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South Bucks District Council
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Memorial Safety Inspections

In the interest of safety for those visiting and working in our cemeteries South Bucks District Council operates a rolling programme of memorial safety inspections at its cemeteries.

The reasons why we test memorials
Guidelines set down by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) require all burial authorities to inspect every headstone in their cemeteries at least every five years.

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

South Bucks District Council staff will endeavours to tackle this problem in a sensitive manner. The memorials are the property of the owner of the grave rights, and if as is often the case we have no contact details or the owner has passed away and there is no other person to take responsibility, the council will take the necessary action to make dangerous memorials safe.

South Bucks District Council is committed to providing a safe environment for those visiting our 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.

We appreciate that testing and making safe memorials may cause upset to bereaved families and we apologise for any inconvenience it may cause but the safety of visitors to our cemeteries is a priority.

Cemeteries are potentially dangerous places and visitors are advised to keep to footpaths, avoid touching memorials and ensure that children are supervised at all times.

Unfortunately, falling headstones have claimed the lives of six people over the last 12 years, most of whom have been children, and there have been countless accidents ranging from bruising to severe crush injuries and bone breakages.

What does the survey involve?
The survey involves visually inspecting the memorials for signs of instability and physically testing them for movement.

Memorials that do not meet the HSE's safety standards will be secured with a temporary wooden support or laid flat on the ground and a yellow warning bag placed over the memorial. We will then write to the grave owner at their last known address to advise them of the situation and what they need to do next.

Please let us know if your contact details have changed or if you wish to discuss this issue further.
Telephone 01753 523744


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.

However research has shown that this is not the case, and that the average length of time that relatives actively visit graves is about 10 years.

Some cemeteries that have been found to have large numbers of unsafe headstones have had "improvement notices" placed on them by the HSE, which means the cemetery has to be closed until it has been made safe.

Of course this affects members of the public who wish to visit the graves of friends or relatives buried there and those who want to hold funerals during this time.