Annual Memorial Inspection Procedure

Scotter Parish Council will conduct a formal inspection of all memorials located within Scotter Cemetery on an annual basis. The inspection will be carried out in accordance with the Ministry of Justice guidance note “Managing the safety of Burial Ground Memorials” dated January 2009 and in accordance with the following procedure, adopted by the Council at its meeting of 15th November 2010.



All memorials will undergo a visual inspection, which will check for obvious signs that a memorial is likely to be unstable. This inspection is to include :

  • Where the memorial is multi-part, evidence of damaged or eroding bonding.
  • Where the memorial is multi-part, evidence of movement of some of the parts from the original position.
  • Where the memorial has a kerb surround, evidence of kerb stones breaking apart.
  • Evidence of undermined or unstable foundations
  • Evidence of the memorial deviating from the vertical, particularly where there is evidence of recent movement.
  • Evidence of structural damage or disturbance (e.g. cracks).
  • The presence of vegetation that may cause structural damage to worsen.



Tablet and vase memorials will not undergo further assessment. Visual inspection is sufficient to identify any potential safety hazard (e.g. a tripping hazard).



Headstones under 500mm in height will not undergo further assessment unless the visual inspection and the positional risk assessment of the headstone gives the inspector rise to believe that a further test is necessary and that it is safe to carry out such a test. The positional risk assessment, in addition to considering the age and size of the memorial, will consider its proximity to the cemetery footpaths, the relative frequency of visitors to that part of the cemetery and the ground conditions in the vicinity.

If a further test is identified as necessary and it is safe to proceed, a simple hand test is to be carried out to ensure that the joints are secure and that the memorial is stable on its plinth. The inspector will stand to one side of the memorial and, using one hand only, apply a firm but steady pressure in different directions to determine to what degree, if any, the headstone is loose.



The Council’s cemetery policy limits the maximum height of memorials in Scotter Cemetery to 920mm. For all memorials above 500mm in height to this maximum, the visual inspection is to be followed by a hand test, whether or not visible signs of damage or defects have been found during the that visual inspection. The inspector will stand to one side of the memorial and, using one hand only, apply a firm but steady pressure in different directions to determine to what degree, if any, the headstone is loose. The inspector must ensure his own personal safety at all times whilst conducting the inspection.



An assessment balancing risk of injury against the need to proceed sensitively (having regard to the effects on the bereaved) has determined that the detection of instability under a hand test may not present a level of risk whereby, for that reason alone, immediate action needs to be taken by the Council.

If some instability is detected during the hand test, the inspector will assign a risk rating to that instability (which is to be recorded on the inspection report) as a guide to the action he recommends should be taken. This is a judgement as to the degree of risk to health and safety presented by the memorial’s movement. To do this, a risk factor needs to be calculated.

The risk factor considers the potential severity of the fault (i.e. what is the worst possible injury that could realistically occur because of it) and the probability of its occurrence (i.e. how likely is it that an accident or injury will occur because of it). Severity and probability will each be given a score on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being High. The risk factor is the multiplication of these two scores.

Once the risk factor has been calculated, the inspector will assign a risk rating by looking up the risk factor on the following chart:

Risk Rating Risk Factor Action Required



Inform the owner of the inspection result and suggest that remedial action may be required.



Inform the owner of the inspection result and ask for remedial action to be taken within a fixed timescale. Monitor for further deterioration.



Remedial action required immediately (e.g. place a temporary support onto the memorial, lay flat, cordon off the affected area, as appropriate).

Inform owner of action taken.

The inspector’s judgment will take into account the following factors :

  • The size and shape of the headstone.
  • Whether the headstone returns to a stable position after the hand test has been completed.
  • The positional risk assessment of the headstone. Is it close to cemetery footpaths, in an area of the cemetery with a high frequency of visitors or in an area of unstable ground?
  • If the headstone has been erected (or re-erected to the required standard following an earlier failed test) in sections A and B of Scotter Cemetery since the year 2000, it has been installed with a ground support system under the NAMM Code of Working Practice. Such memorials can move within design tolerances without representing a danger to health and safety.
  • If the headstone has been erected in the area of Scotter Cemetery opened on 19th October 2009, it has been installed onto a concrete raft foundation (prior constructed in the cemetery) in accordance with the NAMM Code of Working Practice to improve memorial security.

Except in exceptional circumstances (where a high risk factor has been identified), this assessment process will allow the Council to advise owners of the potential unsatisfactory condition of the memorial, with sufficient time allowed for them to have repair work carried out.

The exceptional circumstances are as follows :

  • Where the headstone is over 500mm in height (or under 500mm in height but where the positional risk assessment is high).


  • Is obviously unstable when tested by hand, such that it does not return to a stable position when marginally displaced or could easily slip out of position or would continue to move until it fell to the ground if the hand test continued.


  • Has become separated from its base plate.

In such circumstances, the headstone would present a high risk to health and safety, such that a delay in contacting the owners to request that remedial action be taken could not be justified. The inspector will take immediate action, by applying a memorial support to the headstone or, if this is not possible or safe, by carefully laying it down. (If several headstones in that vicinity fall into the same high-risk category, it may be necessary to cordon off the area.) Letters will then be sent to owners in accordance with the Council’s cemetery policy.