Memorandum by the Health and Safety Executive
Primary responsibility for health and safety
in cemeteries lies with the burial authority in control of the
cemetery. This may be a local authority, church or private company.
The industry organisation, the Confederation of Burial Authorities,
has identified over 3,300 burial authorities in the UK.
Where burial authorities are employers, they
have statutory duties under Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and
Safety at Work etc, Act, 1974 (HSWA), to ensure, so far as is
reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees,
and other persons working or visiting the cemeteries.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work
Regulations (1999) made under the HSWA, require all employers
to assess the risks to employees and non employees which arise
out of the employer's undertaking. Therefore, burial authorities
are under a legal duty to assess the risk from all plant, structures
(including memorials), and work activities in their cemeteries
and ensure that the risk is controlled.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has enforcement
responsibility for all cemeteries apart from those located in
church yards, for which the local authority has enforcement responsibility.
Historically, health and safety concerns in
cemeteries have focused on the risks arising from grave digging.
However in recent years there has been increasing attention on
the stability of memorials and the risks that these present to
all cemetery users. This has been highlighted by three fatal accidents
to children from falling memorials, the most recent being July
The issue of memorial stability is not a simple
one. Whilst burial authorities have overall responsibility for
the safety of the cemetery, including the risks arising from unstable
memorials, they do not own the memorials. The owners of the memorial
will be the grave ownernormally the family of the deceased.
However in many cases there may no longer be an identifiable owner.
Except in situations of immediate danger, burial
authorities are prohibited from taking direct action to remove
an unstable memorial without following the strict procedures laid
down in the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 (LACO). This
involves posting public notices and seeking the permission of
the owners (if they can be identified) before taking action.
In order to manage the risks and satisfy their
duties under health and safety legislation, and under LACO, burial
authorities need effective systems for identifying unstable memorials
and taking the appropriate action to secure safety. This requires
carefully designed and managed programmes of inspection which
take into account the size, age, design and numbers of memorials
under their control.
In 1998, the two main industry organisations,
the Confederation of Burial Authorities (CBA) and the Institute
of Burial and Cremation Administration (IBCA) started detailed
research on the management of memorial stability by local authorities;
this involved contacting 500 local authorities. The aim of the
research was to produce detailed guidance on appropriate management
of memorials, HSE decided to contribute to this guidance rather
than produce duplicate guidance itself. This is in line with HSE's
practice of not producing separate guidance where industry specific
guidance already exists. This guidance was published in the CBA
and IBCA journal in December 2000 and sent to all members (who
include most local authorities).
HSE inspectors will be made aware of this new
guidance on effective management of memorials. It will be used
as a benchmark for enforcement considerations.
While inspection programmes by burial authorities
are vital for the management of memorial stability, they are only
effective when carried out by suitably trained, competent staff.
The CBA and IBCA are to develop a national training standard for
inspection of memorials. HSE will be contributing to the development
of this standard.
I hope this is helpful.