Many people who are considering whether to have automated gates often have questions about their safety.

Exactly how safe are they?

Are there any potential risks, and what kind of safety measures do they have to implement to mitigate those risks?

Automated gates, when properly installed and regularly maintained, are incredibly safe when used correctly and present minimal danger to vehicles, animals or people.

That said, as with any automated equipment, dangerous installation, poor maintenance or incorrect use can create risks.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that your gates are installed by somebody with appropriate expertise to meet the necessary safety requirements.

Professional installation

It can be surprising to learn that there are very few regulations determining who can, and cannot, install automated gates.

It is in fact legal for anyone to install them.

Someone with no qualifications or experience can, in practice, set themselves up as an automated gate installer.

Despite there being few regulations regarding the installation of automated gates, there are a range of health and safety regulations and standards that come into effect once the gates are installed.

These include the Supply of Machinery Regulations 2008, the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Defined standards must be met, otherwise companies installing automated gates can face substantial fines, or even imprisonment, if a serious breach occurs.

It’s important to check out the credentials of anyone offering gate installation.

What qualifications do they have?

How much experience have they accrued?

Can they provide references?

Are they aware of all the safety issues involved with the installation of automated gates?

To help you get the right installer with the right experience, Stargates has a network of qualified, reputable gate installers that cover most of the UK.

We can ensure that your gate is installed safely, and is compliant with all of the latest legislation.

Higher risk

There are certain circumstances where installing automated gates is considered higher risk.

This doesn’t mean the gates themselves are any less safe, rather that it is prudent to take extra precautions to ensure that the gates operate correctly and that people who visit are aware that you have them.

These are where:

  • there are multiple occupants
  • there are children, elderly or disabled people living or visiting
  • there is free public access
  • there are remotely-operated automatic gates

The risk is also considered higher when it’s not possible to train a gate operator, or to appoint authorised users, and also when a higher number of people regularly use them.

In a residential setting, this means that everyone should be aware of the safety issues around the use of automated gates, and to always take necessary precautions.

Minimising risk

Automated gates should be installed with a range of safety-enhancing features which, when working correctly, radically reduce the risk of safety issues occurring.

These should include safety photocells, gate motors with obstacle detection, physical guarding and the use of force-limitation measurements.

Photocells

Photocells detect objects that break an infra-red beam.

These are fitted in pairs; one emits the infra-red beam to the other, which receives the beam without physical contact.

A good level of automatic gate safety will be provided by two pairs of photocells.

If a gate opens inwards, the first pair of photocells are fitted outside the gate.

A second pair should ideally be placed on the inside, beyond the transit of the gates as they open.

This is a vital safety component of most electric gates.

If the infra-red beam is broken by anything moving between a pair of photocells while the gates are moving, this information is relayed to the control panel which instructs the gates to stop and reverse to avoid colliding with a vehicle, animal or a person.

Checking that the photocells are working correctly is an important part of the regular maintenance of automated gates.

Obstacle detection

Obstacle detection and force limitation are programmable features which, if present in the control system and set up correctly, add to the safety of an installation.

If no other feature has stopped the gates beforehand, then obstacle detection will do if they collide with someone, or something, causing an obstruction.

If that happens while the gates are in their run phase, they will also reverse slightly.

However, if they are almost closed and slowing down, or have only just started moving and not reached top speed, they will only stop.

Force limitation

When gates are opening and closing, the force provided by the motors acting on the moving gates should be limited to those within the British/European standards guidelines.

They should automatically reverse if they hit an object, including a person or animal, with the slightest of impacts.

Loop detectors

Loop detectors can be used as safety devices, but installers should ensure that the same loop isn’t used for both safety and vehicle access control.

They are often fitted at the edge of a driveway to avoid digging into the road, and use an inductive loop – a ring of special cable that generates an electromagnetic field when current flows through it.

When a metallic object, like a car, moves through the field then a loop detector sends a signal to the gates’ control panel.

A magneto-resistive system uses a slimline detector embedded into the driveway rather than a loop of cable.

Safety edges

Automated gatescan be fitted with safety edges, which provide protection to anything that collides with the moving parts on which they’re mounted.

The edges can be mechanical or resistive, both of which consist of an aluminium channel – containing compressible rubber – attached to the surface being protected.

If something impacts the safety edges and compresses the rubber enough, a signal is sent to the gates’ control panel which instructs them to stop moving.

Taken together, loop detectors, photocells and safety edges provide the control panel with information that ensures the gates only open and close when it’s completely safe to do so.

These technical solutions are the bedrock of automated gate safety, but there are some tried and tested measures you can also take to increase their safety further:

Physical guarding

To reduce the risk of elements of the gate design being a risk to human health, physical guarding can be installed

adding wire mesh to parts of the gate where it might be possible for a limb to be trapped or inserted when the gate opens alongside or against something fixed such as a fence, or gate post.

That could be the space between vertical bars, or similar potentially dangerous areas.

Minimising the possibility of these parts of the gate being accessed reduces the risk of crushing or shearing injuries when the gates open or close.

Signage

It can be a prudent idea to provide signage that alerts visitors to your home or commercial premises that electric gates are in operation.

These should be clearly visible, ensuring that people are aware that the gates could start moving as they approach.

Being informed

It’s important that anyone who has responsibility for electric gates and their safe operation is fully aware of the safety issues around their operation.

They should ensure their gates are well maintained and operate correctly.

At installation, a full safety audit should be undertaken by the installer and any information it provides about particular site issues should be used in the creation of a safe gate system that eliminates these risks where possible.

Well maintained automated gates when designed and installed correctly can be very safe

No safety system can be entirely foolproof, but when it comes to properly installed and maintained automated gates, the risks to people and property are minimal.

This is why automated gates have become increasingly popular across a range of commercial and residential settings. But it is also incredibly important that you find the right installer with the appropriate understanding of potential risks who has experience in designing and installing safe gate automation systems.