Gate Opener Safety
One of the most important considerations you will have, when looking at automatic gate operators, is that of SAFETY.
The fact of the matter is that under Federal Law 29 CFR 1910.399, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all electrical equipment used in employee workplaces be listed, labeled,
and system-certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). The equipment in question must meet all applicable product safety standards which, for gate operators,
would be UL 325 Fifth Edition. This means that without exception, all gate operators and gate operating equipment destined for employee workplaces must be tested and certified to the specifications of UL 325.
While compliance to the revised standard remains voluntary for residential applications, it is important to note that in certain situations (a gardening service on the premises,
a routine maintenance visit by an HVAC professional) OSHA may consider a residential environment a workplace environment - transferring the same legal requirements and liability to what was believed to be an "indemnified" gate system.
In addition, given the recent scrutiny of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it is highly likely that the standard will eventually become mandatory for residential applications. So, for the moment, while residential systems' compliance to UL 325 certainly makes excellent business sense from a liability perspective,
in business settings it is the absolute letter of the law as far as OSHA is concerned.
What is a UL Standard? UL standards are voluntary standards that establish minimum requirements and are developed via an open, nonexclusionary process. The purpose of this process is to gain a wider acceptance of a specific standard. The canvass process typically includes interested individuals and organizations that may have direct or material interest in a particular standard. UL 325 is one of the standards that have attained the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) designation.
How is UL 325 Used? UL 325 is used as a basis to test products at a nationally recognized testing laboratory. All GTO gate operators have been tested and found to be in compliance with the UL 325 standard, 5th edition, therefore, they are “Listed” and have received a “Mark.”
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., a not-for profit organization established in 1894, is self-described as “the leading third-party certification organization in the United States and the largest in North America.
(Gate, Operators and Systems) makes explicit considerations for the entrapment of persons in automatic gate systems.
These revisions mandate specific requirements of gate operator installers, distributors and manufacturers with serious repercussions in liability and potential legal recourse.
But what exactly these repercussions are and to whom they apply has been the subject of substantial controversy and considerable contradictory information now circulates throughout the industry.
The Straight Facts About Gate Operator Compliance
Simply put, a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) is an independent laboratory accredited by OSHA to test products to the specifications of all applicable recognized product safety standards - such as those from UL and other standards-writing bodies. Their function is to provide an independent evaluation, testing and certification of any electrically operated product. Intertek Testing Services, NA, (ITS) which issues the ETL Product Safety Certification Mark, is recognized as an NRTL in the United States and, in a similar capacity, as a Certifying Organization (CO) in Canada and a Notified Body in Europe.
In the midst of the industry's confusion, many distributors, manufacturers and end users may not be aware that under the provisions of Federal Law 29 CFR 1910.399, OSHA requires gate operators to be certified compliant to UL 325 for employee workplaces. As experts in the field of product safety testing and certification, an NRTL like ITS possesses the unparalleled knowledge of current product safety standards to ensure that the products you manufacture, distribute or install are in full compliance - protecting your assets and mitigating your liability. In addition to required testing for UL 325 compliance, it is important to note that dealers installing gate operators should be aware that The National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) may also require that electrical equipment, such as gate operators or light fixtures, be NRTL approved. An OSHA-accredited NRTL can be a powerful ally - safeguarding your business and protecting you from unwarranted blame.
As proof that a product has been tested and certified to the specifications of accepted standards, NRTLs issue Certification Marks to product manufacturers. A single NRTL can provide many different certification marks, with differing levels of significance for each. ITS' ETL Listed Mark is denoted by the word "listed" appearing directly below the letters within the Mark. A control number can also be found directly below the word "listed" along with an indication of the standard to which the product has been tested and certified. This Mark, along with other means of identification, will identify gate operator hardware and components as being listed for their applicable use.
Some manufacturers may claim that their products comply with UL 325 Fifth Edition, but unless certified by an independent NRTL they cannot bear the appropriate Certification Mark. The United States currently offers no options for manufacturers to "self certify" their products. In addition to the initial product evaluation conducted by the NRTL, manufacturers must agree to follow-up inspections of their manufacturing process every 90 days to ensure ongoing compliance with the standard.
Given the confusion over this issue, it is extremely important that all involved parties understand the consequences of installing, manufacturing, or distributing unlisted/uncertified gate operator hardware for employee workplaces. Recent injuries and fatalities have brought great attention to the industry and given the severity of these incidents it is highly unlikely that this scrutiny will subside. In a July 27, 1999 memorandum, the CPSC reports that from 1990-1998 an estimated 6,800 injuries (or 755 injuries per year) were related to automatic gates. Among those incidents, there were 28 automatic gate-related deaths during the same time period, involving victims from 17 months to 60 years old.
The penalties for non-compliance? Under Federal Law 29 CFR 1910.399 Section 17A, OSHA has the authority to impose a fine of $70,000 per piece of non-certified equipment, and under Section 17E OSHA may impose a jail sentence of up to six months. Section 17G allows additional fines and even imprisonment for parties found guilty of false certification. And what's more, these fines and penalties set in motion a sequence of litigation cascading from the end user to the original equipment manufacturer. One way or another, everyone pays the price for non-compliance. With the threat of such heavy fines and penalties, it is in the best interests of all fence and gate professionals to protect themselves from liability and understand the immediate ramifications of UL 325 Fifth Edition.
To minimize your liability, reduce the risk of local inspector rejections and ensure compliance with all OSHA federal laws, your system specifications should require NRTL system certification to UL 325 Fifth Edition. To ensure the highest level of protection, your system components should be tested, certified, listed and labeled by the original equipment manufacturer before they leave the production facility. Anything less unnecessarily jeopardizes both your business and the individuals who use your products. For additional information please visit the ITS web site at www.etlsemko.com
Avoid the Nightmare of Being Sued