Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Health and Safety Executive (CEM 102)


  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 2000.

  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 owner—normally 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.

Christopher Triggs


January 2001

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