Last reviewed 8 November 2016
Mike Sopp examines the hazards of electrically-powered gates and the HSE’s response to a number of serious accidents involving this type of gate.
Electrically-powered gates are used as a means of access and egress control to many properties and offer a reliable means of securing a property boundary.
Following a number of fatal and serious incidents involving electrically-powered gates, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued Safety Notices aimed at those who manufacture, install, maintain and control such gates.
It is essential that the owner/occupier of premises responsible for this type of gate is aware of his or her legal responsibilities and ensures that those who may have access to the gates are not exposed to unwarranted hazards and that the most appropriate risk control measures have been implemented.
Hazards and Safety Notices
Electrically-powered gates are items of work equipment that can give rise to a number of hazards. This can include pedestrians coming into contact with moving gates (either swing or sliding) resulting in injuries due to crushing against fixed parts, trapping between a fixed and moving part or being caught in moving parts.
In 2010, following the deaths of two children in incidents involving electrically-powered gates, the HSE issued Safety Notice FOD WSW 1-2010 followed by FOD 7-2010.
In both cases, the children were trapped between the closing edge of the gate and the gate post at the end of the gates’ travel. The HSE concluded they became trapped because:
their presence in the vicinity of the closing edge was not detected
the closing force of the gate when they obstructed it was not limited to the values specified in Annex A of BS EN 12453:2001.
Safety Notice FOD 7-2010 made detailed reference to BS EN 12453 and its recommendations for a minimum level of safeguarding against the crushing hazard at the closing edge of gates. This depends upon the type of operating environment, with the Standard detailing three types of use.
The Standard also advises that adopting one or a combination of measures including creating safety distances, installing guards, shaping the leaf surfaces, operating the gate in hold to run, limiting the forces and installing sensitive protective equipment will achieve a safe state.
In summary, the HSE stated that “in a significant number of gate installations, the type of use may not have been taken into account during the design stage, with the consequence that the installations may not comply with the safeguarding measures recommended in the standard”.
It also takes the position that “the force limitation function on its own is unlikely to be sufficiently reliable to prevent a person being trapped or crushed” and suggests that “additional safeguarding techniques should be used” for Type 2 and 3 gates.
New gates and old
The Safety Notices are aimed at all those with responsibility for powered gates including those who may be manufacturers, owners and/or occupiers of premises where gates are located.
Clearly, for new gates, the designers and/or manufacturers should be meeting the requirements of the Machinery Directive/Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008. New gates should also be CE marked and some may also fall under the Construction Products Regulations/EN 13241-1 regime. In such circumstances, the end-user should be receiving information as follows:
comprehensive users instructions
declaration of Conformity in relation to the essential H&S requirements
declaration of Performance in relation to CPR requirements.
However, the HSE notes that standards such as EN 13241-1 “no longer give full presumption of conformity” with the Machinery Directive and therefore “manufacturers will have to show in detail in the technical file for each powered gate how they have designed and constructed the gate to meet the EHSR’s excluded from “presumption of conformity” and be safe for the gate’s foreseeable lifetime, taking account of foreseeable misuse, as well as intended use”.
Owners and occupiers of commercial premises with powered gates have duties under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and may also have duties under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 for the safety of persons (including the public) they do not employ.
Regulation 18 requires doors and gates to be suitably constructed “including being fitted with any necessary safety devices”. The Approved Code of Practice then states that power-operated doors and gates should have safety features to prevent people being injured as a result of being struck or trapped, including:
a sensitive edge, or other suitable detector, and associated trip device to stop, or reverse, the motion of the door or gate when obstructed
a device to limit the closing force so that it is not enough to cause injury.
The issue for dutyholders is whether existing gates fitted prior to the Safety Notices need to be upgraded to take account of the Notices.
Upgrades and recommendations
Guidance from the Door and Hardware Federation (DHF) suggests that “the key to compliance with the law is risk assessment”.
Indeed, the HSE notes that it is not possible to define standard solutions for safety and that each powered gate “must be considered individually and holistically, employing suitable risk assessment tools and knowledge/expertise to manage the risks on a case by case basis”.
In essence, all parties should be involved in completing a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the hazards of trapping or crushing, and how safe operating procedures may be overcome, etc.
Guidance from the DHF states that anyone who provides maintenance for gates installed before the Safety Notices were published “should consider making contact with their existing customers to update them on legislation and current standards of safety and to offer a risk assessment service to ensure the gate is safe including any safety upgrade recommendations”. Both the DHF and Gate Safe offer training on risk assessing.
The DHF guidance suggests that if the owner/occupier responsible for the gate declines to have any safety upgrades applied, the installer should keep a written record that the upgrades were refused.
If the gate is deemed to be dangerous, DHF recommends engineers ensure it is left in a safe condition notifying the client in writing what measures have and need to be taken and that the gate in question should remain out of service until remedied.
Even where a gate is deemed to be safe owners/occupiers should periodically review their risk assessments to ensure that “they identify any changes to the environment or operating conditions and that they have taken appropriate steps to address them”.
The HSE also makes further recommendations not covered by specific legislation or standards. The first relates to emergency arrangements should an incident occur. Many powered gate designs require a release key and lever to disconnect the drive from the gate to allow it to move manually.
In these circumstances, the HSE recommends that “access to the release key is critical to the quick release of the gate and so arrangements should be in place to ensure that release keys and release instructions are readily available to all authorised users of the gate”.
It also recommends that the “use of force testing equipment is required if force limitation is used as a risk reduction measure, both when a new gate is installed and periodically thereafter”. The Gate Safe website contains some suggested testing that may be completed in-house to ensure the safety of powered gates.