Memorial Safety Testing

Wimborne Cemetery Joint Management Committee (WCJMC), as the burial authority and land owner, is responsible for the overall safety of Wimborne Cemetery.  As part of ensuring that, as far as is reasonably practical, Wimborne Cemetery is a safe place for the public to visit, an on-going programme of memorial safety testing is in place. Memorial safety testing minimises the risks of memorials falling, which have sadly been responsible for numerous accidents, including at least eight fatalities in the UK, over the last 30 years.

It is important to note that whilst the WCJMC is responsible for the overall safety of Wimborne Cemetery, including risks from unstable memorials, it does not own the memorials and there are specific responsibilities that lie with both the owner of the memorial and the memorial mason responsible for installing it.

Frequently asked questions

Why is this work being carried out?

Memorial safety testing is undertaken to ensure that Wimborne Cemetery is safe for our employees and visitors. These checks have taken place in previous years and from January 2024, will continue to be carried out on a regular basis to ensure Wimborne Cemetery remains a safe place for all cemetery users. Only memorials over 625mm in height will be tested.

Who is responsible for keeping my memorial repaired and in a safe condition?

The owner of the memorial (usually the grave owner or the next entitled to own the grave) are responsible for the memorial and have a duty to keep the memorial repaired and in a safe condition. We encourage anyone who owns a memorial to insure it, just as you do with any other property you own.

What do the safety tests involve and who will carry them out?

Memorial safety inspections are carried out by members of staff that have received training in how to check the safety of memorials. Memorials will first undergo a visual assessment to look for any signs of instability or deterioration followed by a basic hand test to check if the stone is securely fastened and not at risk of falling over. A record of every inspection will be kept.

What will you do with headstones that fail the test?

A memorial will fail the test if it is found to be at risk of falling over. The WCJMC has a duty of care to remove the risk immediately once identified. Action will be taken the same day to make the memorial safe by either; temporarily supporting it, cordoning it off, or laying it down. In all cases, a warning notice will be placed on the memorial to notify the memorial owner/public that it is unsafe and in need of repair. Where we have contact details, we will write to the last known address of the owners of memorials less than 30 years old.

What should I do if my memorial has a warning notice?

As the owner of the memorial, you are responsible for keeping it in a safe condition, including any costs associated with its maintenance and repair. You will need to promptly contact a BRAMM registered memorial mason and arrange for the memorial to be repaired/re-fixed to current standards.

My headstone has had a notice placed on it and I haven’t been contacted first. Why?

Our priority is to make sure that Wimborne Cemetery is a safe place to visit. Once a memorial has been identified as being at risk of falling over and causing injury, we have a responsibility to take immediate action to make it safe that same day. This will include placing a warning notice on the memorial, but you may not be contacted until the next day, or the following week. Where we have up-to-date contact details, we will endeavour to contact memorial owners as soon as possible following make safe actions.

How often are memorials tested?

All memorials within Wimborne Cemetery will be tested at least once every 5 years. Memorials that do not pose an immediate danger to the public but are not fully stable will be monitored every 12 months to assess any further deterioration to their stability. Because of this we recommend that your memorial is insured and is regularly and professionally checked and maintained by your memorial stonemason to ensure it is safely maintained.

Where can I get further information?

You can read our full Memorial Safety Policy here. For further advice or information, please contact the Cemetery Clerk on 07434 256392 or at clerk@wimbornecemetery.co.uk.