Powered gates: the basics
The UK has left the EU, new rules from January 2021
The transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.
Powered gates are machines which need to be properly designed, manufactured, installed and maintained to avoid serious, even fatal, injuries. Most are located in areas where vulnerable people may be put at risk.
Powered gates are subject to both European product safety and UK health and safety law. As they are frequently unique machines the assessment of risk is a vital part of their design and construction. Powered gates will need to be checked regularly and maintained to remain safe in use. While health and safety law does not apply to domestic householders with (privately owned) powered gates, they may still be liable for any harm or damage they cause.
Risks from powered gates
Powered gates can give rise to a number of significant hazards, including those from being:
- hit by the moving gate
- crushed against fixed and / or other moving parts
- trapped between fixed, moving and other parts
- caught on moving parts, eg gears
- electrocuted, as most are powered by electric motors, or controlled electrically
- affected by hydraulic or pneumatic parts, where these are present
Most powered gates are located outside where the weather can affect safety at any time, eg:
- they can fall or be blown over
- rotate uncontrollable around hinges
- they may run freely off tracks if not restrained
- water ingress or damage to cabling, control boxes and the connections between components may result in a risk of electric shock, or a failure to operate safely
Hazards may also arise during work on them, eg:
- they may drop or move unexpectedly if not adequately restrained
- hydraulic and pneumatic components may have residual stored energy, and so move unexpectedly when disconnected
- the disconnection of safety devices while still ‘live’ may result in a significant uncontrolled crushing / trapping risks
- from being left in an unsafe condition, such as failing to properly set the safety features
The basics for safety
Powered gates must be:
- properly designed, taking into account their location, weather conditions that may affect them, the possibility of vulnerable people being present, and foreseeable misuse
- manufactured (including when assembled from components in situ) to the safety standards required by law, regardless of whether they are used in connection with work, or located on domestic (privately owned) premises
- supplied with a complete set of documentation, including User Instructions for the complete product, and, where necessary, the component parts
- installed and maintained by competent contractors
- regularly checked (which may include inspection, testing, and adjustment for safety)
Where powered gates are found to be dangerous they should be taken out of use immediately until all of the safety concerns have been adequately addressed. In the case of temporary and / or shared responsibility (eg while working on the gates) an appropriate course of action will need to be agreed between all parties involved.
Users should know how to switch the machine off, or to a safe condition (eg hold-to-run mode) promptly in the event of impending danger or malfunction.
When first supplied (or 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 on safety
- 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.
The same requirements apply to the conversion of existing manual gates to powered operation.
Health and safety law does not apply to domestic householders with (privately owned) powered gates, but will apply to all those working on them as part of a work activity. However, householders may be sued for any harm or damage their gates cause.