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Common sense prevails over fixing memorials as new code is published at last

16 March 2009

Common sense is prevailing, says Ian Gostling, the Chief Executive Officer of NAMM, as the Ministry of Justice finally published new guidelines to cemetery authorities on the safety of memorials.

As expected, the document calls for restraint on testing for safety and suggests simple visual inspections are perfectly adequate in most cases. This should bring an end to the ‘topple test’ and the strapping of rows of memorials to wooden stakes.

“I’m pleased, because it has taken a long, long time to get to this point,” Ian told NSS.

The document, called Managing the Safety of Burial Ground Memorials, is the result of the work of the Government’s Burials & Cemeteries Advisory Group (BCAG), comprising representatives of all sides of the death care industry, and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The document had been expected to be published by the HSE in November. Concerns started to grow at NAMM (National Association of Memorial Masons) when it failed to appear. But it was released just after the previous issue of NSS had gone to press in January, not by HSE but by the Ministry of Justice, which the HSE comes under. Coming directly from the Ministry gives it even more weight.

Before the publication of the new advice brochure, the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management (ICCM) had felt the proposed advice might conflict with health & safety law, but such concerns have been resolved and ICCM are among the signatories to the new document.

NAMM, who are also signatories, are particularly pleased that the new advice includes reference to their Code of Working Practice on fixing memorials, used by their members and many burial authorities, and that memorials masons are mentioned as authorities to call in if a cemetery has any doubts about memorial safety.

Six drafts of the document were produced before Managing the Safety of Burial Ground Memorials was finally published.

At the launch, Local Government Minister John Healey said: “Heavy-handed actions by some graveyard operators, including councils, have caused unnecessary distress for people. While it is quite right that they protect visitors from genuine danger they must also consider their feelings. This guidance should help them strike the right balance and, crucially, give peace of mind to those wanting to visit their loved ones’ gravestones.”

Copies of Managing the Safety of Burial Ground Memorials can be downloaded from the website:

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