Scribe Academy recently welcomed Guest Speaker Julie Dunk, Chief Executive at the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management.
With over 25 years of experience in local authority and private sector cemeteries and crematoria, Julie shared her knowledge and advice on memorial management with 30+ attendees on Zoom and also the Scribe team!
⚖️ The Legal Bit
Town and Parish Councils that manage a cemetery are subject to The Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 to ensure they are legally compliant.
The council are also responsible in ensuring visitors and those working on the site are not exposed to risks to their health & safety under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
Interesting point: If you find a memorial is unsafe, you must take action to mitigate the risk. However, actual payment to fix the memorial is down to the owner of the memorial.
Here are Julie’s Top Tips when it comes to Memorial Management:
📃 Develop a Cemetery Policy
Don't panic - there is no need to reinvent the wheel! By completing a quick search on google you will be able to find a burial authority with a policy that you can base yours upon. You will need to make sure your policy covers memorials already in your cemetery, and a testing regime for these, as well as future memorials and how you are going to ensure going forwards these are fixed safely and comply with BS8415.
✅ Cemetery Registration Schemes
Within your cemetery policy, you can also include whether you’ll have a registration scheme for memorial masons. There are registration schemes out there such as BRAMM and RQMF (NAMM) and it helps to ensure that your memorial masons are properly trained and qualified and have adequate public liability insurance.
🪦 Topple Tests
It’s important to have a testing regime in place. The recommendation is that memorials should be tested every 5 years, but may be more frequent if you have a memorial that is unsafe or you are wary of.
A memorial would be classed as unsafe if it moved when pushed by hand (with a pressure of 25kg) and if continued pressure would result in the memorial falling.
As part of your testing regime, you need to think about who is going to undertake the necessary work (i.e. contractors) and ensure they are trained with adequate insurance.
Interesting point: Anyone who is digging a grave in your cemetery should also know how to test a memorial for safety. When digging the grave, they need to ensure the surrounding area is safe also.
👩💻Record Your Cemetery Testing
You should record details of inspections as they are done. This can be done via software, such as Scribe Cemetery, that allows you to create inspections, record details, pictures and any work that needs completing against your memorial record.
When completing an inspection, start visually - Is it leaning? Are there cracks? Is it covered in vegetation? Take photos to add to your inspection record. Once the area is safe, you can then perform the physical inspection, applying 25kg pressure.
Where memorials are over 2.5m it can be tricky to perform a physical inspection yourself. You can therefore perform a visual inspection and bring in a structural engineer if you have a cause for concern and they can do a thorough test.
Where a risk needs to be mitigated, it is important to try and contact the grave owner, giving them the option to have the memorial refixed. In the meantime, you can use the “stake and banding” method or cordon the area off, leaving a notice on the memorial (with your contact details) so visitors know there is a problem.
If it is so unsafe that you can’t leave it, then you can lay the memorial flat. But try not to do this unless you have no other option.
It’s also important to communicate changes with the local community. You can put notices in the cemetery and on your website, or even have consultation days and invite people in to let them know what you’re doing.
🗣️ Guest Speaker
⏯️ Replay - Watch the session recording below
🔗 Useful links
Q. If we can't find the family, do we raise money to fix a memorial through the precept?
A. It can vary between different authorities and it is a difficult one because you are required to keep the cemetery safe but are not obliged to spend public money on private property. You could argue that by using money from the precept you are doing so to keep your cemetery in good order and repair, however, it is really the responsibility of the grave owner or family to pay for the fixing of the memorial. If this is not possible, you could consider creating a monolith for lawn headstones. This involves burying the memorial a third in the ground so it cannot fall over, and the memorial is there should anyone want to come forward and fix it properly.
Q. Should we approach our local stone masons for a cost in the first instance?
A. Yes, it's good to get them onboard. They will not want the bad reputation of unsafe memorials so they should want to work with you and perhaps even offer a special rate to fix the memorial. Any memorials fixed after the British Standard was introduced in 2005 should not be unsafe - if you find they are then you could argue that your memorial masons should put this right this free of charge as it should have been fixed to BS8415. Certainly any memorials fixed within the last 6 years that have problems should be repaired by the memorial masons free of charge under the Sale of Goods Act 2015.
Q. Can volunteers or councillors carry out memorial testing?
A. Yes, the important thing is that they are trained (up-to-date), ideally supervised, and know how to record their findings. You will also need to check with your insurance company that they would be covered if there was any problem.