Buyer's Guide: Choosing a Safety Gate
So, you’ve decided to buy a Safety Gate! Great! But you know it’s never that easy. As with any other purchase, there are questions to be answered and options to be selected. Gates, while effective, convenient, relatively inexpensive, and easy-to install, are not one-size fits all. Yes, many gates can each be attached in a variety of locations, but it’s not the size of the connection that is the issue, but rather the actual function for which the gate is needed. Let’s take a look at some of the questions you will need to answer prior to your purchase and see how the gate’s function plays into your decision-making process.
1. Why are you Installing This Gate?
You are going to need to start with the basics, and the most basic of all questions is “Why?” Why are you installing this gate? What purpose will it serve? Who will use it? Have you had problems before that have led you to this decision? Are there safety regulations that require its use? Your answer may be simple or it may be complicated, but whichever it is, it is going to help you make the proper decision.
Some of the reasons you may be installing a gate could be to control access, as a warning of an upcoming hazard, or as fall protection. Different applications will mean different gates. The difference can be something as simple as the direction in which the door swings or if there is some type of lock on the gate. Gates used for fall protection will need to be a specific height to meet the standards and must be as strong as railings are required to be. Hash out your needs before deciding what to buy.
2. Where is the Opening Located?
Where your gate will be installed will play a big part in deciding what material your gate will be made of. An indoor gate, for instance, could be made of steel and last a long time, as long as you’re not in a humid environment or an industrial environment that could expose the gate to other corrosive materials. Using it outdoors, however, could be a problem because rain and ambient humidity could cause steel to rust. Your best options for an outdoor gate will be aluminum, galvanized steel, or stainless steel. All will be corrosion resistant, with the steel options being stronger – and heavier – than the aluminum option. Galvanized is probably the most economical way to go and will achieve the same corrosion protection.
3. How Big is Your Opening?
There are different sized safety gates for different applications. If you are simply setting it up for single person access to a ladder, then you might need an 18" or 21" ladder safety gate. If you want a two person gate, you’ll obviously need a wider one or possibly a dual safety gate system. But the options don’t stop there. You could want a mezzanine or pallet gate. These are not only a wider design, but pallet gates are configured in such a way that when opened, the pallet itself is protecting the opening. All of the gates, when finished, return automatically to their original position, whether they be vertical sliding gates, horizontal, or swing gates.
4. How Much Use Will the Area Get?
The use could determine the type of gate you want. Heavy use could call for an automatic gate that doesn’t require your employees to push it open every time they pass through. Something used less frequently may not warrant this. Either way, the important thing is to ensure your gate has been cycle tested to the ANSI standard. ANSI BS 6375-2:2009 Clause 6.5 says that a gate should be tested through 90 degrees 50,000 cycles.
5. Do You Have Industry Requirements?
While OSHA does not necessarily require safety gates to be yellow, you’re going to want them to be highly visible. If it blends into the background, it can be just as dangerous as not being there. However, depending on your industry, there could be other requirements. For instance, the food industry may be required by the FDA to have stainless steel only. It is important that you know this so that in attempting to bring yourself into fall protection compliance with OSHA, you do not take yourself out of compliance with any other regulatory body you may be beholden to.
6. Who is Doing the Install?
Safety gates may be fairly simple to install, depending on where they are being installed, but you want to make sure the person doing so is competent. Lives could depend on it. Know that if you are planning on having somebody in-house install the gates, your supplier will often offer tutorial videos or other forms of instruction to provide all the help you need. If you are even remotely unsure of your installer’s competency, pay the extra money to have it done by a professional. Don’t take chances with your employees’ lives.
7. Has it Been Tested?
In addition to cycle testing, OSHA requires that gates meet certain load requirements. You can’t assume that just because a gate is made of steel that it will meet the requirements. Springs, hinges, and stoppers could all be potential points of failure if the gate is not tested. Do not assume just because a product is commercially offered, either, that it has been tested. Ask to see the proof of testing. A manufacturer should have no problem providing this testing, as Kee Safety does in this document.
While many safety gates might look the same, there could be some key differences. Use this list to help you determine what you need so you can provide the safest working environment for your employees. Gates can be simple, yet effective safety tools. Don’t let the selection of the wrong one be the cause of a tragedy you were trying to protect against.