National Association of Memorial Masons response to “Unsafe memorials in cemeteries” BRIEFING PAPER Number 03634, Issued 18 January 2017 – Click here to download a copy.
The subject of Unsafe Memorials has been a thorn in the side of Burial Authorities for many years, and a subject that has caused anguish and considerable expenditure, and unfortunately still does.
NAMM are disappointed that the researcher of the above paper has not sought input from all parties with the required expertise regarding this particular subject and that the document omits mention of organisations such as The British Standards Institute and BS8415 guidance or NAMM who in conjunction with City & Guilds and in direct response to the Ministry of Justice 2009 “Managing the safety of Burial Ground Memorials guidance developed an NPTC City and Guilds Qualification specifically for the Safety Assessment and Inspection of Memorials (SIAM ) this accredited qualification has been available since 2010.
The subject of memorial safety including the much quoted 2006 Ombudsman’s report has generally been centred around Modern Lawn Memorials, however; when stressing the need for memorial inspections or promoting training (including training to use a topple tester) there is often reference to accidents and fatalities that have been caused by larger older more traditionally constructed memorials. The briefing paper seems to take a similar approach when in its summery it refers to a fatality that occurred in Yorkshire in 2000 and It should be recognised that methods of construction, their inspection and the potential danger imposed by these two distinct types of memorial are very different, as are the areas where they are usually found within a Burial Ground.
1.3. The Select Committee on environment
One of the biggest negative impacts over the last 20 years is the Policy adopted by some Councils to use Weed Killers, especially around the base of memorials.
NAMM training explains why this policy has actually created danger in some Burial Grounds. The effect on larger older memorials can have the most devastating consequences with erosion of soil and root systems, which can be a major contributor to eventually making memorials unstable.
In 1997 with the assistance of Professor J Knapton, NAMM conducted a large number of tests leading to the devolvement of the ground anchor, the ground anchor was designed specifically to prevent sudden hazardous failure of a lawn memorial. Since the implementation of ground anchors, and when fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions when installing lawn memorials there has been no recorded serious injuries.
NAMM have also tested various sizes of dowels and methods of memorial fixing with the assistance of Professor Knapton, the resulting conclusions are included in the NAMM Code of Working Practice and with NAMMs consent have been replicated in BS8415. These dowel and memorial fixing specifications form part of today’s industry recognised standards and are an integral part of all accredited lawn memorial fixing qualification criteria.
The NAMM code of Working practice is the industry recognised guidance, BS8415 guidance is founded on this document, both BS8415 and the NAMM code of working practice present a unified stance. BS8415 lays down the required standards and the NAMM Code of Working Practice shows how to achieve those standards in practical terms. All NAMM members must fix memorials in accordance with the NAMM Code of Working Practice and BS8415.
There are currently two Nationally recognised memorial fixer registration schemes, and both require appropriate qualifications and adherence to British Standard 8415 to be listed.
BRAMM; The British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons.
RQMF The Register of Qualified Memorial Fixers.
The RQMF and BRAMM do not have members, they are memorial fixer registers.
NAMM “The National Association of Memorial Masons” is the only Memorial Masonry Trade Association and has been established since 1907.
There also exists a number of accredited lawn memorial fixing qualifications.
The assurances provided by both BRAMM and the RQMF schemes are the same, with information being held and made available to Burial Authorities through their respective websites. Both schemes fulfil the requirements of Burial Authorities in that they ensure fixers are appropriately qualified and proficient and have disciplinary protocols to ensure standards of working practice are maintained.
The availability of two Nationally accepted memorial fixers Registration Schemes provides choice for those working within the trade, and effectively removes any accusations of restrictive practice.
NAMM advises that all lawn memorials and accredited ground anchor systems be installed by qualified memorial fixers in accordance with BS8415 and the NAMM Code of Working Practice. This will over time eliminate concerns regarding the safety of these types of memorials as new lawn memorials are fitted and older lawn memorials that were installed before the implementation of ground anchors are gradually re fixed to current standards or removed.
To assist in the objective of making sure all lawn memorial installations meet the required standard NAMM also advises that all Burial Authorities insist that anyone fixing lawn memorials must possess an accredited memorial fixing qualification and have appropriate insurance in place.
There is no valid reason why all Burial Authorities should not accept qualified memorial fixers that are registered with any Nationally Accepted Memorial Fixers Register which as its criteria confirms that accredited memorial fixing qualifications and up to date public liability insurance are current and that all memorial installations are done in accordance with BS8415.
2. Responsibility for maintaining memorials
Maintaining the memorials structure remains the responsibility of the owner, however some actions
taken (or not taken) by Local Authorities can also affect a memorials stability.
- Not topping up graves resulting in sunken areas.
- Use of weed killers, especially around memorial foundations.
- Insuring adequate drainage of surface water.
- Graves correctly dug and back filled.
- Over digging of grave into virgin ground where the memorial is to be placed.
- Grave plots too close to each other.
- Large grave excavations for small coffins due to one size only static shoring.
- Removing supporting components from memorials such as kerbs to ease ground maintenance.
Memorials can only be installed on a plot of ground supplied by the Burial Authority, although being instructed by most Burial Authorities and all Registration schemes that memorials must be fixed in accordance with BS8415 and the NAMM Code of Working Practice in some cases it is impossible for fixers to comply due to unsuitable ground being provided for memorial installation.
Not enough room between Head and foot of grave requiring memorials to be fitted on disturbed ground, the use of weed killer allowing soil erosion around foundations all contribute to memorials eventually becoming unstable, this is beyond the grave owners and the memorial fixers control.
Large traditionally Constructed Memorials
These are the types of memorials that present the highest potential danger for causing major or even fatal injury, its usually the fatalities caused by these sorts of memorials that has in the past been quoted to provide motivation for the blanket topple testing of lawn memorials. Due to their weight, methods of construction and potential to cause serious injury the assessment of these particular types of memorials is a highly responsible undertaking.
Individuals carrying out the assessment of large memorials must be knowledgeable, confident in their own judgement and able to work to set procedures. Most importantly if an employer wishes to train an employee and have them qualified to undertake these sorts of assessments it should be at the employee’s concent and they should not feel coerced or that they risk loss of employment if they decide they do not wish to be responsible for the assessment of large memorials.
The assessment of large memorials requires the application of knowledge and a number of ordered procedures and proper recording which are then applied to future assessments and this is where conformity of procedures and therefore unified guidance is paramount.
The Ministry of Justice 2009 guidance and BS8415 set out the procedure and their applications requirements and both mention the assessment of larger memorials utilising the knowledge and experience of “Memorial Masons”.
NAMM technical committee as “Memorial Masons” have fulfilled this particular role and in conjunction with City & Guilds established the NPTC City & Guilds Safety Inspection and Assessment of Memorials qualification. This includes the preparation and forming of the assessment process and data recording and the assessment of all memorials including older larger traditionally constructed memorials.
To attain this qualification requires initial training and a final practical and written assessment by a City & Guilds NPTC assessor to ensure candidates have the required knowledge and ability to safety and accurately assess all types of memorials.
Mechanical test instruments
The systematic use of Topple Testers is not recommended although some training providers still advocate their regular use. This is confusing and goes against MOJ and BS8415 recommendations for the Assessment of Lawn Memorials.
In some instances, mechanical devises have been used to assess large memorials of considerable weight where an applied force of 25kg alone is not an affective or appropriate means to assess the stability or potential hazards presented by such large traditionally constructed memorials.
Despite the MOJ and BS8415 consistency on this subject being in place for a number of years some Local Authorities are still unaware and query why NAMM training does not support the systematic .use of topple testers. NAMM fully supports MOJ and BS8415 guidance.
2.2 Local Authority Powers
Some Authorities have used the Local Authorities Cemetery Order 1977 to restrict access to BRAMM only registered memorial fixers, often quoting the following paragraph from the 1977 Order to support this restriction.
“Regulation 3 of the 1977 Order provides general powers of management. A burial authority may do whatever they consider necessary or desirable for the proper management, regulation and control of a cemetery. “
Taken in the above context the statement appears to offer wide ranging powers which on occasions has been applied to prevent qualified memorial fixers from working, however; NAMM welcomes the fact that the Briefing paper clearly shows the quote in its full context as follows.
“Regulation 3 of the 1977 Order provides general powers of management. A burial authority may do whatever they consider necessary or desirable for the proper management, regulation and control of a cemetery. However, the general power does not authorise any action in relation to a vault, tombstone or other memorial other than action which is necessary to remove a danger which arises because of the condition of the vault, tombstone or memorial itself.12”
The power to regulate the memorial industry or to determine those being permitted to work as Memorial Masons or be employed as qualified memorial fixers does not lie with Burial Authorities, all Nationally recognised accredited qualifications should be honoured, this is why they exist.
Keeping our cemeteries safe requires that operatives are qualified and proficient for every procedure they undertake, the limit of authority imposed upon memorial fixers by any Burial Authority should be that they are qualified for the procedures they undertake are fully insured and agree to work in accordance with BS8415.
Access to work should not be based on affiliations or membership of any organisation it should be based on qualifications, appropriate policies and the assurances provided through registration be that through third parties such as BRAMM or RQMF or a Local Authorities own Registration scheme, and all accepted equally. It is not the provider, but the provision of assurances that is paramount.
Many Burial Authorities will have lists of approved Memorial Masons which the public must choose from to provide and install their memorial, but are all those that Local Authorities clearly state as being Memorial Masons actually “Memorial Masons”
What is a memorial mason
Not all qualified Lawn Memorial fixers are Memorial Masons.
The National Occupational Standards sets the abilities required for many occupations including Memorial Masons, all accredited qualifications are based on the National Occupational Standards. The Advertising Standards Agency has made rulings against companies that claim to be Memorial Masons but do not employ their own Memorial Mason or have the in-house ability to manufacture a memorial from scratch. All retail members of NAMM must have the ability to produce work on, repair inscribe and fix memorials in keeping with the Occupational Standards and in addition abide by strict codes of working practice and business ethics and supply a guarantee of workmanship.
The initiative for UK wide recognition of the National Occupational Standards by 2020 is a Government objective, it is hoped that The Ministry of Justice will support not only the application of National Occupational Standards but also state its definitive roll in documents that refer to “Memorial masons”. The National Occupational Standards imparts a clear statement of the abilities required to be classed as a Memorial Mason just as it does for other recognised trades.
NAMM consider that it is most important to clearly define the trade skill of a “Memorial Mason” not only to provide an efficient comprehensive and knowledgeable service to the general public but also in regard to memorial safety.
In some instances, individuals whose only ability is to fix a lawn memorial are trading as Memorial Masons and some even assessing memorials empowered by wording in documents such as the MOJ 2009 guidance and BS8415 which refer to “Memorial Masons” for expert memorial assessment procedures.
NAMM would like to see conformity across all established organisations such as C&G, C.I.T.B. B.S.I. M.O.J. N.O.S. L.G.O. etc with one unified message being issued in regard to proper training, recognised trade abilities and acceptance of appropriate qualifications.
Most importantly procedures for assessing memorials of all types must be consistent and uniform, it was in attempt to enable this that NAMM in 2010 developed the accredited Safety Inspection and Assessment Of Memorial Qualification founded on MOJ 2009 and BS8415 guidance along with its own comprehensive guidance and training manual.
NAMM recommend that for the purpose of clarity and conformity that the Ministry Of Justice and all concerned parties supports the NAMM 2010 initiative in that all Guidance, Training and Qualifications for the assessment of memorials are fully in line with current BS8415 guidance at all times.
This will set a single and confirmatory standard for this most serious procedure once and for all.
Peter Hayman L.C.G.I.
NAMM technical Advisor and Training Development Officer.
Duty of Care for Local Authorities is set out in
National Local Authority Enforcement Code 2013
Bridging the gap with Health and Safety at Work England, Scotland & Wales
NAMM Code of Working Practice (CoWP) supports the MOJ, has an abridged version of
Managing the safety of Burial Ground Memorials 2009, within its pages.