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The implications of Brexit for automatic gate safety

Automatic gates must be designed, manufactured and installed in accordance with safety regulations and standards, but what are the implications of Brexit?

On 29 March 2019 the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, with a transition period extending until 31 December 2020 or possibly longer. Clearly Brexit has many implications for the UK as a whole and for individual businesses, but one area of concern is how the UK’s current system of safety regulations and standards will be affected. We will look at this now, in particular with regard to automatic and powered gates.

Automatic gates require powerful motors and, as has sadly been proven in a small number of fatal accidents, gates have the potential to cause serious injuries unless they are designed, manufactured and installed correctly. This is why we have safety regulations and standards.

Currently the UK is required to use the EU’s Directives and Regulations, hence automatic gates are classified as ‘machines’ and must be CE Marked in accordance with the European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. The easiest route to complying with this Directive’s essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs) is to apply the relevant Harmonised Standards – though the UK’s dhf (Door and Hardware Federation) has expressed concerns about the standards applicable to gates and has issued its own guidance to supplement the standards with the aim of overcoming the standards’ shortcomings.

But what will happen after Brexit? What will replace the Machinery Directive, and will gate designers, manufacturers and installers have to comply with the same standards? Given the politics surrounding Brexit and the current uncertainty over whether the UK will leave with or without a deal in place, we cannot be sure about what will happen. However, we can be fairly confident about what will happen regarding machinery safety.

The first point to note is that although the Machinery Directive is a European instrument it has been passed into UK law through The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 as amended. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, sometimes referred to as The Great Repeal Bill, will ensure that UK laws currently referencing European legislation will instead become UK law – and this includes The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations. In practical terms, therefore, the legal requirements relating to automatic gates will not change.

There is a question over what will replace the CE mark in the UK. The current plan is that machine builders will still need to CE mark in accordance with the Machinery Directive if they are exporting to Europe, and here in the UK the CE mark will be replaced by something all but identical; the aim is to negotiate mutual recognition of the CE mark and the new UK marking. Consequently, the process of self-certification for most machinery – including powered and automatic gates – will continue. For certain categories of high-risk machinery being placed on the market in the UK, the current UKAS-accredited (and EU-wide recognised) Notified Bodies will be replaced by UKAS-accredited notified bodies that are only recognised in the UK.

In contrast to Regulations, there is no legal obligation to comply with standards. Nevertheless, standards are considered to be indicative of ‘best practice’ and voluntarily complying with standards is usually the easiest and most reliable way of meeting the relevant legal requirements; for example, the current European Harmonised Standards provide a ‘presumption of conformity’ with the relevant Machinery Directive EHSRs. Referring back to the dhf’s concerns, however, for powered and automatic gates it may be necessary to go beyond what the standards specify in order to meet the EHSRs.

Currently the UK has British Standards that have been developed and published solely in the UK and these have a plain BS prefix, and we also have European standards (prefixed BS EN) and international standards (typically prefixed BS EN ISO or BS EN IEC). Over the last ten years or so there has been a trend towards more of our standards being international, so old BS and BS EN standards are slowly being superseded by international BS EN ISO and BS EN IEC standards.

BSI is the UK’s National Standards Body and makes important contributions to the development of European and international standards through its membership of CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, ISO and IEC, which are the European and international bodies responsible for standards development. Most importantly, CEN and CENELEC are not part of the EU; they are independent bodies to which the EC turns to for standardisation.

On 23 November 2018, the General Assemblies of the European standards organisations CEN and CENELEC approved a plan that secures BSI’s full membership post-Brexit, so it appears that BSI will retain a strong voice in developing and maintaining standards while meeting the needs of stakeholders in the UK. As far as standardisation is concerned, therefore, Brexit will not have any impact for automatic gate specifiers, designers, manufacturers or installers.

On a practical note, anyone specifying an automatic gate should still seek a gate bearing the CE mark or the new UK equivalent. Here in the UK, specifiers can have further confidence if they use a reputable supplier that has third-party accreditation under either the Door & Hardware Federation (dhf) Safety Assured scheme or the Gate Safe scheme, both of which are recognised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). They should not rely on just the CE Mark or new UK equivalent, as this is self-certified by the manufacturer and is no guarantee of the gate being either standards-compliant or safe. Furthermore, in most cases the marking process can only be completed after the gate has been installed and commissioned, as the necessary risk assessment, testing, verification and paperwork cannot be completed properly until this point has been reached.

Procter Contracts is a DHF Safety Assured and Gate Safe accredited installer. The company has published a number of Guides and White Papers, all of which can be downloaded free of charge from the website at www.proctercontracts.co.uk. Alternatively, contact the company for more information by means of the Live Chat facility on the website, telephone 0800 294 4177 or email [email protected]

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