Automatic electric gates can solve a lot of problems for blocks of flats, helping to make the premises more secure, keeping unwelcome visitors away, and preventing the ever-present problem of rogue car parking. They do however create a management responsibility to ensure they are designed, installed and maintained properly.

This summer saw the tenth anniversary of the tragic deaths of two children involved in accidents with electric gates, and a reminder from charity Gate Safe  for all owners and operators to ensure their gates get an annual MOT from a trained installer.

It’s a call that should be heeded by anyone responsible for managing flats, say Gate Safe who reminded us that all one of the children who died in 2010, Karolina Golabek,  had been trapped by a gate to a block near her home.

As automated gates become more popular, the need for installer training and general public awareness continues to grow, making the work of Gate Safe more important than ever.

Gate Safe estimates that nearly 300,000 new automated gates are being installed every year, in private residences, housing developments, commercial properties and schools/nurseries and, of course, blocks of flats.

Combine this with the number of existing gates in the field and, they say, it is likely that there are currently in excess of 3 million powered gates in the UK. It not just automated security gates that are a concern either: a case that came to court on March 2020 involved a manual gate derailing and falling onto a schoolgirl.

Naturally the owner of any gate has a duty of care to ensure that the gate is safe and regularly maintained – and the Health & Safety executive is quite clear on the subject. There is no shortage of advice on installation and operation,  and a court of law would look very dimly on failure to follow it.

The HSE is  also very clear on where responsibilities lie: and says that while the responsibility for safe design and construction and installation may rest with others, the owner and/or user should ensure that the installed product is safe, and kept safe.

You should check the  competence and expertise of anyone working on powered gates is checked and make sure that anyone who needs to know how to safely switch the gate off, or into a safe mode, and  how to release a person if they become trapped should have that  information.

According to the Door and Hardware Federation, which runs Gate Safety Month (albeit with a break in 2020), sliding gates coming out of their runners is the most common failure (physical travel stops should prevent this). The next most common failure with gates is hinge failure leading to the gate falling.

Automatic gates must retract if they encounter an obstacle. This usually involves “touch sensitive” control either by rubber safety edges or intelligent drive units that will cause the gate to open. The effectiveness of these measures must be checked s part of routine maintenance to ensure that forces are at a safe level.

Non-contact presence detection systems  have gaining popularity in the powered gate industry, but some such systems have given rise to concern, but the DHF goes so far as to  suggest they can be unsafe. DHF members will have access to the latest guidance on this (November 2019).

Your liability

After the 2014 hearing into Karolina’s death, HSE Inspector Stuart Charles said, “If you own or are responsible for managing properties with automatic gates you should ensure they are properly maintained. You should also ensure that those carrying out the maintenance are competent to do so.”

It is therefore essential that managing agents, as well as directors and secretaries of RMCs and RTMcos, check that electric gates on their development(s) are properly installed, maintained and repaired.

If anyone responsible for managing residential property is found to be acting negligently where electric gates are concerned, they may find themselves personally liable for losses or, in the worst case scenario, for any personal injury caused as a result of faulty equipment or procedures.

Do you have Directors  & Officers Liability insurance to protect volunteer RMC and RTMco directors from personal loss following prosecutions arising from their work for the block?


The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.