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Gate Safe at ten

The charity Gate Safe was set up in September 2010, in direct response to the two separate automated gate accidents which claimed the lives of Semelia Campbell and Karolina Golabek, in June and July 2010. The charity was founded by Richard Jackson, who at the time was chairman of Jacksons Fencing.

As for what the catalyst was for setting up Gate Safe, Richard says: “Quite simply, to put a stop to any further unnecessary accidents – and worse still fatalities – as a result of an unsafe electric gate. In both Semelia and Karolina’s case, the accident was wholly unpreventable had the necessary safety protocol been followed. Equally, in both instances, gates had been installed to provide an added sense of security to the occupants of the housing development so there was a tragic sense of irony that the very devices intended to protect the girls, had in fact been responsible for their deaths.

“To prevent any further casualties three issues needed to be addressed 1) education was required in the industry to educate those involved with automated gate installations on what constituted a safe and compliant gate – acknowledging the long supply chain associated with any automated gate installation 2) more needed to be done to address the misinformation that was circulating in the field 3) an awareness campaign was required to drive gate owners and others involved with automated gates for example, home owners, school caretakers, estate agents etc to ask questions regarding automated gate safety. We soon realised that we had quite a major task on our hands!”

Gate Safe has introduced a number of initiatives seeking to improve safety of automated gates across the UK – and beyond. Professional Security asked Richard, what he perceived to be the major achievements of the charity.

“Clearly, the rollout of the Gate Safe Aware training course is one of our most important contributions to improved electric gate safety. We now have around 2,000 trained installers in the field and that number is rising every month. The training is approved by IOSH – Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, the world’s biggest membership organisation for safety and health professionals, which underpins the credibility and gravitas of our course. Despite these challenging times that we are now facing, we’ve managed to continue our training with an online format which has been extremely well received.

“We’ve also seen a positive response to our independent site survey offering where a company or individual, will invite Gate Safe to undertake an independent and impartial review of an automated gate, providing a detailed report on the installation, thereby empowering the gate owner to take the necessary action with a trained installer to remedy any safety concerns.

“I’d also see taking the campaign to Downing Street and developing an ongoing association with Westminster to ensure the topic of automated gate safety features on the political agenda as a highlight. This has not been an easy feat, but we remain dogged in our determination to instigate change at the very highest level. In March, we were due to meet with the Department for Education (sadly the coronavirus has forced us to postpone that particular meeting) to discuss how to improve gate safety in a school setting and we hope that we can reconvene that meeting when it is safe and wise to do so.

“Part of our ongoing strategy has always been to align the charity with the relevant stakeholder organisations representing some of our key target audiences and we’ve been quite successfully in drumming up support and endorsement from a number of high profile opinion former bodies including RoSPA, Association of Fencing Industries, Electrical Contractors’ Association, Electrotechnical Certification Scheme and Handsam (experts in education compliance management) to name but a few. This way we are able to get our messaging out to the wider, invested audience, via their accepted and trusted industry body.

“One of the most encouraging changes that we’ve witnessed over the last decade is the growing number of home owners, installers, commercial gate owners, schools and even government bodies, who naturally turn to Gate Safe for guidance and advice on any automated gate or barrier issue. We’ve always retained our status as a truly independent, unbiased authority on gates and this has enabled us to maintain our credibility in the field.”

At times the response to Gate Safe’s call to action has fallen on deaf, or at least muffled ears, Richard adds. “We were told at the beginning of our journey that campaigning can sometimes be a very lonely road, and this is a sentiment that definitely resonates. There have been occasions where we’ve tried for a number of months to secure a meeting or interview with someone representing an influential body, only to be advised that the ‘cause’ is not a high priority.

“Two cases spring to mind here, we were trying to harness the power of Building Control to establish required protocols for any new gates. Following a meeting with Local Authority Building Control, we were told that post the Grenfell Tower disaster, trying to push through any new recommendations for the safety of automated gates was pointless, it was simply not a priority. Similarly, we tried very hard to bring the issue of automated gate kits to the attention of Which! – these kits are widely available online enabling anyone to transform a manual gate into a machine, more often than not, without adequate safety features. Sadly, the subject matter was not deemed ‘a priority area’ for the publication. But we never give up, we may be a small team, but we all share the same passion for the cause and if a hurdle presents itself, we will always work to identify a new route to achieve the same outcome.”

As the charity edges towards the ten-year anniversary since the inaugural Gate Safe Summit at the Institute of Directors (IoD), what will be the focus for Gate Safe?

“We will never be complacent, regardless of any successes we may have, there is always another initiative that we are working on to help raise awareness of automated gate safety. Looking ahead, we are still hopeful that we will be able to elicit support from the insurance sector, so that insurance premiums are affected if a gate is not safely installed or maintained. We will also continue our push to stop the sale of automated gate kits to persons who don’t have the necessary skills and training to understand how to deliver a safe automated gate. And of course, we will carry on with our awareness campaign to keep safety top of mind for gate owners and gate users – and for any professionals associated with the industry.”



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