15th November 2018

Safety concerns over automated gates

Automated gates cause more death and injury than most would think. We find out more.


By Richard Jackson and Robert Chantry-Price
Founder, Gate Safe and Joint Lead Officer, Product Safety CTSI
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Automated gates are a regular feature on a variety of commercial premises, including schools, MoD sites and housing developments. They offer an effective means of monitoring access control and, as a result, enhancing perimeter security. No longer the preserve of the affluent, automated gates have also become an accepted addition to a growing number of private residences, offering safety, security and of course kerb appeal. It is estimated that there are approximately 300,000 new automated gates installed in the UK every year and this figure is continuing to rise.

However, while there is no doubt that these installations offer significant benefits. when they are not installed correctly this can result in an unsafe and non-compliant mechanism which is capable of inflicting serious injury, or, in the most serious cases, causing loss of life. A recent survey by Gate Safe showed that out of a 100 gates surveyed only 1 was fully compliant. Combine this with the fact that there is a limited level of awareness regarding the requirement to have automated gates (which technically constitute a machine and are covered by the Machinery Directive) regularly serviced by a suitably qualified engineer – and a worrying pattern begins to emerge. Domestic consumers frequently purchase a gate automation system and fit it to a manual gate without its safety being checked by a qualified electrician. Furthermore, some of the gate automation kits being supplied for the domestic market are not fitted with the relevant supporting safety devices. It is apparent that in these situations an accident is quite literally waiting to happen.

The story so far

Gate Safe, is a charity that was started following the tragic deaths of two young children in two separate automated gate accidents in 2010. It estimates that since these fatalities, there have been 27 further automated gate accidents which includes 10 deaths.

But who is responsible for ensuring the safety of these popular installations? Within a commercial application, in the event of an accident or worse, the Health & Safety Executive will be called upon to investigate the case (and indeed will be involved in any subsequent prosecution). The Trading Standard service tends to focus more on the domestic market in order to ensure that only safe products are placed on the market. The service also follows up any non-compliances. Assessing the safety of these products is made more difficult by the fact that ‘plug in and go’ automated gate kits are rarely sold as a single unit, but generally consist of a number of components. Trading Standards can therefore make a significant input with regard to ensuring that gate automation equipment is safe for use by consumers and compliant with the relevant safety protocols.

How do I know that an automated gate is safe?

Let’s define the safety requirements for an automated gate. Firstly, it must be safe and this is signified by it being ‘CE’ marked to comply with the requirements of the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC), but what exactly does this mean?

Simply put, The Supply of Machinery Directive states an automated gate is considered a machine, and as such must be safe both for users and passers-by. The ‘machine’ must be marked to prove that it complies with certain standards.

The marking consists of the letters ‘CE’, affixed visibly, legibly and indelibly to the machine, along with a unique identification number. This must be accompanied by the name of the responsible person (generally the company that installed the product in the case of automated gates).

It is worth noting that a gate that is not ‘CE’ marked may possibly be safe but is not legal, the opposite can also be true i.e. it may be legal, but not safe. ‘CE’ marking is generally carried out in situ (on site) when initially a manual gate is installed and then transformed into a machine by fitting the relevant automation equipment.

Relevant standards

The standards are listed below. Gate Safe uses the information from these standards to develop a risk assessed approach to the installation of automatic gates:

  • BS EN 954 – Safety of Machinery
  • BS EN 13241 – Safety requirements for automated gates
  • BS EN 12453 – Safety requirements of powered gates

together with:

  • BS EN 12604 – Mechanical requirements for gates
  • BS EN 12978 – Requirements for safety devices
  • BS EN 13849 – Safety relates parts of control system
  • BS EN 60204 – Electrical equipment for machines

The above standards go hand in hand with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act 2015, which covers both civil and criminal liability.

Mitigating the risks

Gate Safe recommends that both safety edges, i.e. the vertical edges on each side of an automated gate, should be fitted with photocells and/or a light curtain to mitigate the risks to users. Safety edges are designed to ensure that the gate stops and reverses when it comes into contact with anyone or anything. However, for Gate Safe this is not enough. If there is a person who is in the path of the gate it must not open or close in the first place. Only correctly positioned and programmed photocells or light curtains will ensure this.

Services from Gate Safe

A national network of trained installers: Gate Safe was principally set up to raise awareness of the need to follow the appropriate protocol to deliver a safe and compliant gate. Since the charity’s inception they have launched an IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety & Health) accredited training course and now boast a register of nearly 1400 Gate Safe Aware accredited installers who have undergone the required training to demonstrate a specialist understanding of the safety issues – and how to address them – in relation to automated gates.
Site survey: Gate Safe can attend a site to undertake a full risk assessment on a gate/barrier to assess its current safety and operating performance. Gate Safe then provides a full risk assessment and written report summarising the findings from the survey. This outlines a clear explanation of the possible solutions recommended to upgrade the machinery to deliver a safe and compliant installation. Photographs are included to highlight any areas of concern.

Desk based risk assessment: Gate Safe also undertakes a desk-based risk assessment based on information provided by the gate owner along with photographs/video of the gate. This evidence offers a good indication of the current safety of any gate. Upon review of these materials, Gate Safe will forward a written report summarising any suggested upgrades which may be required.

Expert witness: There are occasions when court proceedings have been initiated following an automated gate accident, where an expert’s view is required to determine whether or not a gate is deemed safe in line with current health and safety recommendations. As the pioneering body associated with the promotion of automated gate safety, Gate Safe has been invited to act as an ‘Expert Witness’ in such scenarios.

Help line: Gate Safe runs an advisory help line which Trading Standards officers are welcome to access, tel 01303 840117 / email info@gate-safe.org

More information can be found on the Gate Safe website www.gate-safe.org