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Publication of new guidance by the Ministry of Justice - Managing the safety of burial ground memorials

The Ministry of Justice has published new guidelines on managing the safety of burial ground memorials. The guidelines were developed by representatives across the industry in response to requests for more detailed advice on managing memorial stock. Ministry of Justice guidance only applies to England, but the sensitive and proportionate approach set out in the guidance will be useful for duty holders in Scotland and Wales.

Although the risk of injury from unstable memorials is very low, burial ground operators are sometimes uncertain what they need to do to protect people from genuine danger and to meet their health and safety responsibilities. There has also been some concern that memorials have been staked or laid down unnecessarily and without due consideration of the actual risks presented.

HSE worked closely with the Burials and Cemeteries Advisory Group at the Ministry of Justice in developing and agreeing these simple guidelines, which support HSE's key principles about sensible risk management previously referred to in a letter to local government burial authorities in 2007.

Responsibility for maintaining cemeteries lies with their owners. These are churches, local authorities or private cemetery companies. The guidance sets out how these operators should manage any significant risks from memorials properly but to do so in a sensible, proportionate manner that does not cause unnecessary distress to family members. HSE welcomes this risk–based guidance for burial ground operators to follow to ensure cemeteries remain safe for people, whilst at the same time keeping families informed of their actions.

The guidance suggests that operators:

Families will still own the memorial stones and burial ground operators will need to contact them to make any repairs necessary, only taking immediate action if there is imminent risk of serious injury due to the state of the memorial. Where temporary measures need to be taken to make memorials safe, operators are advised to take steps to make permanent repairs as soon as possible.

The guidance is available at the Ministry of Justice website.

Updated 2012-11-09