When Gate Safe was first started back in 2010, one of the earliest initiatives undertaken by the charity was to write to various authorities to advise them of the likelihood of unsafe gates within schools, based on Gate Safe’s survey findings.
Sadly, at that time the warning issued by Gate Safe fell on deaf ears and the response from those responsible for physical security measures on school sites was disappointing.
Since then, Gate Safe has continued to raise awareness of the importance of gate safety in an educational setting – an environment which parents believe to be safe and secure – rather than somewhere where there is a potential risk for their children to be seriously injured – or worse.
However, a recent survey of schools in Kent indicates that schools are still not adhering to the guidance and best practice recommended by Gate Safe. Gate Safe Founder Richard Jackson personally visited 20 different schools in one area, which represented a sample of 40 gates.
All the gates reviewed were swing gates (single and double leaf), 34 of which were manual, six were automated. The findings were as follows:
- 95% of gates featured only two hinges
- Of the 5% of gates which featured three hinges, there were further gates on the same site that were only fitted with two hinges
- 100% of automated gates were unsafe, either due to lack of safety features, or failure to appropriately site safety features
- One of the automated gates had ZERO safety fitted
- Only 33% or a third of the automated gates had observed the need for hinge protection
- 100% of manual gates had no hinge protection, with two clearly in a very poor condition and likely to fail imminently
- Other concerning signs of disregard for gate safety included missing hinges and the placement of pressure edges on an automated gate 0.5 metres off the ground
All of the above failings pose a threat to safety. The genuine risk of an accident occurring – potentially serious or even fatal – clearly far outweighs any perceived security benefits provided by these gates.
These results are extremely worrying, even more so given the fact that the majority of school sites represented primary schools where the young age of the pupils suggests they are particularly vulnerable and should therefore be exposed to a higher standard of safeguarding. If this sample is representative of the rest of the UK (bearing in mind this was not inner city setting), then installers need to be part of the solution to address this grave problem.
Gate Safe advises all installers who are involved in the installation or maintenance of gates in an educational setting to take heed of the specific guidance for schools detailed – to view click here
Advice for installers:
Key points to remember when installing an automated gate
- Prior to installation a thorough risk assessment should be undertaken by a competent and suitably trained installer
- All automated gates and barriers should be fitted with at least two different types of safety devices / features. These must be correctly positioned and sufficient to mitigate or eliminate the risks associated with automated gates. Gate Safe recommends the use of photocells (or light curtains / laser scanners) and pressure edges
- All gates should be CE/UKCA marked, full training should be given to staff at handover, including a manual specifically for the gates
- All gates and barriers must undergo routine maintenance every six months (or more if the gate has exceptionally high usage) by a suitably qualified and competent installer
- Relevant staff must be trained to understand how to place the gate into manual operation. Staff must be aware of, and have easy access to, the manual release keys
- Gates and barriers must be checked on a routine basis by a member of staff
Maintenance check list for automated gates
- Check any photocells are clear of plant debris or snow as this can block the beam and prevent the gate from operating
- Check for wear and tear around the posts / supports and the overall construction of the gate / barrier. Make sure the gate is operating smoothly
- Check the manual release procedure and ease of manual operation. Ensure staff continue to be aware of the procedure in the event of the gate breaking down and understand how to place it in manual operation to enable safe access and exit. If in doubt ask your maintenance company to demonstrate this for you on the next service maintenance visit
- Ensure the track and opening area of the gate is free of debris
- Consider any changes around the gate / barrier that could affect the safety and running of the gate i.e. new bin store being installed near the gate.
Key points to remember when installing a manual gate:
- Finger guards should be placed over gate hinges to avoid fingers becoming trapped. Soft close features should also be used when dealing with large or heavy gates to prevent further slamming or trapping of fingers
- Hinges should feature tamperproof screws and bolts
- All gates must deliver a clearance of between 60 – 100 mm to allow for the slope of the path / camber of the road
- There should be a minimum of 12 mm between the gate and the gate post, to eliminate a shear risk
- All gates should be presented in a different colour to help children / parents avoid any fear associated with not being able to identify an exit quickly
- The failure of one component should not allow the gate to fail
In terms of maintenance, manual gates should be regularly inspected, checking for wear and tear around the posts/supports and the fabric of the gate and reviewing the overall ease of operation.