The management of memorials is an area of cemetery management that has traditionally received little attention over the years. This is now changing as a result of a number of problems that have developed throughout the country.
There have been three deaths nationally in cemeteries in as many years. In the London Borough of Richmond’s cemetery, there has been one reported accident, which was a teenager who had his foot trapped under a fallen memorial.
Many memorials have become unstable and pose a danger to those working in and visiting the cemeteries. Health & Safety in cemeteries managed by, or on behalf of local authorities, is enforced by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Breaches identified during HSE inspections or investigations may be dealt with by advice, by enforcement notices or, ultimately, by prosecution.
The cemeteries opened as early as 1839. There are memorials in place dating back to this time, which have never been inspected. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 memorials in the cemeteries.
To preserve the history of the cemeteries and the local area, the cemetery team is working with local history groups and friends groups in restoring memorials, where possible. The cost to re-erect or mend old memorials to ensure they are safe could be very considerable. The Council therefore needs to prioritise the works required. It is in response to legislation and the obvious need to manage memorials that we have implemented a memorial safety inspection.
The immediate concern is to make safe any dangerous memorials that could cause harm and possible fatal injury to visitors and staff in the cemeteries.
If a grave is tended and we have contact details, a letter is sent to let the registered owner know that their memorial requires attention.
Being able to contact grave owners and family members is often difficult, as many have died or moved address and not informed the cemetery office. Please ensure that you advise us if you own a memorial in one of the Borough Cemeteries and have moved from the address on our records. The memorial safety programme is attempting to deal with this very sensitive issue in a reasonable and effective way, whilst ensuring that the cemeteries are safe places to visit.