The Importance of Gates and Access to School Sports Areas
Emily Thompson, Marketing Manager of GateQuote, offers some guidance, and looks at why good and safe access to play and sports areas are essential.
Gates can be used in a variety of ways, mainly outside in a residential or commercial capacity. Ranging from automatic security gates, to a standard driveway gates, there is one important type of gate that often goes unnoticed - gates and access to play and sports areas in schools.
Physical Education and Sport play a very important part in the life of children at school, young people learn more about key values, such as co-operation, teamwork, fair play and respect for themselves and others. Therefore, an effective and safe environment is key to its success. In a school environment, most fencing and gates are used when there is either a need to prevent children straying away from the area, or to keep sports equipment in.
In this post I will offer a few top tips and important considerations to take in when assessing or planning sports gates in school. Firstly, all fencing, gate and access control solutions must be carefully considered to ensure they are compliant with the stringent safety regulations designed to minimise the risk of accidents.
Multi use games areas, designed to accommodate a variety of outdoor court games, are very popular due to saving costs and space. Attention must be given to creating a suitable play surface, as well as the need to provide a safe enclosure for both players and spectators.
It’s a good idea to consider the direction from which students or children will approach the area. Are they coming from a changing room, or a class room? Detours can affect time, and it goes without saying the entry should be convenient.
There should be enough width to allow passage of all equipment and wheelchairs, a minimum of one metre is a good start.
The gates and access, should normally open outward, except when opening outwards may cause a hazard like a road or drive. Another consideration is for the gate not to close quicker than 5 seconds, to give enough time to go through without the gate striking the back of a child, when walking through.
A self-closing mechanism, is a very popular choice to help maintain the gate in a closed position. Mechanisms can vary from a simple spring to offset hinges. Again, it goes without saying that gates should be locked when the area is not it use. It’s important there aren’t any accidents when the area is accessible unsupervised.
Which brings me onto the issue of emergency access. It should be recognised that even in the best regulated area with the best teachers or supervisors, accidents can occur and therefore access for emergency vehicles is essential. An ambulance requires an opening of at least 2.15m and ideally an ambulance should be able to get right up to the area. When gates are the sole means of access to a playing field or larger area, they should be wide enough for an ambulance trolley bed.
Disabled Access is one of the most important features of a gate, the Disability Discrimination Act requires reasonable provision for disabled people. This means that not only should gates be suitable for wheelchairs but also that these should be able to get to the play area unhindered, for example, no gravel paths.
When looking at the issue of safety, there is a lot to consider. It is important that there are no finger or hand traps. This means that there should be a minimum gap of around 12mm between the gate and the posts etc, both sides of the gate. This minimum gap should be maintained throughout the full range of movement of the gate throughout its full arc. Also, there should be no sharp edges or fixings.
Gates should ideally be of a different colour to the fencing to make their location easily identifiable to those with visual impairment.
Gate latches, if present, should be able to be operated from both sides of the gate, and any projecting bars for catches should ideally be mushroomed at the end (These are normally at eye height for a small child). Bigger gates will require extra strong hinge and slam posts. They will also require heavy-duty hinges etc.
Finally, in my opinion, the most important consideration is to ensure that children are supervised at all times when entering and playing inside a gated sporting environment. This is the best way to ensure that gates and access aren’t misused or used dangerously.