Memorial Safety Checks
Why are we testing
How do we test?
What do we do if we find a
Who is responsible for the
safety of a memorial?
What have we done to make
contact with owners?
What do you do if you are
advised that your memorial is unsafe?
What are we doing now?
What do you need to do?
Do you own a family grave or headstone in Kidderminster
Please take a few moments to read this, it is aimed to help you
understand why it is necessary for the Council to carry out safety
inspections on family memorials to ensure a safe environment in our
cemetery to visitors and staff.
Do you know anyone who visits a cemetery or owns a memorial? If you
do, please advise them to read this information.
Why are we testing memorials?
We need to make sure that memorials are safe. Over the past five
years there have been 21 serious accidents to members of the public
in cemeteries across the country, three of which have been
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) want councils to inspect
memorials at least once every five years, making safe those that
fail the inspection process.
Some cemeteries, that have been found with high numbers of unsafe
headstones, have had “improvement notices” placed on them by the
HSE. It can result in them being closed down until the cemetery has
been made safe. This affects members of the public who wish to
visit friends and relatives buried in the cemetery and those who
want to hold funerals during this time.
We appreciate that testing and making safe memorials may cause
upset to bereaved families, but our priority has to be the safety
of those people visiting cemeteries.
How do we test?
We are working with a company that are experts in testing
memorials and who have carried out surveys for other Councils. Two
people conduct each test. The first part of the test is a visual
inspection to identify the type of memorial and its condition. The
second part is a moderate hand test. If at this point the memorial
moves to the slightest degree the inspection stops and the memorial
is classified as failed. If the memorial passes the hand test it is
then tested with a piece of equipment known as a Topple Tester.
This equipment measures the amount of pressure applied at a given
point, up to 35kg. If the memorial starts to move before reaching
this point the inspection is stopped and the reading on the Topple
Tester is recorded and the memorial is classified as failed. If the
memorial withstands the 35kg of pressure the memorial is classified
There are four classifications for the stability of headstones,
High Risk being dangerous and requiring immediate action to make it
safe and temporarily secure. This also includes a notice being
attached to the memorial offering advice and contact details for
any persons affected to call. Medium risk memorials also require a
notice to be attached to the memorial offering advice and contact
details for any persons affected to call. Low risk indicates that
there is a weakness in the memorial, but there is no immediate
danger and is stable. For any memorial which has been classified
High, Medium or Low, we will write to the owners, providing we have
up to date records. We will inform them of the safety inspections
findings and offer advice.
What do we do if we find a problem?
If there is a problem with the stability of the memorial we will
either temporarily stabilise it, fence it off or as a last resort
lay the memorial down.
Who is responsible for the safety of a memorial?
Responsibility in the first instance rests with the purchaser or
owner of the memorial, or the stonemason or the person who puts the
memorial up. In most instances, memorials are many years old and
the purchaser/owner has either moved away or has passed on and no
family member is currently maintaining it.
Stonemasons who have erected these memorials may also have moved
away or retired. The High Court ruled that where a memorial
stonemason had erected a tombstone properly it should stand for at
least 30 years without repair. However, a lot of the headstones in
Kidderminster Cemetery are far older than 30 years.
Ultimately, therefore, the responsibility for safety within
Kidderminster Cemetery has fallen on Wyre Forest District Council
as the landowner.
What have we done to make contact with owners?
The records of many owners are extremely old and have not been
updated by current relatives/family members. There have been a
number of reports in the local press about the safety inspection
process. We contacted the Worcester Diocese for permission to carry
out the testing in the consecrated areas. We also contacted all the
religious groups in the district asking them to inform their
congregations and other parishioners. Fifty notices were
placed on gates, notice boards and around every burial section
within the cemetery. We are now actively campaigning for memorial
owners or visitors to the graves to update current contact details
so that we may keep you informed of future memorial inspections.
You can contact the Cemetery Office on 01562 822687 between the
hours of 9.00am until 10.00am Monday to Friday to update your
contact details. You can also call the Parks section on 01562
What do you do if you are advised that your memorial is
We understand that this may be upsetting for you, and are really
sorry for any distress it may cause. If your memorial has to
be laid flat to make it safe you can choose to either:
1. Leave the memorial lying down; and take no further
action (we may need to ‘dig in’ the memorial to remove trip
2. Have the memorial repaired by a Registered Memorial
If your Memorial has had a temporary fixing to make it safe and/or
a warning notice attached, you can choose to either:
1. Have the memorial repaired by a Registered Memorial
2. You can give permission for the memorial to be laid
down by contacting the cemetery office (the contact details are
below) or call the Parks Section on 01562 732928.
If you choose to have your memorial repaired then please, for your
own safety, do not attempt to repair or remove memorials yourself.
Only approved Memorial Stonemasons, or cemetery staff where
appropriate, should carry out this kind of work to make sure safety
standards are complied with.
A list of Registered Memorial Stonemasons can be obtained
Kidderminster Cemetery Office.
100 Park Lane
Tel: 01562 822687 (Between 9.00am and 10.00am Monday to
Fax: 01562 822687
What are we doing now?
We are continuing to implement a safety inspection programme of
memorials on a five-year rolling programme. We do not underestimate
the distress this safety action has caused to many visitors to our
cemeteries and we will do all we can to ease the upset.
Soon we will be undertaking a safety inspection programme in the
closed churchyards within our area. Unfortunately these churchyards
are very old and there are no records of living contacts. If you
are aware of or have any interest in a Kidderminster memorial
please let us know by contacting the Parks Section on 01562
What do you need to do?
If you are concerned about the safety of your memorial you can
arrange for a Registered Memorial Stonemason to inspect your
memorial for safety or ask for a safety inspection from a trained
member of Cemetery Staff.
Alternatively you can get in touch with:
The National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM)
27a Albert Street
Tel: 01788 542264
If you are concerned about your family memorial, or even just for
peace of mind, we strongly recommend insurance cover. A Registered
Memorial Stonemason will know of a company that offers this.
Keep your contact details up to date with the cemetery office as
Please be aware that cemeteries are potentially dangerous places.
Visitors to cemeteries should keep to footpaths, avoid touching any
memorials and ensure that children are supervised at all
For further information on headstone testing please contact:
The Institute of Crematorium and Cemetery Management
ICCM National Office
City of London Cemetery
Tel: 020 8989 4661
Fax: 01753 770 984