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Inquest highlights the need for automated vehicle gates to fully protect pedestrians


A recent inquest into an incident in 2015 has highlighted the need for automated vehicle gates to fully protect pedestrians as required by EN 12453:2017 + A1:2021, the harmonised standard which defines the minimum level of safety to comply with the Machinery Directive. The incident led to a successful prosecution by The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) against Limerick City & County Council in November 2021.

The gate in question was able to fatally crush a worker at the site as he opened the premises due to the inadequate safety provision provided. The gate could be operated by mobile phone, or fob operation and relied on a single photobeam located inside the gate to protect pedestrians. The fact that the mobile phone operation can be carried out from anywhere in the world was identified by HSA as a factor which seriously impacted the safety of the gate.    

The minimum levels of safety prescribed by the standard for protection of crush, shear or draw in hazards are:

  • Safe Design. Provide suitable guards, or restrict gaps to defined distances to prevent a body, or body parts from accessing the hazards. This cannot protect all hazards.
  • Hold to Run. To fully comply with this safety strategy the operator must have full direct and real time sight of the gate hazards, and maintain pressure on the activation switch for the full operation of the gate, along with limits to stopping distance and speed of the gate, safe location of the controls of the activation device for the operator and the absence of additional controls which could override the main control.
  • Safe Contact. Providing a device, or system which limits the force which would be applied to any obstacle encountered by the gate, and ensures that the movement of the gate is reversed, to reduce the force to acceptable levels within prescribed time periods.
  • Non-Contact. Providing a device which prevents any movement within the hazard area if an obstacle is detected.

The fact that the gate could be activated by a mobile phone, means that the requirement for Hold to Run operation could not be fully met. As identified by HSA, the gate could have been operated from anywhere in the world with no knowledge of any people or other obstacles in the path of the gate. A Safe Contact, or Non-Contact system would have averted this tragedy, preventing the worker from being crushed by a 1 tonne gate.

Experience has shown that injuries or deaths caused by automated gates occur in non-compliant systems, and as part of the DHF commitment to increasing gate safety, we offer online and face-to-face training, along with a code of practice on achieving compliance with the above standards.

8th November 2023

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