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Powered gates: Ensuring powered doors and gates are safe

Powered door and gate safety is not just about the individual components making up the product, but about the way they are combined together to fit a particular set of circumstances, and what is done over time to maintain safety.

At all times a powered gate must respond in a safe way when any person interacts with it. It’s design must take into account that foreseeable interactions may go well beyond normal use (eg children playing around or with / on the powered gate), as well as normal wear and tear, and adverse environmental influences, particular wind and rain / snow and other debris that can impair function.

Delivering safety by design and construction

Much is dependent on the way the various component parts (switches, sensors, safety devices, controllers, and motors) are assembled and connected together to respond to the particular environment of use. Safety is usually delivered by a combination of methods, including:

All these factors must be considered as part of the initial design (through suitable risk assessment), specification and construction, and appropriate information provided in the User Instructions, including on routine maintenance and the nature and periodicity of safety checks. Where force limitation is the safety strategy employed, details of specific force tests should be provided. Lifetime product safety doesn't just depend on design and construction, but the way it is used and looked after, often by others not involved in original design and construction.

Maintaining for safety

Component parts can 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 gate.

Those undertaking work on powered gates are responsible for what they do, and for leaving the machinery in a safe condition, which may include switching off and isolating from power if it needs to be left in an unsafe condition. Substantial modifications may require re-assessment, in some cases re-CE marking by the person undertaking the modifications.

Risk assessment, competence and training

Whilst there may be standard components, even final products, the huge range of locations in which they are installed and variable environmental conditions to which they are exposed mean that most powered gates will be unique products requiring some form of specific risk assessment, both for installation and subsequent use. It is therefore not possible to define standard solutions for safety: 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.

Many organisation offer general training on risk assessment, and within the UK powered gate industry both Gate Safe and the Door and Hardware Federation can provide specific powered gate awareness / competence training.

Those working with powered gates need various competencies depending on their role. Often different members of a team will bring different skills to the job, eg electricians for wiring up and checking the basic safety of the electrical components. In some cases to evaluate component performance specific equipment or instruments may be required. For example, where force limitation is the primary means of safety some form of objective force testing (eg along the lines of EN12445) will be required to ensure the final product as delivered is within safe limits, and to subsequently check the product remains safe. This may require additional specific competencies, and suitable record keeping.

Use of standards for design, assessment and testing

There are a number of current standards which are relevant to powered gates, including:

but at present adherence to these standards alone in most cases will not ensure that all of the mandatory requirements for safety (the EHSRs of the Machinery Directive) will be met (see further below).

In particular hazards may remain with regard to:

The use of any of the above standards by manufacturers for product safety is not mandatory (although products in scope of EN 13241-1 may have to be issued with a Declaration of Performance under the Construction Products Regulation).However, the following standards (listed above) no longer give full ‘presumption of conformity’ with the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC): EN 12453, EN 12445, EN 12604, EN 12605, EN 13241-1, and EN 12635.

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 EHSRs excluded from 'presumption of conformity' and be safe for the gate’s foreseeable lifetime, taking account of foreseeable misuse, as well as intended use.


Footnote:

  1. Mewes & Mauser 2003 Safeguarding Crushing Points by Limitation of Forces  International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics (JOSE) 2003 Vol 9 No 2 177-191
Updated: 2016-05-11