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Electrical Gate Safety – Do You Know The Risks?
It’s been six years now since the tragic deaths of two children in separate accidents just weeks apart first brought the issue of automated gate safety to the public’s attention.
Both children were crushed by automated gates sited on housing developments and sadly, these were not isolated cases. Since then, a further 18 accidents have been logged in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, of which 8 resulted in a fatality.
Conservative estimates suggest that there are around 288,000 new gates being installed every year. Combine this figure with the suggested number of existing gates in the field and it is likely that there are currently in excess of 3 million gates in existence. Recent surveys have indicated that few gates meet the required criteria to deliver a safe gate, and indeed a staggering 90% of gates in surveys to date have been shown to be unsafe. Which leads to one simple conclusion, unless more trained installers are in the field to originate safe gates / provide the correct maintenance of existing gates, further accidents and worse are likely to occur.
So why are automated gates so dangerous?
What is being done to cut down these accidents and improve the safety of automated gates?
And why / how does this affect the electrician community?
To answer these questions, we spoke to Richard Jackson, Founder of Gate Safe.
Richard, do you disagree with the use of automated gates? Why are they so dangerous?
I’d be a hypocrite to say that I disagree with automated gates, having spent 40 years with a company that specialised in the delivery of perimeter security and access control solutions! The simple answer is that automated gates provide an effective means of enhancing access control and offer a number of very clear benefits to users, whether in a residential or commercial setting. The only danger associated with such devices is if the correct protocol has not been adhered to, to deliver a safe gate. Automated gates are effectively machines (and are classified as such under the European Product Directive 2006/42/ EC). The Directive rightly requires that all safety standards and safety criteria are met. Accidents have occurred as a result of failure to adhere to the current safety advice in the field, which takes its lead from the British Standard EN 13241 – 1: 2003, which in turn is influenced by nine other supporting standards. However, the average installer may not be familiar with all of these standards per se and even if they are, simply following the standards alone does not necessarily guarantee a safe gate. The standards should be used as the basis for a risk assessment from which a gate installation can be designed, including the necessary safety devices and if appropriate, incorporating design changes to provide a non-hazardous installation. The dangers lie in the fact that some people do not understand the risks or are oblivious to them and currently anyone can transform a manual gate into a lethal machine – with homeowners even being able to buy DIY automation kits online.
What is being done to improve the safety of automated gates in the UK?
Gate Safe was set up in 2010 with the express intention of raising awareness of the risks associated with automated gates and providing educational / practical resources to help address some of the confusion that existed within the industry. By industry, we refer to the myriad professions involved in an automated gate installation, ranging from the architect or specifier through to the gate manufacturer, installer, surveyor or the electrician who might be called in to simply power up the gate.
Gate Safe’s pioneering approach to automated gate safety was commended by the HSE and since then the charity has rolled out a number of initiatives designed to address this important issue. In 2012, Gate Safe launched a specialised training course, accredited by IOSH, the world’s biggest professional health and safety membership organisation. Today there are over 750 Gate Safe Aware installers in the field, all of whom have been through and passed the Gate Safe training and the numbers are growing every month as new recruits join the register.
In addition to the training, Gate Safe also undertakes independent site surveys (both in the field and online) to provide an unbiased review of an existing automated gate installation. The charity has also launched an interactive tool designed to help architects and specifiers of automated gates consider the appropriate safety measures that need to be taken as part of a new installation.
This year sees the roll out of a brand new initiative, the Gate Safe MOT which is a memorable weatherproof sticker – similar to the original car tax disc – that should be prominently sited near the gate to indicate that an automated gate has been installed / maintained by a suitably qualified Gate Safe Aware installer, who has undergone Gate Safe training and understands how to deliver a safe and legally compliant installation. The annual MOT sticker will be completed by the installer / maintenance provider offering a clear, easily identifiable visual prompt that indicates the month and year of issue, thus advising gate users that the device in use is has been through the requisite safety checks, or conversely, is overdue a service / maintenance visit.
We have also just launched a suite of guides written for a variety of professions, which includes one for electrical installers. All guides can be found on the Gate Safe website www.gate-safe.org.
Our over-riding objective is to continue to raise awareness with both the professional and gate owner community to seek out a Gate Safe Aware trained tradesperson when installing or maintaining any automated gates.
And why / how does this affect the electrician community?
Gate Safe has always recognised the vital role that an electrician may play in an automated gate installation – whether they are involved in the whole project or just brought into power the device. As the court cases which followed the two deaths in 2010 have proven, in the event of an accident, any professional associated with the project will be under the scrutiny of the courts and could be deemed to have a level of responsibility for any resulting accidents. In addition to the moral implications of failing to install a safe gate, the financial repercussions are severe, with fines reaching £60,000 to date for an individual company with clear culpability. Electricians are likely to be the last professional to ‘touch’ the gate and as such, have a duty to ensure that the device is a safe one. Because of this, we work with the Joint Industry Board, which administers the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to deliver a dedicated Gate Safe Aware ECS Related Discipline card. In addition to this we run regular Gate Safe Aware training courses via Trade Skills 4 U, the UK’s most popular C&G electrical training provider.
What’s next for Gate Safe?
After the roll out of the MOT we have a number of other exciting projects we are working on which we will continue to share within the Gate Safe community, which includes our many supporters (Electrical Safety First, The Electrical Contractors’ Association, Safety Assessment Federation, RoSPA, School SafetyMARK, Secured by Design, Trade Skills 4 U, International Institute of Risk and Safety Management, IOSH, O.A.P Trustworthy, Risk UK and ECS (Electrotechnical Certification Scheme).
We’d urge any electrician considering installing gates to take the half day Gate Safe Aware training, to demonstrate a commitment to best practice and to help ensure they are capable of supplying a safe and legally compliant installation to any customers looking for help with an automated gate.
Investing in training is a small price to pay to protect your business from being in the headlines – for all the wrong reasons…
For more information visit www.gate-safe.org.