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Headstone & Memorial Inspections
- Who is responsible for cemeteries and headstones?
- How do you decide where to test?
- Are some memorials more dangerous than others?
- What do you do to test the safety of a memorial?
- How will we make safe?
- Why not contact family members directly before testing takes place?
- How do I find out if my family’s memorial will be tested?
- My family’s memorial has been made safe – how can I find out more about the process?
- How can I restore my family’s memorial if it has been made safe?
- How are you making people aware of the testing?
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is undertaking a programme of safety checks of headstones and memorials in its five operational cemeteries at Fintona, Greenhill and Dublin Road, Omagh; Cross and Breandrum, Enniskillen from the beginning of December 2019 to ensure that cemeteries are safe places for the public to visit and for our staff to work in.
Who is responsible for cemeteries and headstones?
Whilst council has overall responsibility for the safety of its cemeteries, including risks from unstable memorials, it doesn’t own the memorials. The owner of the memorial is the Deed Holder (grave owner of exclusive right of burial) or their successor in title. This is the person responsible for maintaining the memorial so that it does not become a hazard.
How do you decide where to test?
Council want all its cemeteries to be safe and welcoming and that is why it takes its responsibility for Health and Safety very seriously.
Council have carried out a Zoning Risk Assessment and have a procedure which includes a five year rolling programme of inspections using a phased approach, with sections of cemeteries categorized based on footfall, age, location and other factors. All headstones will be tested within this programme of inspections.
Are some memorials more dangerous than others?
By virtue of their size and weight the larger and therefore heavier upright memorials can cause significant damage and injury if they fall but the smaller memorials are still of sufficient weight to cause serious injury.
The degree of danger also relates to how they memorial is fixed into the ground. Traditional cement and dowels are subject to deterioration over the years.
Memorials that are leaning forwards or backwards can be found to be secure when tested and therefore cause no immediate danger to the public. Yet, memorials which appear on a visual inspection to be upright and safe can be found to be loose when tested and are therefore unsafe. It is only by controlled testing by trained operatives that we can establish the safety of an individual memorial.
What do you do to test the safety of a memorial?
Each memorial inspection should be considered a unique risk assessment, with the size of the memorial not influencing the fact that each memorial has to be subjected to an inspection. Any potential hazard presented by the memorial may not be solely related to its height or weight.
The first stage is a visual inspection and this checks the general condition of a memorial and identifies any obvious signs of damage, wear and tear or lean. It also includes an assessment of the foundation, where visible, and the surrounding area such as tree roots and steepness of the ground.
Once the visual inspection has been completed, a physical assessment is undertaken via a hand pressure test.
We carry out this work with due respect and only where absolutely necessary.
We do not undertake mechanical tests.
How will we make safe?
This is depending on the size, type and condition of the memorial.
Wherever possible the memorial or its components will be left in the grave space in a way where by full repair of the memorial to BS 8415 is possible by a competent memorial mason. This action will involve any of the following.
· It may temporarily make safe the memorial using a staking and banding structural support method. It will put up a safety notice to tell people that the memorial is unsafe and the action to be taken by the grave owner or their(s) will be displayed on or near to the memorial.
· The memorial will be partially buried into the ground at the head of the grave.
· Memorials will be laid flat if there is no other practical way of making them safe, or where the grave owner or relative asks for this.
· It will try to contact the owner of the grave as soon as possible to agree a repair time frame.
If council find a large number of memorials aren’t safe within a section of burial ground, it may fence off the whole area. Signs will be displayed to inform visitors of the danger and provide contact details for further information.
Where a memorial is thought to have historical or social significance, council will do its best to consult with the relevant conservation or heritage association before any remedial works are carried out.
Why not contact family directly before testing takes place?
Due to the age of many of the headstones we are testing, there is now no identifiable owner or next of kin which means we cannot contact all family members directly.
In addition, this would not be feasible due to the number of headstones being tested.
How do I find out if my family's memorial will be tested?
All initial inspections & recording of memorials will be carried out by trained staff in accordance with current industry best practice. All memorials will be recorded and inspected.
My family's memorial has been made safe - how can I find out mor
If you would like to know more, such as when the test was undertaken and what the results were please feel free to contact us. 0300 300 1777 contact the Cemetery Officer extension 20524 (Omagh Cemeteries) or 21524 (Fermanagh Cemeteries).
How can I restore my family's memorial if it has been made safe?
You will need to contact a memorial sculptor to carry out the make safe work. However the sculptor that you choose to carry out the work must be signed up to the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Code of Memorial Safe Working Practice Procedures.
This ensures the monumental sculptor has the necessary skills to safely erect a headstone to the standards that council require.
How are you making people aware of the testing?
Council will raise awareness of the memorial safety testing one month in advance of the programme commencement by:
· Web page goes live.
· First news release issues to local press, together with early social media posts (Twitter and Council Facebook only).
· Notices displayed prominently in cemeteries affected by the first part of the programme of work.
· Briefing information issued to identified stakeholders, including suggested content for church bulletins.
· Cemetery staff, reception staff, burial administration staff and registration staff briefed on programme and managing enquiries.