Manual gate risk assessment

Why is this even needed? Isn’t it just automated gates that represent a risk to public safety? The answer is quite simply no, just take a look at the headlines below:

  • Surrey firm fined £19,327 when manual sliding gate became disengaged from its rollers and crushed eight-year-old girl causing multiple fractures to her pelvis and internal injuries
  • A council fined £20,000 after a six-year-old boy with learning difficulties lost three fingertips in a “guillotine effect” school gate – after his hand became trapped in the hinges.
  • A borough council hit with a £13,000 fine after a child had two fingertips severed when they were trapped in a playpark gate designed for children under 11 years old

The first step to ensure a safe manual gate is to undertake a risk assessment.

When undertaking a risk assessment on a manual gate firstly stand back from the gate and review it within its current context. Take a good look and note the way in which it opens, how far it opens, whether it can be latched open, whether there are any signs of excessive rust or rot (which will indicate possible inherent weaknesses in the structure) and any other details which might need to be taken into consideration during a risk assessment. Ideally take photographs from both sides of the gate.

The risks associated with a manual gate are:

  • Impact
  • Crushing
  • Shearing
  • Cutting
  • Dragging
  • Hooking
  • Excessive force

Any of the above can cause injury or possibly far worse so it is imperative that the correct steps are taken to mitigate these risks.

Impact and crushing

These would most commonly occur due to the following:

  • The foundations supporting the gate fail, check for cracking or any evidence of movement
  • The mechanical supports fail. Check for excessive wear and signs of rust (which could indicate metal fatigue)
  • Nuts and bolts have worked loose. Check that all nuts and bolts are tight for example, review the nuts on the stop brackets to ensure that they remain secure
  • Absence of key features. Check there are no missing brackets or fittings. It is sometimes more difficult to notice what is not there than what is there
  • A failure in the self-closing mechanism. Check that all self-closing mechanisms are working correctly. Be aware that for any site where vulnerable people are likely to be using the gate (for example a school) the gates should always feature a soft stop/ close type mechanism

Shearing and cutting

These hazards are normally as a result of the original design issue.

  • Check to see if there are any gaps that reduce as the gate opens and closes (for example between the post and the gate). All gaps should be no more than 100mm and reduce by no more than 20% of the original gap to a minimum of 25mm
  • Stop plates should be positioned so that there is no risk of children coming into contact with the stop as the gate opens and closes
  • Check to see if the gate has dropped creating gaps that were not originally in place at the time of installation
  • Check there has not been excessive wear under the gate if the path is not concrete or similar creating new risks

Hooking and dragging

Hooking and dragging risks are generally more relevant to an automated gate but are still worthy of consideration for a manual gate, especially in a school environment.

  • Sharp / hooked edges around the stop brackets or on the gate itself should be avoided or modified to render it impossible for them to catch / drag a person. These edges could also represent a risk in the event of someone falling on the gate, causing an injury

Excessive force

The gates – regardless of whether they are in a swing or sliding format – should always open and close freely. They must not speed up when opening or closing and according to the British Standard, no more than 260 newtons (approximately 26kg) should be required to open or close the gate.

In plain English terms, this means that a person should be able to open the gate with ease in any weather conditions. Special care should be taken with boarded or solid gates as these are likely to be more difficult to open or close in strong wind conditions. Additionally, if self-closing hinges are being used they should be soft-closing to ensure that a gate is automatically closed slowly and securely, allowing pedestrians to safely pass through (even in strong winds) and mitigating the risk of a gate slamming on a child.

Safety features

There are a number of features which should be incorporated into a manual gate to deliver additional safety to the installation.

Hinges

Ideally, a gate should be supported by not two but three hinges, as per a normal internal door. This will prevent a catastrophic failure if one part fails. Tethers can be fitted to existing gates to protect against this risk.

To prevent a gate being lifted from its hinges it was common practice to invert the top hinge of gates, but the entire weight of the gate is supported by the bottom hinge and increases the loading to one point of the gate. Should the bottom hinge fail, the gate will fall and could cause injury, Gate Safe does not advise inverting hinges for this reason, but you can use shear nut fixings or tamper proof hinges instead.

Anti-trap design

Gates which feature pales should benefit from an anti-trap design to mitigate against the risk of a child becoming stuck between the pales. This is especially important in a school environment. Vertical pales should have gaps of no more than 100mm and not represent a trap point at the top of the gate. Additionally security toppings should only be fitted where people cannot accidentally come into contact with them.

Travel stops/slam posts/end stops

It is important that any manual gate is incapable of over travel and is also supported when open to prevent twisting of the gate. Swing gates should have a catch post or wall to open to but sliding gates must have a stop fitted when fully open and also closed to ensure it cannot fall out of the support posts and cause an injury.

Finger guards

The purpose of a finger guard on a gate is to deliver added safety to the device, by restricting potential access (especially by children) between the gate post and the gate itself and reducing the risk of becoming caught between the exposed hinge and the gate.

Based on hospital data, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has suggested that around 40,000 serious accidents happen each year in the UK when fingers, mainly those of children, are trapped in doors.

However, be aware, a poorly fitted finger guard may actually result in creating a trap hazard to the gate. For optimum results, the finger guard should always be protruding outwards. If the protective shield is bulging inwards, the efficacy of the guard is compromised and here is a chance that a finger / hand could still become trapped.

It is also important to remember that these should always be removed as part of any routine maintenance check to enable the condition of hinges to be thoroughly assessed. Hinges should ideally feature bearings rather than grease which can attract dust and cause operating problems resulting in excessive wear to the hinge pin. Clear plastic finger guards offer improved visibility of the condition of any hinges, however, the guard should still be removed at the time of inspection.

Manual gate maintenance

Just as per automated gates, all manual installations should also be supported by a regular maintenance regime. The time lapses between each maintenance check will be largely determined by the amount of usage the gate is expected to tolerate. A low usage situation would represent up to 50 operations a day; medium up to 100-250 operations and high usage in excess of 250 operations.

Low usage gates should be checked every 12 months, medium usage every six months, high usage could be as often as every three months.

If there are any changes in the gate, for example, if the gate drags on the ground, this could be a sign that urgent attention is required to avoid compromising the safety of the gate.

Challenging weather conditions, such as high winds/gales and heavy rain can cause damage to a gate and/or affect the foundations. Routine checks should always be made once the bad weather has subsided.

The following should be checked:

  • Review hinges and eyes for signs of excessive wear and tear e.g. damage, cracking
  • Check the foundations for any signs of movement
  • Look out for any indication that the material from which the gate has been crafted has in any way been compromised e.g., steel gates exhibiting signs of rust; wooden gates showing signs of excessive cracks
  • Check that all ancillary equipment e.g., holdback; catches are working as expected. If any component is classed as featuring in excess of 15% damage, a replacement should be considered
  • Adjust scrappers for any tracked sliding gates and keep the track clear of any debris
  • Keep a record of when gate checks are made, and photographic evidence of any matters noted
  • Undertake regular risk assessments
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