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Powered Gate Myth Buster #3

Electrical safety ends at the supply terminals

There is a commonly held misconception in our industry that electrical safety of powered gate or barrier systems is assured, providing the electrical supply to the system is safe.  Whilst it is true that the fixed wiring providing the electrical supply must be safe (conforming to national regulations – BS 7671 in the UK), the remainder of the system must also be electrically safe.

It is a misconception that, in our industry, we are simply installing pre-CE marked appliances; this is rarely ever the case for a powered gate.  If we make a comparison with buying and plugging in an electrical appliance, the manufacturer of the appliance has wired it up internally and CE marked the finished complete ‘machine’ as conforming to the Machinery Directive (Supply of Machinery Safety Regulations in the UK).  When we provide and install the electrical components of a powered gate system, these components are not supplied as finished machinery.  They are partly completed machinery; we are assembling the finished machine.  As such, we then have to CE mark the finished system as compliant with the Machinery Directive, which includes electrical safety.  We are in effect assembling an appliance, not installing an appliance.

Of course, we need to know that the supply is safe and will need evidence of this for our technical file.  However, we also need to be able to verify that the electrical safety required by Essential Health and Safety Requirement 1.5.1 of the Machinery Directive has been achieved to be able to apply the legally required CE marking plate and issue a Declaration of Conformity.

In many cases, this is straightforward enough, by simply following the installation manuals supplied or in-depth product specific training provided by the various component suppliers.  These manuals and training provide important details about the need for RCD protection, cable specifications, earthing and voltage band separation, etc.  Where this level of information is not available or when it deviates from manufacturers’ specifications, a much higher level of electrical experience and competence is required; essentially, this becomes the role of a qualified electrician.

We should also point out here that routine ‘live’ working is not permitted by electrical safety legislation or standards.  This is the reason that all gate and barrier systems must have an all pole electrical isolator provided.  Those working on electrical systems should be applying the principles of safe isolation before attempting any repairs or maintenance work.  Inevitably, there will be some operations (eg programming or limit switch setting) that must be done ‘live’, but this should only occur once the system has been electrically isolated and basic visual checks have been completed in the ‘dead’ state.

More detailed explanations of how to achieve and verify electrical safety available in DHF TS 011:2019.

Nick Perkins

DHF Senior Training and Compliance Officer

 

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