MORE than 25,000 headstones in Kirklees cemeteries could topple over at any time.
And there are fears that any of this huge number could crush someone - or even kill them.
A furore erupted among families after Kirklees Council started to check the headstones on graves in Kirkheaton Cemetery.
But people doing the work have now revealed that headstones at all 13 Kirklees cemeteries will be checked in the coming years.
Any said to be dangerous will be laid flat.
That could mean more than 25,000 headstones are wobbly and urgently need fixing.
Kirklees staff checked 263 headstones in Kirkheaton Cemetery and found 122 were unsafe. Some are less than five years old.
The dangerous stones have been uprooted and laid flat.
Others, which need specialist gear to be moved, have been temporarily staked to the ground. But they will also be laid flat if they are not properly re-secured by their families.
Kirklees chiefs insist the headstones are reinstated by monumental masons using new methods. These involve stainless steel fixing equipment to secure them to their bases.
Families are not allowed to put them back up themselves using just cement.
Richard Beaumont, Kirklees Registrar for premises and grounds, said: "Some headstones we tested could be pushed over using just one finger."
The council uses equipment called a topple tester, approved by the Health And Safety Executive, which exerts force on headstones.
Kirklees Environmental Health Manager Andrew Sheard said: "We are responsible for the health and safety of everyone in our grounds, from people visiting graves to those carrying out genealogy work and even children playing.
"Many of the headstones we have tested are very loose. If someone pulls on them to stand up, leans against them or slips and falls against them they will fall over.
"If the danger of them falling is deemed to be immediate we will lay them flat. They will not be damaged and so can be reinstated by a monumental mason."
If families do not do anything about gravestones that have been laid flat the stones will eventually be set flat into the soil on top of the grave, so the inscription can still be read.
Many relatives have been shocked to discover their loved ones' gravestones are so unsafe.
Mrs Glenis Firth had gone to visit her husband's grave at Kirkheaton.
It was tested in front of her and deemed unsafe. She said: "It's quite a surprise, because it looked solid until the pressure was applied."
Some headstones weighing a quarter of a ton are held in place by thin copper tubing.
The Health and Safety Commission
believes accidents and near- misses involving gravestones are under-reported.
But there have been three deaths and 18 other serious accidents caused by gravestones tumbling over in the last five years.
Commission chairman Bill Callaghan said: "The cause of the toppling of memorials has, in the great majority of cases, been linked to inadequate cemetery upkeep and maintenance regimes.
"But poor design and installation of relatively recent memorials are a factor.
"The risk associated with unstable memorials is real and cannot be ignored."
* Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman is due to meet angry relatives at Kirkheaton Cemetery at 1.15pm on Friday. They are unhappy with the council's actions.
THE topple tester is a small hand- held device which is placed against the headstone.
350 Newtons of pressure is applied.
The system works on a traffic light system.
If the gravestone fails the pressure test, the light goes red and the stone is laid flat.
If the stone shows movement that turns the light amber it is checked again after one year. If the stone is firm, the light turns green and the stone is re-tested after five years.
Stones that are reinstated are also re-tested after five years.
Many seem secure from the front but are unstable when tested from behind.