Yellow health and safety warning tags put on graves in a village churchyard have been branded “disrespectful” by local residents.
Villagers in Norfolk have criticised the council for what they claim is a “blatant misuse of health and safety policies” after it placed “unsafe memorial” tags on 37 gravestones.
Some residents of Terrington St Clement were shocked to see the yellow tags on their loved ones’ gravestones, many of which aren’t even wobbly, with one erected only last year.
The notices ask relatives to get in touch with the council, which says they have a duty of care to keep the graveyard safe.
Local resident Michael Lister wrote on Facebook: “This morning whilst visiting there I noticed that with its ‘duty of care’ to the public it has recently visited and inspected the headstones.
“A great number of them, mainly on the south side of the church, now have notices attached to them advising that they are unstable and must not be touched.
“This is the first step before they return at a later date and lay the headstones flat. Visually to me it appeared that, whilst some were indeed unstable, some appeared to be just sinking to one side.
He added: “Most are not ‘historic’ stones and must have relatives still living locally and I wonder if many of them know of this current situation.”
Ashley Bareford said it was “disrespectful” and wrote: “They are not unsafe. I haven’t heard of anyone injuring themselves because of these headstones.”
Earlier this year a spokesperson for the council said: “The graves and memorials within cemeteries are purchased by individuals – usually family members of deceased persons – and they retain ownership of these.
“This means that if remedial work is required to make a memorial safe, it is up to the owner to carry it out, although we will provide help and advice with this process.”
They added that five cemeteries in the borough had been inspected in May, and notices were put up in advance of the action.
King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Council added that just over 900 memorials were “identified as needing attention” out of more than 8,000 tested.
It added that “where it is considered that a memorial needs remedial work to make it safe, we do our best to contact the owner of the grave” but it can be “a time-consuming and complex process”.
“In the meantime, we have put labels on the relevant graves while we make efforts to contact people.”
A council spokesman said: “There is a national standard for testing gravestones, against which memorials are objectively assessed.
“The age of the memorial isn’t relevant, it’s whether it meets the standard when tested.”
If owners cannot be contacted, affected gravestones will eventually be laid down.