MANUAL SWING BARRIER GATE INJURIES
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By Michael Panish, Door & Gate Expert Witness
MANUAL SWING BARRIER GATES – More dangerous than you would think.
Why have so many injuries occurred? What are the reasons why these innocuous
common devices have become life changing instruments of despair?
Over the past several years I have been retained to offer expert opinions
regarding barrier arm injuries. Many people have become injured from unrestrained
pivoting barrier arms that are used to stop access into parking lots,
pedestrian or vehicular paths or driveways. Some of these injuries have
resulted in fatalities due to the ends of these barrier arms puncturing
windshields of the cars as occupants of these cars were instantly and
abruptly impacted. The injuries occurred to both the driver and passengers.
WHY DO THESE INJURIES OCCUR?
These horrifying injuries are typically the result of inappropriate or
missing devices that should have been part of the barrier arm fabrication
and installation. Padlocks and chains that are used to connect mating
arms are very effective in controlling manual swinging gates and are low
in cost but are often not utilized. In some cases, the safety devices
originally fabricated into the arm design have failed or been vandalized
when unauthorized users damaged the components to enter a restricted area.
Most of the barrier arms involved in an injury incident that I have inspected
had non-functioning limiting devices or did not have those devices engaged
or in use at the time of the injury incident. In other claims, authorized
but untrained users failed to properly secure these gates and due to windy
conditions, the arms swung into the path of travel of a vehicle prior
to or as it was entering a parking lot area. Serious blunt force injuries
from these swinging barricades are commonplace and associated deaths are
Injuries due to these untethered barriers have occurred on inclined driveways
where a vehicle has crested a road only to have the metal arm abruptly
enter the vehicle passenger compartment. In other cases, an incorrectly
restrained swinging arm placed at a crossing entry or exit point of a
parking area has inflicted life threatening injuries on occupants of cars,
trucks and golf carts.
On pedestrian, motorcycle, snowmobile and bicycle pathways newly installed
barrier arms have caused severe injuries to long time pathway users when
cross pathway arms have been encountered as a complete surprise without
WHEN DO THESE INJURIES OCCUR?
These unseen obstacles are like booby traps that have killed pedestrians,
motorcycle riders, snowmobilers, bicyclists and have destroyed motor vehicles
and inflicted life-threatening injuries to their occupants when bluntly
encountered in the dark. Many injuries occur in broad daylight as the
end of these barrier arms present such a small visual profile that a driver
of a car, biker, cyclist or pedestrian cannot discern the end of the barrier
arm from the surrounding terrain.
Sometimes the failure to see these pathway obstructions is the result of
an unpainted condition. Sometimes the barrier arm is intentionally painted
to blend into the surroundings so that it does not appear as an eye sore
in a natural setting. Other times unrestrained arms swing directly into
the path of travel without warning due to wind or rain forces.
FAILURE TO PROPERLY SECURE THE BARRIER ARM
In some claims the pivot pole that mounts and grounds the barrier arm is
out of plumb and gravity moves the unrestrained barrier arm out of a fully
open position. Early American sailing ships often placed cabin door frames
out of plumb to keep cabin doors closed without any mechanical devices.
The deferred or damaged out of level pivot pole causes the gate arms to
swing when unrestrained. The out of plumb pivot point acts much like the
ships door frame that is inclined. This along with other forces causes
barrier arms to move and not always in the desired fully open or fully
closed direction. Lack of oversight and maintenance of many barrier arms
can lead to dangerous conditions that have injured many people.
In general, the unsecured condition of these swinging gates has existed
due to intentional abuse and vandalism, design and fabrication defects
or deferred conditions due to lack of maintenance and repair.
AN IMPACT CAN HAPPEN WITH NO ADVANCE WARNING
Impacts associated with an untethered barrier arm have caused car roofs
and windshields to be sheared completely off a moving vehicle. Front and
rear side glass and rear windshield windows of vehicles and some trucks
have been impaled as a result of an unrestrained moving barrier arm. Motorcycle
and bicyclists have been struck due to the unseen obstruction as they
are riding along an established and familiar pathway that suddenly has
a new barrier arm installed. Joggers have become injured as a result of
the sudden appearance of a barrier arm as they are running along a pedestrian
path that had a newly installed swing arm that was unrestrained and lacked
any visual differences from the surrounding area.
Barrier arm injuries and deaths have occurred on public and private properties.
They seem to be an unpredictable occurrence, but actually are the result
of negligent management of these devices. In many cases there are no advance
warnings placed to alert pedestrians, bikers or vehicles of the potential
If a newly installed cross pathway barrier arm was painted or taped with
reflective distinguishing markings to differentiate the arm from the surrounding
location, many of these serious injuries could be avoided.
When warning signage has been placed in advance of some new gate locations
those signs have not always been visible to pathway users.
In most claims, the protrusion or sudden appearance of a barrier arm is
unexpected and unpredictable leaving no time for the future injured party
to react and take the needed action to avoid contact with the obstruction.
MAINTENANCE & REPAIRS TO PROTECT THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Owners or property managers that use these types of barrier arms to secure
locations often fail to make needed repairs to damaged restraint mechanisms
that are critical to the safety of the public. They pay little attention
to the barrier arms and think that if they are placed in an open or closed
position without restraint will stay in those positions. In one recent
case the owner of the property thought that the barrier arm was so rusted
into position that it would not swing freely. For that reason alone, he
did not do anything to secure the movement of the barrier arm, and a woman
suffered life threatening head and neck injuries as a result of his inattention.
Vandalism that occurs in public and private locations creates dangerous
deferred conditions that have led to serious and fatal injury incidents.
Children playing upon these arms, using them like a public park ride often
climb onto these swing arms and when through playing on them have left
them in a position that has become a dangerous condition to others that
are unaware that the barrier arm is in their path of travel.
Sometimes newly installed barrier arms are placed without any restraints
as owners position these arms from kits that they purchased on the internet.
Some owners or managers do not recognize the potentially dangerous condition
that these unrestrained swing arms can create. In other cases, professional
installers failed to properly design and fabricate an appropriate locking
mechanism to limit the travel of these pivoting products.
There are many methods that can be used to secure barrier arms so that
they remain in an intended fixed position. Most of these methods are inexpensive
to install or retrofit. Maintenance and observation by the owner or management
of the property where these manual barrier arms are installed is essential
to ensure the safety of the general public.
Below are a few example photos showing types of restraints that are considered
industry accepted devices to positively lock the position of swinging
Manual Barrier Gate injuries occur frequently. These injuries are often
the result of deferred maintenance and lack of attention. Missing padlocks,
chains or other retaining hardware are inexpensive and easy to replace
yet most injuries occur because the manager or owner of the property has
failed to pay any attention to the swing arm restraints. The property
owner that has an installed swing arm has a duty to protect the safety
of all invitees onto the property. Failing to maintain any moving parking
lot control is negligent and can result in a life-threatening injury or death.
For further information regarding requirements for manual swing vehicle
barrier gates, parking control arms, and other access injury issues such
as overhead and sliding gates contact Sharon at 888-902-4272 and visit
www.ConstructionWitness.com. If you would like to discuss a case with
Mike Panish, he will speak to you immediately. He has been retained on
over 1,600 cases to date since the year 2000 and has been the retained
expert on manual barrier gates and parking control arm cases across the country.
Mr. Panish has been called upon to discuss installation conditions prior
to new construction and help the owner determine the best way to accomplish
their desired goals.
Michael Panish is the nationally recognized and first choice expert for
all types of door, gate, and hardware injuries. He provides expert services
for both plaintiff and defense and has over 35 years of practical hands-on
experience in installation and fabrication of parking lot and barrier
arm systems. He offers expert services for manual and automatic gates
and door systems of all makes and manufacture.
Copyright - Michael Panish, Constructionwitness.com 3/20/2020
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