Electric Gates and the Law

Domestic owners of electric gates are advised to keep them in a safe condition or face the possibility of being sued for negligence should anything goes wrong. An automatic gate is a machine and like any other, it poses potential risks to children and adults alike.

In 2006, the first of a series of high profile child deaths associated with electric gates occurred, followed by the watershed moment in 2010 when two children died in separate automatic gate incidents in the same week.

In 2014, two companies associated with one of the 2010 tragic child death incidents were convicted of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.   Interestingly, the companies that were prosecuted were not the original electric gate installers but those who had been involved in repair and maintenance of the automatic gate since installation.  Understandably today, those involved in repair and maintenance of electric gates are very cautious about the safety of systems they repair or maintain. We have a care of duty to inform clients of potential legal ramifications.

Most serious injuries and fatalities occur by structural failure. Over the course of time, welds rust and fail, fixings become loose and foundations move. We were recently asked to attend a site where a heavy automatic metal gate fell on to a delivery driver waiting at the gates with a package. The gate was not fitted by us.  The collapse occurred because expanding anchors (not rated for brickwork) used to fix the hinge had been installed in successive mortar layers which eventually forced the bricks apart. This should have been identified by a competent electric gate engineer during a service visit and rectified. The customer is currently being pursued in court as it is viewed that the homeowner had failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that the gate was in a fit state of repair.

Unfortunately, the homeowner’s insurance company will not cover this claim as the pursuer’s injury, loss and damage were as a result of the defender’s failures and compensation in excess of £225,000 is expected.

The laws affecting the manufacture and installation of new and extensively modified powered gates come from three differing sources:
1.           European Law – CE marking and fair trade legislation;
2.           National statutes – health and safety laws;
3.           Common Law – negligence.

Regular serving and maintenance will ensure-
–            The system works as designed;
–            All elements are secure;
–            The electrical system is safe;
–            Safe clearances are achieved;
–            All safety devices work;
–            That forces are safe;
–            The risk assessment was valid;
–            That hazard control measures have worked

The first stage of the process should be a visual inspection to ensure that:

–            All welding, nuts bolts, fixings and foundations are secure;
–            Travel stops are secure and resilient (even when used in manual);
–            Guides, rollers and hinges are secure and resistant to single fault failure;
–            Guards are secure and effective;
–            Safety distances are achieved;
–            Cabling is secure and protected mechanically;
–            Earth connections present and tight;
–            Wire terminations correct and secure;
–            All cable entries are sealed;
–            Enclosures are sealed;
–            Warning signs are in place.

The next stage is to do some testing:

Electrical tests – polarity, continuity, insulation, earth fault loop, RCD function etc. Functional tests of all elements:

–            Limit switches;
–            Photo cells;
–            Loop detectors operating the correct command;
–            Intercoms, keypads, key switches, buttons, transmitters etc. operating the correct command;
–            Safety device function and response.
–            Condition of all cabling and junction box’s;
–            Security and effectiveness of all earth connections;
–            Security of all wire terminations;
–            Torque setting on control unit (99%);
–            Condition of photo cells internally and externally;
–            Sealing of photo cell covers and cable entry;
–            Sealing of control unit cover and cable entries;
–            Overall gate structure and plumb of hinges;
–            Overall condition of rams;
–            Condition of all safety edges.

This is not intended as a definitive list but it does indicate the level of detail required.  In most cases this must be accompanied by some specification detail for oils, greases and reference to any component specific manuals necessary to assist with the process.

Legal Responsibilities of the Owner

 Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992

– Regulation 18 requires that workplace owners ensure their gate systems are safe and regulation 5 requires that they follow a system of planned preventative maintenance to keep the gate safe.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

–            Section 3 places a responsibility on landlords and managing agents keep gates safe for tenants and other users; essentially follow a system of planned preventative maintenance.

–            The 1974 act also applies to workplace owners in tandem with the Workplace Regulations.

Negligence

This is common law (Roman law in Scotland) and means that any person who by their action or inaction causes injury to persons or damage to property may be sued in a civil action for damages.  Hence anyone with responsibilities for powered gates could be affected.   There is no criminal responsibility for a domestic owner of a powered gate, they along with everyone else could face civil action for negligence should anything go wrong.