There’s been a sharp increase in recent years in the use of self-closing safety gates, for the most part in guardrail systems to allow roof access from a fixed ladder. This is in some part as a result of the Working at Height Regulations 2005 which demand that any working at height is required to be planned as a result of a risk assessment.
The traditional way of securing a safety gate is with a chain or draw bar. However, the main disadvantage of these types of closing mechanisms is that they need to be manually repositioned to close the gate. These mechanisms (along with the gate) are often left open, created an open void in the fall protection system. This creates a significant fall hazard on the roof edge and anybody in that area is potentially at risk.
Self-closing gates are the perfect solution to this safety problem. The basic mechanism works as follows – once the user has passed through the gate, a spring closes the gap, closing the gate and filling the open void. This reduces the risk of human error which is the main risk with traditional types of safety gates.
Safe access and egress on ladders, roof hatches, walkways and industrial machinery must always be a priority. Self-closing safety gates usually come in a standard 1 metre width and are easily cut to the correct size on site if necessary. They can be installed to open in any direction which makes them a flexible solution under any circumstance. Self-closing safety gates can be retrofitted to existing systems to offer an enhanced level of safety at little extra cost.
And it’s not just in the construction industry that self-closing gates are making an appearance. They are popping up on children’s playgrounds and parks across the UK. The government recently committed to invest £225 million (via funding to local authorities) in building or upgrading the nation’s playgrounds. A recent consultation discovered that most of the fencing or gates employed would not comply with BS EN 1176 or pass an independent RoSPA inspection. With an average 40,000 injuries resulting in a hospital visit for children taking place in playgrounds every year, improving safety is essential.
BS EN 1176 is not a legal requirement in the UK, local authorities can demonstrate their legal duty of care through compliance and will be better placed in the unfortunate event that an accident occurs.
The other place where self-closing gates seem to be on the increase is in a domestic setting as baby gates to keep babies and toddlers safe from the stairs or safe in one particular room. These safety gates make parents’ lives so much easier as they struggle to keep up in toddler-proofing a house once a little one becomes mobile. Because the adults passing through the gates are usually doing so whilst carrying a little on, a self-closing option is much more convenient.
Although regulations governing these safety gates are pretty ambiguous, the one consideration that does stand out is that any gate used should conform to the recognised standard EN 1930-2000 for safety barriers used in the home.
Self-closing gates are sure to increase both in domestic use and in industrial settings – they are just too flexible an option to ignore and, in the building industry, seem to provide a safeguard against human error that will save lives.