Safety in and around graves

Learn your health and safety duties and how to control risks in and around graves.


Risks around graves

  • preventing grave collapse
  • falls from height
  • employees, contractors and other persons falling into excavated graves risking injury or death, and
  • loads falling while being lifted or suspended


Employers, so far is as reasonably practicable, must provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without health risks to themselves and others. These duties exist under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).

Duties include, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  1. providing and maintaining safe plant (eg machinery and equipment) and safe systems of work
  2. ensuring safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant and substances
  3. maintaining the workplace in a safe condition (eg ensuring graves are covered or secured when not in use), and
  4. providing necessary information, instruction, training and/or supervision so employees and contractors can work safely

Employers must take measures to prevent members of the public from falling into an excavated grave (OHS Act s23).

Owners or people with management or control of a workplace must make sure the workplace and the means of entering and leaving is safe and without risks to health (OHS Act s26).

A self-employed person must ensure people are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from their work (OHS Act s24).

Specific duties exist in the OHS Regulations. The relevant provisions include:

  1. prevention of falls (Part 3.3)
  2. plant (Part 3.5)
  3. confined spaces (Part 3.4)
  4. hazardous manual handling (Part 3.1)

Risks control measures

Eliminate risks to health and safety as far as is reasonably practicable. If elimination is not reasonably practicable, reduce the risk as far as is reasonably practicable. Consider the following when selecting risk control measures:

  1. Excavating a grave
    1. The type and condition of the soil such as the moisture content and water table (ie the level below which the ground is saturated with water).
    2. The location and proximity of any previously disturbed ground (eg neighbouring graves), underground services that are at or near the location of the excavation (eg gas pipes), ground stability, and any anticipated ground vibration (eg from excavators).
    3. The expected ground pressures (including location of spoil pile, equipment to be used and anticipated number of people near the grave).
    4. Location and proximity of adjacent structures such as monuments the size of the grave (depth / width / length).
    5. Any space constraints.

Information, instruction, training and/or supervision

Employers must ensure employees are given the information, instruction, training and/or supervision necessary for them to perform their work safely and without health risks.

This includes information and training on:

  • safe systems of work developed to perform high risk tasks
  • appropriate rigging/dogging techniques
  • use and inspection of lifting equipment
  • installation and inspection of shoring, shields and other ground support equipment
  • working safely in graves
  • preventing falls
  • working around powered mobile plant traffic, and
  • management

Employers should keep records of any information, instruction or training they provide to their employees and contractors.

Australian Standards

  • AS 3776: Lifting components for grade T chain slings