owns a memorial? If you do, please advise them to read this information.

Why are we testing memorials?

Over the past five years there have been several accidents to members of the public in cemeteries across the country, several have been fatal.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) want councils to inspect memorials at least once every five years, making safe those that fail the inspection process.

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.

Responsibilities are also set out in various legislation covering burial grounds, e.g. the Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Order 1977.

All memorials fitted after April 2004 must comply with National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) Code of Practice.

We appreciate that testing and making safe memorials temporarily may cause upset to bereaved families, but our priority has to be the safety of those people visiting cemeteries.

How do we test?

We have staff that are trained in testing memorials using the new guidance from the Ministry of Justice 2009 and the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM) Inspection & Safety Assessment of Memorials in Burial Ground. Two people conduct each test.

The first part of the test is a visual inspection to identify the type of memorial and its condition.

The second part is a 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.

For any memorial which has been classified as un-safe we will write to the owners, providing we have up-to-date records. We will inform them of the safety inspections findings and offer advice.

What do we do if we find a problem?

  • 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.

Who is responsible for the safety of a memorial?

Responsibility in the first instance rests with the grave purchaser, or the stonemason or the person who puts the memorial up. In most instances, memorials are many years old and the purchaser/owner has either moved away or has passed on and no family member is currently maintaining it.

Memorial masons who have erected these memorials may also have moved away or retired. The High Court ruled that where a memorial mason had erected a memorial properly it should stand for at least 30 years without repair.

What have we done to make contact with owners?

The records of many owners are extremely old and have not been updated by current relatives/family members. We will put up notices within the cemetery grounds about the safety inspection process.

We encourage all memorial owners or visitors to the graves to update current contact details so that we may keep them informed of future memorial inspections.

You can contact the Cemeteries Office on 01909 533 487 between the hours of 9.00am until 4.00pm Monday to Friday to update your contact details.

What do you do if you are advised that your memorial is unsafe?

We understand that this may be upsetting for you, and apologise for any distress it may cause.

If your memorial has been subject to action to make it safe and/or a warning notice attached, you can choose to either:

  • Have the memorial repaired by a Registered Memorial Stonemason, or Structural Engineer
  • You can give permission for the memorial to be laid down by contacting the Cemetery Office on 01909 533 487. Unfortunately this can only be done on the kerb sections.
  • It may be a simple job that a new bed of cement will repair the un-safe memorial.

If you choose to have your memorial repaired then the documents required will be completed by your memorial stonemason, do not attempt to repair or remove memorials yourself. Only approved memorial masons should carry out this kind of work to make sure safety standards are complied with.

What are we doing now?

We are continuing to implement a safety inspection programme of memorials on a five-year rolling programme. We do not underestimate the distress this safety action has caused to many visitors to our cemeteries and we will do all we can to ease the upset.

What do you need to do?

If you are concerned about the safety of your memorial you can arrange for a registered memorial mason to inspect your memorial for safety or ask for a safety inspection from a trained member of the Cemetery Staff.

Keep your contact details up to date with the cemetery office as explained earlier.

Please be aware that cemeteries are potentially dangerous places. Visitors to cemeteries should keep to footpaths, avoid touching any memorials and ensure that children are supervised at all times.

Last Updated on Wednesday, May 8, 2024