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Last updated 16th June 2017

Churchyard safety

'Boy, 5, airlifted to hospital with head injuries after gravestone falls on him'

This was a headline in October 2016 following an incident in a churchyard in one of the Lancaster Archdeaconry's parishes. The incident highlights the need for PCCs to exercise reasonable care in managing their churchyards.

Whilst a PCC cannot guarantee the safety of all memorials, a regular and fully documented safety inspection programme will go a long way to fulfilling the PCC’s legal obligations.

Slip, trip and fall hazards in burial grounds

Ecclesiastical Insurance have worked with Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA) to produce guidance on avoiding slips, trips and falls in burial sites.  Caring for God’s Acre provides information and advice to people responsible for the management of burial sites including church and chapel yards, cemeteries and green burial grounds, predominantly in England and Wales.  There is much more help and guidance on looking after these grounds on their web site.

Avoiding accidents in burial grounds

Graveyards and burial grounds are often visited by many people from families of those buried there to people who are just looking for a quiet place to wander.  It is important that churches do pay attention to these areas and ensure that they have addressed issues such as the possibility of slips, trips and falls, caused by common issues such as uneven ground, horizontal grave kerbs and broken headstones.

Make sure that broken graves and broken kerbs are removed, repaired or replaced and where graves are no longer visited or rarely visited, such as the old part of a churchyard that the following activities are completed:

  • Close mow grass paths regularly
  • Maintain close mown paths to any frequently visited graves
  • Erect signs requesting that people keep to the mown paths
  • Document any health and safety actions to manage the site
  • Review and revise any actions and documentation on a regular basis

Ecclesiastical have also produced a checklist and more detailed guidance.

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