Gate Safe lobbies against sale of automated gate kits to members of the public

Gate Safe continues to challenge those in the gate manufacturing industry to play a stronger role in ensuring the safety of automated gates and barriers, including companies selling automated gate kits. The charity has set up a petition to lobby against the sale of such kits to members of the general public.

Currently, anyone can buy a kit to transform a regular manual gate into a potentially dangerous machine. Unsurprisingly, 96% of the Gate Safe installer community believe that such kits should not be readily available direct to consumers. There are several reasons why.

Automated gate kits will contain literature within the box of components and, within this, there will invariably be a mention of the fact that these kits should only be installed by a professionally trained installer. However, this important detail is generally only in the small print and can quite easily be missed. 

More significantly, by the time the purchaser reads this, the kit has already been purchased, presumably with the reader intending to undertake the necessary installation work themselves.

The kit may contain an operator, some electronics, a remote control device, some metal brackets and a pair of photocells. It’s likely that, in order to create a secure fitting of the ram on to the gate and post, a welder will be required. If the gate is hung on the back of the posts, the metal fittings provided may not even be suitable. Immediately, then, the product is not fit for purpose, but will the customer be prepared to pay for the cost of a welder? There’s every likelihood that the ram will not be fitted correctly and/or that a welder will not understand the correct positioning needed.

Pair of photocells

One pair of photocells will not be sufficient for any gate. There may be additional risks which need to be mitigated. How would a member of the public understand exactly where these photocells should be fitted?

Contact safety seems to be omitted from the majority of automated gate kits and, as per the photocells, even if safety edges are included, the untrained consumer wouldn’t know where these should be installed to mitigate all the risks or have the tools to fit them correctly.

Wiring the ram into the control board is not a job for an unskilled person, connecting the controls box to the mains even less so. Yet these kits happily advocate that such tasks should be undertaken by the purchaser.

The kits do not contain all the necessary components. For example, it’s unlikely that they will include the clips and fittings for cables to avoid them becoming caught up by a strimmer/mower. Another vital safety consideration overlooked, then.

There appears to be no guidance on the dangers associated with leaving unacceptable gaps between the gate and the post and recognising the risk of a child trying to squeeze under the gate or the potentially lethal crushing zone created if the gate opens against a brick pillar or similar.

Potential dangers

These are just the headline issues associated with automated gate kits, but the overriding concern is that a member of the public who has no previous experience in gate automation is likely going to be oblivious to the potential dangers of an automated gate and, doubtless, will not have undertaken a thorough risk assessment of the site. Such individuals are able to purchase a kit online with no questions asked.

Gate Safe wrote to both Amazon and eBay in 2019 questioning the validity of this approach, and with very disappointing results. Amazon advised that they had ‘forwarded this issue to the Product Safety team. Please be assured they’ll investigate this and take appropriate action.’ Needless to say, the charity is still waiting to hear from Amazon. Gate Safe will be appealing to both organisations to reconsider their responses.

Gate Safe will also be taking up this issue with the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK since advertisements for these kits are rife on Google in addition to other search engines.

Richard Jackson, founder of Gate Safe, commented: “Consumers will always seek out what they perceive to be a ‘bargain price’. It falls to installers to explain that skilled and professional expertise comes at a cost, but that in the long run having the job done by a suitably qualified installer is worth every penny. What price can you put on safety?”

Jackson added: “Those who choose to go down the DIY route may find themselves facing higher costs than anticipated, ending up with a gate that no competent gate installer will agree to ‘fix’. That would then leave them with an unsafe installation that’s capable of endangering the very people – that is their friends and family –it was intended to protect. Once again, it’s down to those who care about safety in the fencing/automated gate industry to initiate change.”

*The Gate Safe campaign to restrict the sale of automated gate kits to members of the public can be access online at https://bit.ly/3mrloQP. The petition is to be found on Change.org

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