UL 325 for Gate Operators: Five Years Later
© 2005 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2005
Author: Joe Hetzel
UL 325 for Gate Operators: Five Years Later
Joe Hetzel, DASMA Technical Director
In March 2000, substantial changes to the gate operator provisions of UL 325 went into effect. The new provisions were primarily intended to improve the ability of an automated vehicular gate system to sense and protect against an individual becoming entrapped by a moving gate.
Now, five years later, the standard remains a voluntary standard nationwide except in the state of Nevada. Did the 2000 provisions truly improve safety? Do manufacturers and installers support the standard? Will the future see more regulation of gate operators?
Seeking answers, we interviewed three notable individuals in the automated vehicular gate system industry who have strongly supported safer systems and conformance to UL 325. We spoke to:
· Jay Fairbanks, vice president, Jamieson Manufacturing, Access Control Division, Houston, Texas
· Brent Nichols, owner, Picasso Gate, Cheyenne, Wyo.
· Janice Mucera, owner, North East Gate Operator Supply, Huntington Station, N.Y.
How did you arrive at your convictions to offer products conforming to UL 325?
Jay: The vast majority of our team has been in the industry a long time, has installed a variety of automated vehicular gate systems, and has seen the potential hazards firsthand. So our convictions were actually already in place.
The UL 325 and ASTM F2200 specifications brought a written set of standards designed to protect people. The standards represent the industry consensus of “best practice,” and we saw them as a positive move for our industry and an opportunity for new products.
Brent: Even before UL 325, one of my main concerns was to install a safe entry system. I was fortunate to be asked to take part in the original UL 325 Ad Hoc Committee in June 1996. My years on the committee reinforced my position to offer and use products that conform and have been tested to the UL 325 standard.
As a professional in the gate industry, I believe that we should provide the safest gate entry system and the maximum security possible for the client. Liability issues are another reason to conform to the standard. UL 325 and the ASTM F2200 standard provide installers with guidelines to install a safe system and should be used by anyone installing entry gate systems.
Janice: In 1989, when I began in this business, most “safety” devices focused on vehicular protection; the human factor and photo beams were seldom an issue. We then often sold a complete automation package that gave the client a better gate system and gave the installers an opportunity to offer more options and thus increase profits.
As the years passed, I read and heard of gate operator incidents that unfortunately resulted in injuries and even deaths. This revelation was unsettling.
Liability should be a major concern for all businesses. I knew that the “complete package” approach would continue to be the best way to limit my clients’ and my liability exposure.
Discussions between manufacturers and UL initiated the process wherein pedestrian safety took precedence over vehicular safety. Photo beams and/or reverse edges were an easy addition to our package concept.
What have you noticed about market response to UL 325-conforming products over the past five years?
Brent: I am not sure if some manufacturers actually tested or just claimed that their products conformed to UL 325. There is a big difference between having a product actually tested and just writing on their literature that they conform.
I will only use products that have been tested to the UL standard. This is just another level of protection for the investment I have in my business.
Janice: The gate operator industry has made great strides in reducing its liability exposure by manufacturing safer gate operators. From our company’s perspective, when we help a dealer design a gate operator system based on the UL 325 guidelines, we rarely get resistance. They understand that we have their best business interests in mind.
Jay: It is slowly changing. Many end users are not knowledgeable at first, but quick to come aboard once informed.
In the industry, most of the major manufacturers have begun to conform. We have noticed greater awareness by the installing dealers and in many cases a sincere desire to install conforming products and systems.
Initially, we lacked many of the products that were needed so the system could conform with the requirements. Products as simple as latches and collectors were not available. That’s no longer an issue.
Where do you think the market will be five years from now?
Janice: I believe the increase of gate operator sales over the Internet can and will undermine the achieved safety strides. Internet gate operator sales rarely include a dialogue about site characteristics and are often driven by price and the desire of the Internet site to move product. The Internet increases the potential for individuals with limited or no gate operator experience to purchase equipment and install it incorrectly.
Gate automation is serious business. Only time will tell if UL 325 guidelines are being recommended and followed by those who purchase gate operators on the Internet.
Jay: As end users become more educated, as master specifications become more inclusive of the safety standards, and as the marketing and sales of conforming products increase, the market for non-conforming products will likely fade. The safety standards will not go backwards or be eliminated; they are here to stay.
Brent: I think in the next five years you will see products continue to evolve into better products. During the first five years, products needed to be reengineered and designed to be safer. These next five years will be used to refine and design products that will also be architecturally pleasing.
As a final note … I stop and inspect many new installations, and I still see a number of systems installed that do not conform to the standards. In these cases, I believe the company that sold or designed the system does not know all the requirements of UL 325 and ASTM F2200.
I also see a problem when property owners disregard UL 325 because of the small added costs. They will call every gate contractor in the phone book to find those that will meet their budget even if it requires not meeting the standards. These property owners and gate contractors are a liability to our industry.
Confronting a Manufacturer
While in Texas in 2004, I saw a gate fabrication shop with some outside displays that really drew my interest. I decided to stop and visit. After introducing myself and getting a tour, we started talking about gates. Many of their gate designs were rolling or sliding gates. None of these gates met UL 325 or ASTM F2200 standards.
I tried to educate them on the responsibility of designing and fabricating conforming gates. It fell on deaf ears. Their response was, “We only build the gates. We don’t put the operators on them.”
I think the only way to stop this is to have a certification program for the people who design and sell vehicular gate systems. This is the only way we can begin to finish the work that UL 325 started.