Gate Safety

Sean Cassidy, Director at Future Security Systems explains why we should be taking gate safety more seriously.

Automatic Gates have always been a bit of an unknown threat to users. These really should be considered the same risk as would be associated with heavy moving machinery. There is not an adequate perception and awareness of risks.


Imagine you are in a large car assembly factory environment with all the noise of the production heavy robots assembling cars etc. These have a large area or clearance around areas they operate in which is caged off for human safety. We are warned in an induction before being allowed to enter, of rules and the dangers, we are instructed to be very aware of our environment. This machinery has lots of safety guards / sensors etc to prevent risk to life and injury.

You would not wish to get near these items of moving machinery as they would easily cause injury.

Now imagine you are entering a lift and the person behind says “hold it”. Many people respond by putting themselves into the way of the closing doors fully expecting these not to cause injury. The door touches them and opens again, or simply entering in front of the closing doors automatically stops them and they return to open position awaiting the obstruction being removed.

People regularly put their limbs or body into the operating path of this machinery as they expect it to not cause injury.

The automatic gates we may encounter have the same regard for our life as the production assembly equipment. These should be operating more like the lift door. The physical obstruction’s cages that prevent access to the moving parts of heavy machinery in the example above are not able to be used as this would rule out access through the gate.

The safety must therefore be by means of detecting obstruction and preventing continued operation.

This can be achieved by adequate safety systems such as:

  • Safety edges (usually rubber "buffer" strips running the full height of the gate);
  • Light beams to detect a person or object in the way of the closing gate;
  • The operation of the force limitation device (although this is unlikely to be enough to stop injury on its own);
  • Fixed guards at other areas e.g. where the vertical bars of a gate slide close to the vertical bars of a fence.

Automatic gates have an average operating lifespan circa 10 years, this can be extended subject to correct maintenance and servicing regime.

After this time they have reached the pivot point when a major overhaul or replacement is required. This will ensure the gate is installed and conforms to current legislation.

A survey in 2019 found over 90% of automated gates were deemed unsafe and failed to meet the agreed safety protocol for an automated gate.

In a recent commercial gate survey carried out earlier this year by Gate Safe – they found over 90% of automated gates were deemed unsafe and failed to meet the agreed safety protocol for an automated gate.

The survey included 49 sliding and 65 swing gates and while the safety was marginally better on the former, with just under 80% of sliding gates reported as unsafe, with the absence of any drawing in (run back) protection and the failure to feature safety edges on the trailing gate leaf representing the most common safety pitfalls.

Commercial swing gate installations included in the survey demonstrated an appalling disregard for safety with over 98% of gates regarded as unsafe, with lack of hinge protection and the failure to install safety edges fitted to the bottom rail of the gate the most frequently cited reasons leading to the condemnation of the gates.

(Residential blocks / property management type dwellings are classed as commercial as HSE legislation applies to them).

Maintaining for safety

Component parts wear and fail, sometimes catastrophically. Like most machinery, powered doors and gates need to be maintained to remain safe.

Powered gates forming parts of workplaces or in common parts of residential complexes will be subject to health and safety law. Owners, occupiers, landlords and managing agents will have on-going responsibilities for the safety of all users and all those who may encounter the gates.

The legislation brought in after the terrible two fatalities in summer of 2010 when two children died after becoming trapped in powered gates. This legislation has sought to treat the gates as the production machinery.

The Law

In relation to gates when first put into service all powered gates are subject to the European Machinery Directive as implemented by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.

In addition to the gate’s meeting Essential Health & Safety Requirements (EHSRs), all customers are entitled to receive comprehensive User Instructions and a Declaration of Conformity in English. The product must also be CE marked. Certain powered gates (those falling within the scope of BS EN 13241-1) may also be subject to the requirements of the European Construction Products Regulation, including being accompanied by a Declaration of Performance.

If powered gates are part of a workplace, which can include associated car parks and private roads, they will also need to meet the requirements of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, in particular Regulation 5 on maintenance and Regulation 18 also the Health, Safety and Welfare Act 2005.

If powered gates are part of premises managed by a business or organisation (including landlords and managing agents of residential complexes), they will need to meet the general duty for safety under Regulation 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Managers Responsibilities

Landlords, or those responsible for powered gates as part of a work activity (e.g. managing agents), have duties under Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for the safety of people (including the public) they do not employ.

They are expected to maintain similar standards of safety for construction, inspection and maintenance as employers have under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. If competent contractors advise that the equipment is unsafe prompt action should be taken to ensure the safety of everyone.

Future Security Solutions provide design, installation, commissioning and service and maintenance in all aspects of security. They provide a total end-to-end service guaranteed to ensure cost effective solutions.