Manual gate risks for children


A young child left with life-long scarring to his head following an accident this week involving a manual gate with a spring-loaded closing mechanism* represents a sobering reminder of the urgent need to regularly risk assess all gates, especially those in a setting likely to attract young children.

The incident occurred in a play park in Devonport, Plymouth, after the four-year old boy pushed the gate, only for it to spring back with force, causing one of the bolts on either side of the latch to inflict a deep puncture wound to the forehead.

Whilst the council that owns the park insisted that all playgrounds are inspected weekly to ensure all equipment is safe and free from damage, Gate Safe suggests that the reality is that the original installation of this gate clearly conflicts with best practice.

Such gates should never be fitted with a spring closing mechanism, rather the opening and closing of the device should be controlled for example with a gate closer. Had a risk assessment of the intrinsic design of the gate been undertaken when the gate was originally specified, the architect / specifier should have recognised the hazard associated with any sharp edges or protruding handles / latches and therefore should have taken steps to either identify an alternative gate or modified the current gate to ensure such risks were eliminated from the device. In this instance, a simple knob on the bolt would have helped to remove the offending protrusion. A clear example of this would be if Bow Top Fencing is specified, the specification should be for a design which features pales that have been adjusted to eliminate any risk of a child’s neck becoming trapped in between the pales. Finally, the risk assessment should have addressed the need to be aware of finger traps and the presence of any potential hinges with a‘guillotine’ effect, which are capable of causing serious injury and even loss of finger tips (see

*For more info on this week’s tragic accident in Plymouth visit

For more guidance on manual gates, visit