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Memorial safety policy

1.0 Background 

1.1 The Council has an overriding duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the safety of the Cemeteries and Closed Churchyards for which it has responsibility, this includes the identification and control of hazards from unstable memorials. 

1.2 Through this policy and its actions the Council will seek to balance the risk of injury from unstable memorials with the sensitivities of carrying out works in the cemeteries and closed churchyards. 

1.3 This policy has been written having regard to the Special Report on 'Memorial Safety in Local Authority Cemeteries' written by the Local Government Ombudsman published in March 2006 which gives advice and guidance to local authorities on this sensitive subject. 

2.0 Risk Assessment, Inspection and Test

2.1 The council will risk assess and test memorials in accordance with the principles issued by the Institute of Cemeteries and Crematorium Management. 

2.2 All memorials will undergo a visual inspection. The inspection programme will be prioritised with attention directed at: 

  • Areas likely to contain significant numbers of unstable structures 
  • Crosses and larger structures which if unstable are likely to cause the most injury / damage 
  • Highly visited areas 

2.3 Memorials under 500mm will not undergo another test unless the visual inspection and positional risk assessment of the memorial gives rise to believe that further test is required, and it is considered safe to carry out a further test.

2.4 Memorials over 500mm and up to 1.5m will undergo visual inspection, risk assessment and a hand test. A hand held testing device may be used when testing these memorials. 

2.5 Memorials above 1.5m will be visually inspected and risk assessed. If any further investigations are required they will be undertaken by a structural engineer. 

2.6 Records will be maintained relating to the inspection and consideration will be given to photographing the memorials. 
2.7 Memorials will be subject to a re-inspection as part of a 5-year rolling programme. 

3.0 Making Memorials Safe 

3.1 Where an unstable memorial is identified the Council will either provide temporary support or place notices or if appropriate cordon the memorial. Cordoning is a temporary measure and will only happen in areas of the cemetery visited less frequently. 

3.2 Memorials will only be laid flat where this course of action is necessary to prevent a genuine hazard to health and safety that cannot be remedied or reduced to an acceptable level by temporary support or cordoning. 

3.3 If the memorial is to be repaired all works are to be carried out in accordance with the Council's Memorial Safety Accreditation Scheme. 

4.0 Action after Making Safe 

4.1 The responsibility for maintaining a memorial in a safe condition is that of the grave owner. Where the grave owner cannot be traced and it is felt that the memorial has historic significance or its maintenance is important to preserve the character or ambience of the Cemetery, the Council will consider carrying out the repairs subject to funds being available. 

4.2 Where grave owners have been traced the options available to them will be discussed. 

4.3 Memorials, which have no historic significance, where the grave owner cannot be traced or family are not forth coming to resolve and where maintenance is not required to preserve the character or ambience of the cemetery, will be assessed and reviewed for further action. Further action may include digging a third of the stone into the ground, which is known as 'socketing', continued support, change to a monolith or respectfully laying the memorial flat within the grave space. This will be dependent on the location of the memorial within the cemetery and what is practical for the area and the safest option. 

5.0 Provision of Information 

5.1 The Council recognises that it is important to keep members of the public informed in advance of any memorial testing activity and will give public notice in advance of carrying out a general testing programme. 

5.2 Where records are available and considered to be in date the Council will notify individual grave owners that testing is to be carried out. 

5.3 The Council will notify individual grave owners, if known, when a memorial fails the test. The notification will detail what action the grave owner is required to organise and any action taken or proposed by the Council. 

5.4 Each memorial failing a test will have a notice placed on or near the memorial giving contact details and a period for contact. 

5.5 The Council will hold open days where the public will be invited and have the testing procedures explained and demonstrated. 

6.0 Training 

6.1 The Council will ensure that the Institute of Cemeteries and Crematorium Management or other suitable organisation will properly train all personnel carrying out testing. 
 

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