Saturday, 21 February 2015

Powered Gate Safety - A Cautionary Tale

A property developer recently contacted a powered gate specialist about a niggling set up issue with a powered system. On arrival the specialist was horrified by what he found onsite (see below). 

The general standard of fabrication and wiring was excellent but the hazards presented to the users and the general public were on a par with the systems that resulted in the deaths of two children in 2010.

  • Crushing forces are too high
  • Impact forces are too high
  • Ten separate shearing hazards are present
  • Four unguarded rollers are accessible
  • The system has not been CE marked
  • No declaration of conformity or technical file has been generated
  • Adequate user instructions and maintenance requirements are not provided

Powered gates are considered to be machinery in the eyes of the law and as such are covered by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 (SMR). Machinery must comply with the essential health and safety requirements of the legislation when first placed on the market or put into service. In addition the machine must be CE marked under the 2006/42/EC Machinery Directive and supported by a declaration of conformity and a technical file retained for 10 years by the manufacturer, who in this case was the company who installed the drive unit.

The only safety provided was a set of photo electric beams, these devices are not rated as safety devices in their own right but are intended purely as supplementary devices (See type D in BS EN 12453 for details) intended to be used when the gate might be encountered by the general public. The gate should already be safe by means of inherent force limitation provided by the drive, safe edges or light curtains. Exactly which technology can or should be used will be dependent on a detailed risk analysis by an expert in the field of powered gates. Some electrical or security professionals may have some knowledge of SMR from industrial or commercial situations but applying this legislation to machines to be encountered by children and the general public is a very different environment indeed. In addition the commissioning process will inevitably require the use of specialist force/time measuring equipment to set up and check the safety of any “contact” safety systems used.

A similar situation to the above scenario exists when contractors are requested to service or repair gate systems, as it is estimated that less than 30% of powered gates are actually safe for users as a result of a general lack of awareness of the requirements for powered gates prior to 2010. It is highly likely that the system you have been invited to work on is not actually safe and if you do any work on it you will become liable for its ongoing safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 or possibly the Workplace Regulations 1992. In one of the child death cases from 2010 the two companies that were eventually prosecuted for the death were the last company to repair the gate and the company who had been contracted to maintain the gate. 

Unless you have detailed knowledge of the legislation and applicable standards you are well advised to either seek the assistance of a qualified powered gate professional or get yourself trained, qualified and equipped before embarking on any form of powered gate works. Doing any work on a powered gate system that does not result in a completely safe outcome could see you facing criminal charges as a result, not to mention the trauma and anguish that will result if your actions or inactions result in injury or death.

The Door and Hardware Federation Powered Gate Group represents the premier suppliers, installers and maintainers of powered gates in the UK. They offer access to specialists, guidance and representation to members and will be happy train and qualify member or non-member contractors working in the powered gate environment.

Please contact DHF on 01827 52337 email or visit for more details

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