electric gate door property management guide

If you’re involved in managing any form of powered gates and doors, then the law has tightened up regarding how they are maintained; not only concerning ongoing servicing, but also one-off safety and protection works to make sure no one can be harmed from them.

With such automatic-power behind often large gates, without these precautions people can easily get harmed, as in the unfortunate cases of two children dying during 2010 in unrelated incidents. This is serious stuff to take account of, to make sure no accidents like this can happen.

Therefore legislation and guidance has sharpened up, and you may even find that gate contractors can no longer deal with these unless such safety works are in place. Those managing properties can therefore be suddenly hit with these issues if they’ve not already been picked up within any risk assessment or planned maintenance programmes, and therefore need appropriate care and attention.

They're also more for business or communal premises, therefore those for people's own domestic properties don't necessarily fall within this legal obligation, it will certainly be good practice anyway.

Some Practical Property Management Matters

You'll find various guides and help available on these, for example Gate Safe, the Door & Hardware Federation Powered Gate Group, and accredited contractors. From a property management perspective you tend to see more actual usability issues crop up, as even if such works are technically correct these may well have knock-on effects somewhere.

So here are a few key aspects to this that you need to consider as someone in overall control of the gates and properties, to help you get to the bottom-line of what’s needed:

1. What Needs Doing

In short, there are both reactive and proactive measures needed.

Proactive ones will basically shield over and protect any potential areas of harm. So gaps where a gate hinges on a frame, or where the gates actually meet each other are obvious no-go areas for any adult or child

Reactive ones then focus on warning people nearing parts of the system where there is potential harm. These are usually through sensors on opening areas, which are designed to pick up any people or objects simply getting too close for comfort.

On top of that there may be measures to take action and warn people or stop the gates, for example override facilities and even flashing lights.

2. Retrospective Obligations

For new-build systems things are more straightforward as they will need installing a certain way, therefore the main issues arise when you have existing gates that need some form of retrospective works.

One of the core pieces of original legislation is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which began to bring in serious obligations, therefore ones installed before this time are prone to people thinking nothing may be required. In reality though, issues arise under general Health & Safety obligations and legislation like the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which is all about risk-assessing what’s needed.

Therefore if in doubt, have a risk assessment completed. Although this will indirectly end up with similar obligations, you should of course be addressing these risks alongside the reality of the situation and considering the extent of any closing forces against exposed people. So for example a large and cumbersome old gate system near a school or senior citizens will carry a greater risk and range of adaptations to consider.

3. Ongoing Maintenance

After you’ve completed any one-off compliance works, don’t forget that regular maintenance will be required to ensure they are still operating okay over time. And of course risk assessing again in future.

HSE guidance recommends that powered gates are serviced and maintained by reputable companies who regularly do this type of work, such as a member of the Door and Hardware Federation Powered Gates Group, or Gate Safe – so make sure everything is correctly vetted and instructed.

4. Adding up the Costs

Unfortunately these works, assessments, and ongoing maintenance can add up – so go into this open-eyed.

Make sure all costs are included, and that any other options are investigated. In severe cases these may need doing as soon as possible, with contractors withdrawing maintenance without these, so make sure cash-flow wise things are affordable here and now.

And make sure all the additional property-management time is fairly accounted for as well, for example arranging to meet specialists, communicating restricted access during works, and dealing with problem solving.

5. Involving the Insurers

Because real risks are at stake, make sure the correct insurance cover is in place. This includes the actual contractor and advisors involved, in addition to making sure that the main building cover notes this as well.

If there was any genuine failure of these in the future causing damage to, say, vehicles, then a claim may well need processing. If this is a potential reality, then make sure the detail is understood as well, for example the process for making a claim, and any excess payment due.

6. Wider Signage

You will probably get a few standard signs as part and parcel of this anyway, which of course will be important. Saying that, do just check to see if these could at least be placed in better positions, or made in more discreet sizes and even colours if needs be.

Also, remember more general procedure signs that can clearly help communicate to people what to do. So maybe what override button to press if there are problems (and what NOT to press in other circumstances), and key fobs or buttons to then press and reset any activated gates, and even what phone number to call if there are problems.

7. Degrees of Activation

It's worth spending some time getting your head around how the gates will actually operate after these works. Although the bottom line is that they are meant to stop working with any risk of harm, you need to know what this means for different scenarios.

So, sometimes it may be just a sensor in the ground or beam across the opening that triggers the gates to stop or open when someone comes near. However if someone actually touches any sensors on the gates then these can not only stop the gate dead, but also prevent the gates from resetting unless someone takes an action like pressing a fob on a reader.

There is often a manual override procedure that needs noting in cases like an emergency and power failure, and making sure other facilities like a fire alarm are connected into the system to override it correctly (make sure these are fully tested afterwards and not just assumed to be the case)

8. Security Concerns

Gates are primarily there to make a property safe and stop unauthorised people entering. However by needing to take these measures to make the gates safer, you can arguably reduce the security of the gates.

So as an example, chunky sensors on the gates may be causing vehicles to mistakenly touch the gates more often which causes more frequent stops.

Or if those more criminally-minded see such safety works they may realise that it is easy to touch certain sensors in order to deliberately stop the gates in a certain position.

If you do have increased security concerns as a result then you may need to look at additional measures such as CCTV cover or better signage and communication.

9. Clear Communication

Kind of linked to the above signage issues is making sure things are clearly communicated generally. So right down to including in any formal building guides and procedures, to informing people about when the works are being completed and any potential disruption.

Remember that people won't have such in-depth knowledge on the subject as yourself, and probably not want to as after all they're just gates that need to open and close. Therefore go the extra mile with clear communication which is to the point and explains what to do in emergency just as much as the general principles.

And also of course, make sure those who are involved in the cost for this are fully in the picture as well.

10. Dealing With Failures

Finally, understand how you need to deal with problems, as unfortunately they have a habit of still cropping up.

So when there is a power failure for example, is there a manual override procedure to help at least get them safely open or closed.

Also, watch out for any teething problems at the beginning, so maybe over-sensitive sensors that trigger things too much.

One particular problem is actually reduced security because of these works, because by the nature of them now having sensors and triggers to more easily open, this can be misused by people in order to more easily override the system and break-in.

Harnessing the Power

When you’re dealing with powered gates and doors, they may appear such a basic necessity at a property in order to control security. They’re something that should just tick-along with as little fuss and cost as possible.

However when things go wrong, it’s not just your wallet that’s affected, but potentially people and children’s own safety as well. Hence things notably changed after 2010 to make sure these are correctly dealt with.

Therefore make sure you have a reality check straight away, whether correct advice on a new compliant installation or carefully risk assessing any existing systems in place.

Make sure the theory matches the practical reality, and that everyone who needs to know about and be involved with these are – after all, lives are literally at stake.

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