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Physical Security

Maintenance message: carrot or stick?

Annual servicing of perimeter security systems – such as automatic gates and barriers – is a divisive issue. There are site owners who follow manufacturers’ specifications and have annual maintenance carried out as standard, and then there are those who see it as unnecessary – according to Oliver Cook, pictured, UK Service Sales Manager at Heras, a supplier of permanent and mobile perimeter protection products. He ponders the question of whether highlighting the perils or the benefits of annual servicing is the best way to get the maintenance message across.

For some owners and operators, the annual servicing and maintenance of, say, sliding or automatic gates at the entrance of a busy logistics or distribution hub is a no-brainer. It provides peace of mind because it cuts down on the risk of site downtime or business interruption for vehicles entering or exiting a site. For others, it’s an unnecessary additional cost for equipment that, on the face of it, has very few working parts that can go wrong. And, if there is a breakdown, then there are companies that they call out to fix the problem. For Heras, there are two broad approaches to this: carrot or stick.

Stick – Directive 2006/42/EC and the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984

Any business whose gates, barriers or turnstiles are not compliant with current standards is leaving itself wide open should incidents or accidents occur on the site that lead to damage, injury or worse.

We can’t stress enough the importance of compliance with current standards and regulations – with two key ones being the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 and the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984.

The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 implemented Directive 2006/42/EC in the UK and it’s those regulations that businesses must be compliant. This framework is all about the safety of machinery and it provides the requirements that products must comply with. The potential for machinery to create hazardous situations must be minimised or, even better, eliminated.

And, although the UK has now left the EU, next year will see the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark supersede the CE mark as the UK product marking that is used for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain.

Then there’s the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984. The original Act came into force in 1957, requiring site owners and operators to ensure that visitors would be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which they were invited or permitted by the occupier to be there. Crucially, this was updated in 1984 to introduce a duty of care for trespassers.

Put simply, the site owner is liable if any harm comes to any visitor or intruder on site – with the onus of proof of a common duty of care that demonstrates that all precautions have been taken, including audit trails of issues such as the servicing and maintenance of equipment on site.

Carrot – the long-term cost savings

You wouldn’t buy a new car and not service it for years, would you? A vehicle that is driven regularly and not serviced is far more likely to start underperforming and could eventually break down.

It’s the same for traffic barriers, automatic gates and other perimeter systems, and it’s a point I always make whenever I speak to anyone who is responsible for the management of a site’s entrance control and perimeter security.

Following on from that, there are two key points to make. The first is the false economy of not having a servicing and maintenance contract – it may save a business money in the short term, but bills are typically higher if something does break down. Additionally, businesses go to the back of the queue for call-outs and the lifetime of the product is reduced.

The second is business disruption – some operators simply cannot afford to have any downtime caused by the breakdown of automatic gates or traffic barriers. The most obvious example is the food distribution hubs for the UK’s supermarkets. Their logistics are hugely complex operations and rely on everything running like clockwork.

To make things as easy as possible, Heras offers a range of servicing and maintenance solutions that suit the full spectrum of UK site requirements, with three core service levels: Essential, Premium and Premium VIP. And then there’s Connect, which is an industry game-changer. It’s a cloud-based portal that offers real-time insights into the status of an entrance control system, with remote monitoring of user access and automatic alerts and notifications via smartphone, tablet or PC.

What’s the answer: carrot or stick?

The introduction of the UKCA mark next year is a good opportunity to work with site owners and operators and help make sure they are ready for the transition by supporting them with their requirements to ensure compliance with the new standards. And in doing so, they will also be on the right side of legislation such as the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

However, what clinches it for me is that Heras produces high-quality gates, barriers and turnstiles that are built to last – and site owners and operators can get real value for money over the lifetime of the products, as long as they look after them properly!


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