People asked to check safety of their gravestones
a pilot inspection of gravestones at Putney Vale cemetry people
who own headstones at cemeteries in Putney & the rest
of Wandsworth are being asked to help the council by checking
that they are safe and unlikely to topple over.
message to grave owners comes as the council prepares to carry
out a safety audit of every headstone and monument in its
seven burial grounds and five cemeteries. The
pilot inspection of 329 headstones at the oldest part of Putney
Vale cemetery, where some burials date back to 1851, revealed
that nearly five per cent were in immediate danger of collapse,
while another 15 per cent needed prompt attention to prevent
them becoming a hazard.
that were found to be an immediate hazard were cordoned off
and covered with a high-visibility bag warning visitors to
keep away, until they were made safe. This involved laying
the headstone flat on top of the grave using specially designed
lifting equipment, which is in line with guidelines issued
by the Institute of Burial and Cremation Administration, the
industry's professional body.
audit - which will involve checking the condition of around
100,000 headstones - is being carried out on the instructions
of the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE has informed all
councils in England and Wales that audits must be carried
out to ensure the safety of people working in cemeteries as
well as visitors. Since 1995 at least four people in the UK
have been killed by falling gravestones, including three children
under the age of nine.
gravestones and monuments date back decades and have suffered
from decay over the years as well as vandalism. Some modern
headstones may be dangerous because of poor workmanship and
who find that their headstones are unsafe should arrange to
have immediate repair work carried out by a monumental mason
the forthcoming audit, if gravestones are found to represent
an immediate danger and need urgent attention to make them
safe, they will be carefully laid flat using this special
equipment. The council will then attempt to trace the registered
owners to inform them that the headstone needs to be re-erected.
owners of headstones which need repairs to prevent them becoming
dangerous in the future will also be contacted and asked to
carry out the necessary works to make them safe.
Peter Brennan director of Leisure & Amenity for Wandsworth
Council said: "This is an emotive issue and one that
we fully understand will be upsetting for some people. However
it is an issue that councils simply cannot ignore. We have
a legal responsibility to ensure that memorials and headstones
in our cemeteries and burial grounds do not pose a risk to
have been some tragic deaths elsewhere in the UK in recent
years where headstones have toppled over and killed people.
Sadly most of the victims in these dreadful incidents have
been young children playing innocent games like hide and seek.
are now urging people who own gravestones in our cemeteries
to make sure they are safe and if there is any doubt call
in an expert. Staff who work at our burial grounds and cemeteries
will be on hand to offer professional advice.
would also urge parents who live near burial grounds to warn
their children not to approach any headstone that has been
cordoned off and marked with a warning bag. If they have been
marked in this way, then they will be dangerous and should
not be touched."
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