Burial ground memorial safety: local authority guidance

Guidance to assist local authorities meet their obligations to inspect and make safe memorials and headstones in local authority burial grounds.

Recording and Communication

Information to be recorded

50. To ensure that a memorial inspection programme is effectively managed, accurate recording of each element of the assessment is essential. Recording may be in paper or electronic formats.

51. Due to the requirement to consistently refer to the outcome of inspections and update the assessment record, individual records should be easily accessible once stored. This may mean an electronic record system is more appropriate. The record taken at the time of a memorial assessment may include:

  • The name of the burial ground.
  • The section and lair number.
  • Name of assessor(s) who completed the inspection.
  • Date of inspection.
  • The location and topography e.g. next to a path, on a slope etc.
  • The name(s) and date(s) of death recorded on the memorial.
  • The type of memorial e.g. modern lawn memorial, monolith, wall mounted etc.
  • The type of memorial material(s) e.g. granite, sandstone, marble, terrazzo, etc.
  • The structural condition of the memorial e.g. visible wear and tear, damage, cracks, weathering, evidence of previous repair, state of repair etc.
  • Any lean and the degree of lean of the memorial.
  • The visibility and condition of the foundation.
  • The ground conditions e.g. conditions of structures nearby, underground vaults, soil type, drainage, vegetation etc.
  • If the memorial is designated for its historic or cultural significance (and any consents or licences that may be required for works).
  • Photographic evidence.
  • If immediate corrective action is required.

52. Taking a photograph of each memorial before the assessment is carried out, for the memorial inspection record, can be useful when completing future inspections or explaining the outcome of an assessment to lair owners. However photographs alone would not be a substitute to a documented record, as outlined above.

53. Some authority bereavement services use specific software administration packages that have modules or elements which will provide inspection recording via hand-held units. There are also readily available packages which have the assessment record, a photograph and a mapping reference stored together in the register of lairs, depending on the software package. Exploration of the feasibility of utilising these types of recording methods is encouraged as best practice.

Reporting and Action Taken

54. As well as recording and dating all findings, based upon the suggested list above, it is also important that any actions taken and/or future actions required are contained within this memorial inspection record.

55. In terms of on-going safety, effective reporting of all memorial inspections that require further action is important. The actions taken are completely dependent on the outcome of an inspection. Appropriate recording should be robust enough to ensure that all the relevant tiers of management are aware of these outcomes and the record can be easily accessed. This will also include the need to contact or consult relevant parties and/or obtain consents or licences for work.

56. Further considerations for recording and reporting:

  • Are paper records suitable for all conditions?
  • If appropriate, can the inspection record be directly linked to any existing burial records?
  • What information or categorisation system for inspecting memorials and their safety do assessors require?
  • How accessible is recorded data?
  • What process is followed when a memorial is flagged for immediate action to make safe by an assessor, and how is this recorded and implemented?
  • Is there a set process to 'prompt' or 'flag' for re-inspections relative to the degree of risk a memorial may present?


Email: katrina.mcneill@gov.scot

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