Powered gates and barriers are an increasingly visible part of security at schools. Previously used only for commercial environments and high net worth homes, they are now regular features of school infrastructure.
Powered gates add security, yet the health and safety risk from sub-standard installations and maintenance should not be under-estimated. The Door and Hardware Federation (DHF) estimates that of 500,000 automated gates in the UK less than 30% are installed and maintained safely. In recent years accidents caused by gates whilst closing/opening or as a result of structural failure have, tragically, resulted in a number of deaths and serious injuries.
Such incidents are few, but when they occur they cause great distress, can lead to financial penalties and even custodial sentences for those found guilty of negligence.
The owner or operator, in this case the head of the school, is ultimately responsible for meeting the requirements of the Health and Safety Act. Ensuring powered gates and barriers are compliant with the Supply of Machinery Regulations and are maintained by a competent organisation sounds straightforward, but just like your car they are complex pieces of equipment that require expert attention at the right intervals without which they can prove fatal. Workplace Regulations require schools to ensure any hazards are properly identified and controlled, including management of powered gate maintenance and operative training.
Approved Installers: looking out for the NSI Gates approval
Working together the NSI (National Security Inspectorate) and the DHF have provided an effective standard and approval scheme for installers and maintenance companies working to best practice, making them readily identifiable to school management.
NSI approval or certification is seen as the hallmark of excellence in the security and fire systems’ installation sectors, with over 1800 companies of all shapes and sizes holding approval in a wide range of disciplines. The NSI approval is a benchmark of competence for buyers making informed choices when selecting a service provider. NSI Gates approval signifies integrity and business professionalism as well as technical competence in powered gates.
Tips for powered gates
People at schools responsible for safety should consider the following points when conducting an initial review of powered gates and barriers safety.
Carrying out an inspection and checks of the steps taken to reduce the hazards associated with powered gates involves the following considerations:
- In the case of sliding gates or lifting barriers, are all areas protected from unauthorised access, and is the gate or barrier fitted with ‘safety edges’ – to cause the gate to stop or reverse its movement when an obstacle is encountered?
- Is a safe edge or intelligent drive fitted – which causes the gate or barrier to retract when an obstacle is encountered between the ground and its lower edge?
- Are pedestrians and vehicles detectors – such as light beams – installed on both sides of the gate(s) or barrier(s) to prevent or stop gate or barrier movement when something or someone approaches the gate?
- Are hinge areas protected with flexible guards – to prevent crushing of limbs – or is a ‘safe hinge’ design utilised to ensure a constant gap throughout gate opening or closing to avoid the risk of crushing?
- Do gates present a shearing hazard as they pass fixed supports or adjacent structures, and if so are safety edges or fencing used to stop the gate and prevent unintentional pinching or crushing of pedestrians?
- Are the gates themselves, gate-posts or support pillars and doorstops or travel stops structurally sound so as to not present a risk of structural failure causing injury?
- Do you as the owner or operator know how to put the gate into manual operation and electrically isolate the gate in case of emergency?
If you are unable to determine the answers to these questions you could run the risk of being liable for an unsafe gate.
Regular maintenance is vital to ensure a gate remains safe and compliant. Check all documentation related to installation and the maintenance regime:
- A qualified installer will always specify in detail the elements of the gate that needs maintenance
- If maintenance has lapsed, a qualified maintenance provider should be appointed to develop a suitable programme
- A qualified installer can advise if an unsafe gate should be switched off or otherwise secured to make it safe. Switching on a gate that has been assessed to be unsafe could make the operator or owner criminally liable for any subsequent accident.
Richard Jenkins, chief executive, NSI
Gate Safety Week
The DHF runs Gate Safety Week, a campaign to create awareness of the need for correct installation and maintenance of powered gates. There is a particular emphasis on raising the profile within schools. The campaign also encourages members of the public to report an unsafe gate.
This year’s Gate Safety Week is 15th – 21st October. Visit www.dhfonline.org.uk/gate-safety-week.htm and @gatesafetyweek for more information.
Find out more about NSI approval for powered gates here