Memorial Safety Testing

We are committed to providing a safe environment for those visiting our cemeteries.

Kettering Borough Council is continually testing the safety of memorials at all cemeteries throughout the Borough on rotation, to ensure that headstones are stable and do not pose a danger to visitors.

Background 

Headstones have been erected at the head of graves since Victorian times as a lasting reminder of those buried within.

It is often assumed that memorials are permanent structures, installed to high standards, that will last forever without need for repair.

Some cemeteries that have been found to have large numbers of unsafe headstones have had "improvement notices" placed on them by the Health and Safety Executive, which means the cemetery has to close until it has been made safe.

Since 1st January 2008, all new memorials placed within Kettering Borough cemeteries have to be fixed with a ground anchor system that has been approved by the National Association of Memorial Masons.  Prior to this date there was no statutory method of fixing required.

Why are we testing memorials?

Guidelines set down by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and subsequent guidance from The Ministry of Justice (Jan 2009) require all burial authorities to inspect every headstone in their cemeteries every five years.

The guidelines have been issued following a number of incidents in UK cemeteries over the last few years, caused  by falling headstones.

Cemetery staff face the difficult task of tackling this sensitive issue, although the memorials do not belong to the cemetery - they are the property of the owner of the grave rights.  The Council however, is responsible for the health and safety for all who visit or work within the cemeteries.

The safety testing is to assess whether memorials can withstand a reasonable pressure, for instance if someone should slip and use the memorial to try and stabilise themselves.

What does the survey involve? 

The survey involves visually inspecting the memorial for signs of instability or damage and applying a simple hand test. 

The purpose of the hand test is to ascertain whether there is any movement in a memorial which otherwise seems to be secure, not whether the memorial, or its fixings, can withstand any particular level of pressure.

Where movement is detected, sufficient pressure may, with care, be applied to ascertain whether the memorial locks on any ground anchor.

If a memorial is found to be unstable and there is a likelihood that it may become unsafe we will write to the grave deed holder or successor in title at the address on our files to advise them of what to do next.

The laying down of headstones will only be used if the memorial is found to be unstable and presents a significant risk of injury to visitors or staff working in the cemeteries.  It has been decided by the Diocese of Peterborough and Kettering Borough Council that the laying down of headstones is less distressing than using temporary supports.

All testing will be recorded on a data base kept at Kettering Crematorium.