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Evening standard letter about removal or flattening of thousands of gravestones- HSE deputy director responds

The Editor
Evening Standard
PO Box 2309

Dear Sir,

MP Greg Hands is right to be concerned about the needless removal or flattening of thousands of gravestones - and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shares his concerns. (Evening Standard, Friday 12 September 2008.)

The risk from unsafe memorials is extremely low, however toppling gravestones have, on rare occasions, caused injuries to the public. While local authorities have a responsibility to manage this risk, HSE expects them to do so in a sensible, proportionate manner that does not cause unnecessary distress to family members. This involves them following their own industry guidance, such as that produced by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management and the British Standard that set out procedures for testing stability.

Local Authorities have a very difficult job, balancing their legal duty to protect the public from unnecessary harm and being careful not to cause further upset to the bereaved. The vast majority of Local Authorities are managing this well.

To set the record straight, HSE has not issued any formal guidance to councils, nor have we stipulated that a risk assessment must be conducted on each headstone every five years.

We are, however, working with the industry and local authorities to develop a clear, simple set of guidelines on this issue, which will help avoid over-zealous behaviour in the future.

Yours faithfully,

Sandra Caldwell
Deputy Chief Executive
Health and Safety Executive
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge

Updated 2013-01-23