Health and Safety in churchyards – practical guidance

Author: Geoff Freeman

Published on: 10 March 2016

A Parochial Church Council is responsible legally for the care and maintenance of their churchyard(s) and this requirement extends to the safety of the churchyard and, in particular, memorials.

This responsibility also relates to the wider churchyard, including paths and all other areas, often including
boundary walls. Closed churchyards will sometimes come under the remit of the PCC, even if the relevant local authority has taken over maintenance ultimate liability in law remains with the PCC.

There are some simple ways to make sure that risks are minimised:

  • Appoint someone to be the PCC’s Health and Safety Offi cer
  • Draw up a regular inspection and maintenance programme for the churchyard
  • Check headstones to see if they move when pushed. Only minimum pressure should be applied and the use of mechanical ‘topple testers’ should not be entertained. If a headstones moves when pushed, ascertain the level of risk. Is it in danger of falling over? If so, and it has become a risk to the public, it should either be cordoned off or made safe by laying it flat (if possible). Any permanent change to a memorial will require a faculty and the consent, if possible, of the heirs at law (the family who own the memorial)
  • Kerbstones around graves can be a trip hazard but should not be removed unless there is clear evidence that they are dangerous
  • Make sure that pathways are clear of trip and slip hazards. This relates mainly to clumps of foliage that may grow through gravel paths, an accumulation of wet leaves and/or the removal of moss/algae on stone paths
  • Boundary walls, like all fabric, deteriorate over time. Any maintenance programme for the churchyard should take this into account and regular inspections should take place
  • Identify rabbit warrens, fox holes and badger sets, as these animals often tunnel into the churchyard and create holes that can be dangerous
  • If in doubt, consult your Archdeacon/DAC Secretary/church insurer.

Being aware of health and safety need not be a chore and is usually common sense.

The author...

No Image Found

Geoff Freeman

Parish Funding Support Officer

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

My view: Benefice Support Meetings

Each year Benefi ce Support Meetings take place which are an opportunity for benefices to meet with the Diocese and discuss their financial position.


Church insurance: is there a better way?

Parishes will be well aware that the cost of insurance is often one of the highest areas of expenditure and in recent years the increasing cost has become a source of concern for many.


Building for the future in Gorleston

Those who live in the east of the Diocese and travel through Gorleston have seen the magnificent church of St Andrew’s towering above the other buildings.


Take another look at your energy tariff

In recent months, the price of crude oil has fallen from the heady heights of $130 a barrel to less than $30.


The key to opening your church building

Churches can be a benefit for the whole community and not just for those who attend worship on a Sunday.


The egg that shares the Easter story

This year The Real Easter Egg range has had a makeover and each single boxed egg includes a unique copy of the Easter story in the shape of a pull out 37cm high cross illustrated by Helen Cann.


Copyright: reproducing hymn & song words, music and audio/video

Keeping on the right side of the law: Following on from previous articles on understanding the law in terms of running lotteries (raffl es), sale of alcohol, etc., we now move onto the area of copyright and the law.


Village cinema brings community & church together

Movies at St Mary’s’ is a village cinema organised by St Mary’s Church, Banham and The Friends of Banham Church.


Spring into action and help record churchyard wildlife

Do you like wildlife? Would you be interested in learning more about wildflowers? Could you spare a day or two in 2016 to help Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) with an exciting new wildlife project?


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter