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Automated gate safety: who is responsible?

22 October 2014

Ensuring the safety of automated gates must be a shared responsibility between building professionals, according to Health & Safety Executive inspector Stuart Charles.

Those involved at every stage of the design and development of a building have a duty to ensure automated gates are safe. These include developers, architects, contractors, landlords, maintenance companies and installers, he said.

Stuart Charles was the keynote speaker at a seminar for safety and security specialists, gate manufacturers, installers and specifiers held during the recent Gate Safety Week. This was a national initiative organised by the Door & Hardware Federation Powered Gate Group to focus attention on the dangers posed by badly installed and maintained powered gates.

Stuart Charles was the HSE inspector who led the investigation into the tragic death of a five year old child in a South Wales automated gate accident.

He said it was vital that key duty holders are identified - not just to hold them accountable if a powered gate accident occurred, but more importantly to make them aware of their responsibilities to ensure an accident does not happen in the first place.

He told delegates: "Don't think ‘what do I have to do to avoid being prosecuted?'. Rather think ‘what do I have to do to make sure the installation is safe?'."
It is important to understand the role of the gate company which first installs the automated gate and also to understand the role of the maintenance company subsequently called out to service or repair the gate, he said.

The installer must ensure the gate is safe, complies with the Machinery Directive and has been tested and CE marked. Also he must give safe use and maintenance instructions, maintenance log and a declaration of conformity to the building owner or the person responsible for the gate.

The maintainer must understand that "maintained means safe," said Stuart Charles. When called out to repair or service a powered gate, the maintenance engineer should first carry out an assessment on the installation and understand the safety-critical features of the gate. He should then ensure there is a maintenance programme in place which takes into account both the safety-critical features and also the information in the technical file.

The building owner or person responsible for the gate must make sure the gate is safe and remains safe by ensuring that routine maintenance is carried out on the gate. He must understand that a maintenance engineer called out to service or repair an automated gate has a duty of care to check it is safe.

If the gate is unsafe, the engineer is obliged to isolate the automatic operation of the gate. He should then inform the person responsible for the gate that it is potentially dangerous and recommend what safety modifications need to be made to bring the gate up to current standards. He should not carry out any work on the gate unless that work results in a safe gate installation. Failure to take these actions leaves the maintenance company liable to prosecution should an accident subsequently happen.

Britain's leading manufacturers, suppliers, installers and maintainers of powered automatic gates and gate automation equipment make up the DHF Powered Gate Group.