Gate safety: a few simple precautions can save lives

Ensure security measures do not compromise your family’s safety

As more South Africans are taking measures to protect their properties against the threat of crime, it is important to consider the potential safety risks associated with security devices.

“In recent years, there have been a number of incidents where children were seriously injured or killed when driveway gates either fell on them or closed on them,” says Netcare Milpark Hospital’s trauma programme manager, Rene Grobler.

“Accidents such as these are all the more tragic since, in many cases, they can be averted with a few simple precautions and regular safety checks. Investing a little time in these preventive measures should give parents, in particular, greater peace of mind.”

Grobler explains that there are various dangers associated with large metal gates. “The average gate weighs about 220 kilograms, and the electric motors that drive them need to be powerful enough to move this weight. If your electric gate does not have adequate sensors, which are correctly installed and in good working order, any person who is in the gate’s path as it closes, as well as any animals, could be at risk.

“Opening gates can also be dangerous. Remember that the back end of a sliding gate may cause injury as it retracts if there is someone in the way, or someone gets trapped between the moving gate and wall. Such areas must be protected to eliminate this danger.”

Grobler says that the most obvious precaution, which should always be observed, is to make sure that no people or pets are in the vicinity when opening or closing electric gates. Anywhere near the moving parts – whether within the range of a sliding gate, or within the ‘sweep’ area of swing gates – should be regarded as a danger zone.

“To help prevent accidents, electric gates should be fitted with sensors that can detect anything that is in the way when the gate is closing. These devices, when fitted and maintained properly, will stop the gate’s progress if any obstacle in its way is detected. Ensure that the installer places these sensors at an appropriate height so that it will also detect children and pets,” Grobler explains.

“Another aspect of gate safety people should be aware of, is that a gate may fall over and injure anyone it lands on. Gates may be caused to fall if people, including small children, try to climb or ride on them, try to interfere with their workings, or if the gate is not secure in its fastenings or on its rail,” she adds.

“Only a trained professional should be trusted to perform installations, repairs, or maintenance of electric gates and safety accessories. If security features such as electric gates are not used responsibly and checked frequently, they may put your family’s safety at risk,” Grobler concludes.

10 tips for gate safety: 

  1. Electric gates must be fitted with safety features including sensors and emergency release mechanisms. These should be installed and maintained by qualified professionals in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.
  2. All safety features need to be checked regularly to ensure that they remain in good working order.
  3. Test sensors by placing an object, such as a rubbish bin, in the path of a sliding gate or within the sweep range of swing gates. If the sensors are working correctly, the gate will not close when something is in the way.
  4. Gates should be programmed to backpedal if they hit an object.
  5. Only adults should have access to gate controls.
  6. Operator covers must be locked and the keys stored in a safe, yet accessible, place.
  7. Test sliding gates by lightly pushing on the leading edge of the gate while it is closing. The gate should stop when light force is applied.
  8. Ensure that when the sliding gate or swing gates open, there is enough room behind the gate(s) that no one could be crushed there.
  9. Every time an electric gate is opened or closed, make sure that no one – adults, children or pets – is in the way of the gate or in the path of any vehicle.
  10. Ensure children or pets do not run into the road when the gate is opened.