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CROSS Safety Report

Risks associated with steel gates 

Report ID: 1021 Published: 30 July 2021 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A reporter has noticed recurring defects with large gates in residential apartment complexes, including at least three where there were serious incidents, one involving a fatality.

Key Learning Outcomes

For contractors and steel fabricators:

  • Give attention to the design and gates and the safety-critical aspects of their fixings, anchors and support systems

  • Although building regulations do not apply gates must be structurally sound and maintained

For owners and building managers:

  • Regular inspections and maintenance can help keep gates safe and identify safety issues that need to be addressed

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • If a gate also acts as a barrier, it should be designed in accordance the current standards 

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A reporter has noticed recurring defects with large gates over the past 20 years or so (Figures 1-3) in residential apartment complexes including at least three where there were serious incidents, one involving a fatality. They believe that gates are seen as an afterthought and the engineering ‘design’ is frequently done by the contractor or their fabricator. According to the reporter most consultants’ conditions of engagement exclude them.

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Figure 1: Improvised gate hinge
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Figure 2: Improvised gate hinge support
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Figure 3: Finger trap risk

The structural engineer, if appointed, should check for compliance with BS 1722. Fences, walls and gates do not require building regulation approval but must be structurally sound and maintained. More information on this can be found in the planning portal.

Gates should be designed in anticipation of abuse and the process should include the selection and specification of all component parts. Particular note should be taken of the importance of gate posts, including main post (which should be made out of one piece of steel), cap and baseplate, stiffeners, hinge supports.   

Gates should be designed in anticipation of abuse and the process should include the selection and specification of all component parts

Tubular steel gate post should be checked for bearing of the tube at the hinge position and stiffened as necessary. The gate should not be supported on the ground, but on a bottom hinge from the gatepost. In the case of a bottom driven electric gate, redundancy of hinge support shall be provided in the event that the electrical support fails. 

Foundations and holding down bolts need to be considered with pockets as the preferred option.   

Expansion bolts and chemical anchors should be used with care and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

A tubular steel gate should be checked for bearing of the tube at the hinge position and stiffened or thickened as necessary. Gates fabricated from flats are prone to chatter and excessive deflection due to lack of torsional stiffness, and the design should address this. Large gates should not be supported directly from brick or masonry. The specification should include for weld testing and inspections by a suitably qualified specialist. 

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

Gates might not be thought of as key structural items but in the wider context of ‘design’ and potential to cause harm they need proper ‘design’ in the widest sense.  The report highlights many of the common problems with hinged gates; the design of which is often an afterthought, and they are usually poorly maintained.

The likeliest injuries people will experience in relation to structures is not from gross collapse, but from ‘slips, trips and falls'. Some of these can be horrific such as falling and becoming trapped or impaled. Doors can slam in wind shattering their glass and gates can slam shut and trap fingers with nasty consequences. Likewise sharp edges on the steel components must obviously be avoided.   

Gatepost foundations

An aspect not mentioned is the need for adequate foundations for gateposts as often it is movement at the base that causes gates to drop. The weight of gates and poor design can also affect the force required to open them, which should be within the specified requirements, or they should be electrically operated, but this needs to have a workable override in the event of power failure, as mentioned in the report. There also have to be fail-safe systems with electrically operated gates to prevent crushing, particularly of children. There have been fatalities because gates kept closing despite people being trapped.

Gates may form part of a route for the means of escape from a building or risk area. Consideration should be given to this in the context of Approved Document B: Fire Safety especially in terms of width, means of securing and direction of opening.

Gates may form part of a route for the means of escape from a building or risk area. Consideration should be given to this in the context of Approved Document B: Fire Safety especially in terms of width, means of securing and direction of opening.

It is appropriate to extend the basic message to all construction materials used for gates and the points made are also certainly relevant to timber.

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