Improperly installed or maintained powered gates can pose a potential health and safety concern. Several deaths and many more injuries have been attributable to powered gates malfunctioning or simply being the wrong barrier for the purpose to which it was applied.
Powered gates are covered by the Supply of Machinery Regulations, but until recently there was much misunderstanding of how the regulations applied to gates as opposed to other types of powered machines. In 2012 the Door Hardware Federation and HSE issued their Guide to Gate Safety, Legislation and Standards.
The current European Standards are thought to be less rigorous as they are more concerned with industrial doors and aren’t designed to cover gates specifically. Regulations and specifications need to concentrate on eliminating the dangers of crush, impact, shear, draw, hooking, structural and electrical injury or defect. Eliminate these dangers and powered gates will be far safer to operate.
Installers and Maintainers are Held Responsible
Two companies involved in the provision of powered gates were prosecuted in 2014 following deaths that occurred in separate incidents over the same weekend in 2010, however, they weren’t the companies that originally fitted the gates but the companies retained to carry out maintenance. Following on from this, any company that is involved in the fitting and follow-up maintenance is extremely aware of the safety issues concerned and will always aim to exceed the requirements put in place by the European Commission and the HSE.
It should also be borne in mind that any company or individual who installs a motor onto a pre-existing powered gate becomes a powered gate provider, and hence will be subject to the legislation, even if they don’t connect it to a power supply. When machinery is CE marked it is usually the manufacturer that has to secure the safety certificates necessary to prove the product’s safety, however, in the case of powered gates it is down to the installer, this is because the device has to be specially measured, aligned and installed according to the site’s specific requirements.
Risk assessment is a vital part of the ongoing maintenance of a powered gate. Your installer or maintenance operative should carry out regular risk assessment and advise the owner of the property that the gate is on of any concerns that their examination reveals. It is then down to the owners to implement any recommendations that the maintainer identifies as necessary for to continued safe use of the gate. If the gate is found to be unsafe, then it should be disabled by the installer/maintenance inspectors so that it cannot be run automatically or remotely in order to prevent potential accidents from occurring.
The production company which caused an accident that injured actor Harrison Ford is awaiting sentencing after it pleaded guilty to two health and safety breaches.
The accident, which happened on set of the most recent Star Wars movie, left Mr Ford pinned to the ground with a broken leg and the accident could have been much worse had a member of film crew not acted quickly in turning off the power to the door driver mechanism.
The door, which was a part of the scenery rather than a genuine access point, was powered with a motor which was far too powerful for the job it was needed to do and should not have been live during rehearsals. While the accident broke the actor’s leg, it was claimed that the door moved with the force of a small car and could have killed anybody it hit. Instead the door hit Mr Ford in the hip and pinned him to the floor until another member of staff on the set was able to switch the power off and release the actor.
Foodles Production, the company responsible for the building and installation of the door. The company was originally charged with four breaches of Health and Safety legislation, however, two of these charges were incorporated into two overarching charges under sections two and three of the health and safety at work act 1973 which covered employers believed to be endangering the health of an employee and endangering the health of somebody not employed by the company.
Although Foodles accepted responsibility, Angus Withington, mitigating, said that although they company accepted the accident was preventable and it was their fault, the risk wasn’t as bad as the prosecution’s legal team made it appear. The HSE said that it was glad of the guilty plea, but that the incident had been foreseeable. A spokesman said: “The British film industry has a world-renowned reputation for making exceptional films.”
“Managing on-set risks in a sensible and proportionate way for all actors and staff – regardless of their celebrity status – is vital to protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as protecting the reputation of the industry.”
Rope and Pulley
Speaking in an interview with Jonathan Ross shortly after the incident, Ford said that back when the original trilogy was filmed, the door would have been simply operated by a stage hand with a rope and pulley. “But now we had lots of money and technology and so they built a f—— great hydraulic door which closed at light-speed,”
Nick Perkins of the Door and Hardware Federation said “As this court case shows, owners and all those responsible for powered access systems and equipment could face prosecution in the event of an incident at one of their sites. They should also be aware that installers and maintainers are also bound by criminal legislation to ensure that all work, whether on a new or an existing access system, is safe.”
Foodles Production, a subsidiary of the Disney Corporation admitted responsibility and was due to be sentenced on August 22, however, sentencing won’t happen now until October due to both parties not being ready, according to a court spokesperson.