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Journal cover: International Journal of Law in the Built Environment

International Journal of Law in the Built Environment

ISSN: 1756-1450

Online from: 2009

Subject Area: Built Environment

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Perceptions of occupiers' liability risk by estate managers: A case study of memorial safety in English cemeteries

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Title:Perceptions of occupiers' liability risk by estate managers: A case study of memorial safety in English cemeteries
Author(s):Luke Bennett, (Department of the Built Environment, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK), Carolyn Gibbeson, (Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)
Citation:Luke Bennett, Carolyn Gibbeson, (2010) "Perceptions of occupiers' liability risk by estate managers: A case study of memorial safety in English cemeteries", International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, Vol. 2 Iss: 1, pp.76 - 93
Keywords:Burial, Disposal of the dead, England, Occupier's liability, Risk assessment, Safety
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/17561451011036531 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a socio-legal case study, examining how the legal notion of “reasonable safety” provision has come to be constructed by municipal cemetery managers in relation to gravestones and other memorial structures over the last decade in England.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper takes a social constructionist approach to the subject of the case study. It is based upon a literature review of relevant law, policy and guidance, and on the results of qualitative face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with a small sample of English municipal cemetery managers.

Findings – The issue of memorial safety illustrates the tensions that can arise between safety and conflicting priorities, in this case sensitivity to the bereaved. The paper shows that the simple promulgation of guidance will not automatically lead to it being accepted by all as “good practice”. The interviews show how organisations and individual managers have sought to make sense of, and render workable, their legal obligations, by drawing upon, and at times ignoring or adapting, available guidance.

Research limitations/implications – The interview study is based upon a small non-random sample, accessed via a single phase of enquiry in Spring 2008. The influence of fear of liability may manifest differently in other cemetery managers and/or change over time. In view of the novel, and powerful, “resisting-forces” in the case of cemeteries direct comparison with the risk perception of managers in other parts of the built environment may be difficult.

Originality/value – Given the lack of existing research in the field of liability perception by landowners, the paper contributes to the analysis of the generic processes by which safety guidance is negotiated, and reconciled with competing drivers in the management of the built environment.

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