HSE toppling guidelines delay concerns NAMM

The Health & Safety Executive guidelines to local authorities on the safety of memorials had still not been issued as we went to press. And the delay was concerning the National Association of Memorial Masons (NAMM), who wanted to refer to the guidelines during a review of BS8415 on the fixing of memorials due to take place at the British Standards Institute on 9 December (after NSS had gone to press).

The new guidelines were expected on 7 November following a meeting of the government’s Burials & Cemeteries Advisory Group (BCAG) at the end of October at which the sixth (and presumed final) draft was reviewed.

The draft made it clear that local authorities did not normally need to carry out ‘topple tests’, flatten headstones or support them with stakes. Visual inspections would often suffice.

The matter was debated in Parliament on 5 November, when John Mann MP, who has fought against the toppling and staking of memorials, raised the subject. Minister Bridget Prentice said the HSE guidelines would result in a reduction of headstone toppling and staking.

Ian Gostling, the National Executive Officer of NAMM, had expected to be able to refer to the guidelines at the meeting to review BS8415. “We are all guessing what’s going on,” he told NSS, and said it would be difficult to review the standard without the new guidelines to refer to.

The memorial industry would welcome guidelines to stop toppling and staking of stones, which it believes must have hit sales of memorials, but cemetery authorities are worried that the guidelines proposed in the sixth draft could conflict with health & safety law.