Only 5% of electric gates meet safety guidelines - a shocking fact that goes some way towards explaining why they have caused two deaths and four accidents since 2010. With increasing numbers of these security devices being installed every day, it is time the industry woke up to the risks they can pose, argues Richard Jackson
The deaths of two young children in separate automated gate accidents in two successive months last year has brought the issue of powered gate safety to the top of the agenda. Sadly, these are not isolated incidents and there are likely to be more fatalities unless dramatic action is taken.
Automated gates are now used in a range of contexts, from private residences and housing estates to commercial sites.
Since January 2010, six accidents have been reported, including the two fatalities and four near-misses, ranging from children trapped in gates and critical injuries. A child also died in an accident in 2006. The incidents demonstrate that safety measures to safeguard children were insufficient on these gates.
Gate Safe was launched in 2010 to prevent further tragedies of this nature occurring. The campaign has the support of a wide range of professionals and organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).
Gate Safe believes that everyone involved in installing powered gates should be familiar with and understand the safety guidelines. It is estimated that there has been a 35% increase in the number of electric gates fitted over the past five years, which brings urgency to the campaign - as does damning evidence from a recent survey by Gate Safe, which revealed that in a random audit of 50 gates, 20% featured some safety measures but not enough to meet current recommendations; 70% had no safety measures and only 5% were fully compliant with automated gate safety guidelines. It is clear that this needs to be addressed.
Education and raising awareness among everyone involved in automated gate installation is pivotal to raising safety standards. Installers, specifiers, designers and manufacturers have a moral, legal and financial responsibility to ensure gate installations meet British and European standards and are fitted with the safety features recommended by the industry and HSE.
It is estimated that there has been a 35% increase in the number of electric gates fitted over the past five years, which brings urgency to the campaign
The legal position is that powered gate systems are considered to be “machinery”. This means that, by law, every new powered gate must comply with the European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, especially the directive’s essential health and safety requirements, be CE marked and accompanied by a declaration of conformity.
To help manufacturers meet the Machinery Directive’s requirements, a harmonised European product standard for industrial, commercial and garage doors and gates was published in 2003 - BS EN 13241-1.
“Harmonised” means that, if a gate complies with the standard, there is a legal presumption that it complies with health and safety requirements of the directive, too. There are also eight supporting standards. BS EN 12453:2001 specifically refers to the safety requirements of power-operated gates.
The recent Gate Safe summit in February attracted nearly 70 delegates, including architects, health and safety managers, surveyors, installers and various trade and safety organisations, including RoSPA. The summit allowed these professionals to hear presentations from associations involved in automated gate safety and provided an opportunity for Gate Safe and the IOSH to announce that they are launching an accredited training programme to improve knowledge and develop a database of Gate Safe-trained installers and safety officers. About 60 people have already registered an interest in taking part.
Sharing recommendations for best practice is at the heart of the Gate Safe campaign, so full details of the various BS standards, HSE recommendations and the latest Door and Hardware Federation technical guidelines can all be found on the Gate Safe website, www.gate-safe.co.uk.
The website also features a series of checklists for professionals, to provide practical guidance on the interpretation of the standards. These include a comprehensive set of physical guidelines and additional simple factors to look out for that may indicate that a gate poses a risk. Gate Safe also offers a free advisory service (email@example.com) to which anyone involved in specifying a gate can forward the specification to check for compliance with legislation and safety guidelines.
Richard Jackson is chairman and founder of Gate Safe, the campaign to improve safety standards in gate automation