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The increasing deaths from gates with rail that no one is talking about


A friend of mine told me about an incident that led to the death of the son of his security man a couple of months ago. This was a man that had worked for him for about a decade and had become part of his family. The trauma of the incident was unbearable as he narrated the incident to me. The poor kid had gone to help out with opening the gate when it skidded off the rail and fell on the boy. The gate is the type that rolls on a rail. Some people also incorporate remote control on such gates for ease of operation. I thought it was a one-off incident until about a month ago when another friend of mine called and said that his little boy was in the teaching hospital undergoing treatment from multiple fractures he incurred when their gate fell on him. I enquired on the type of gate, and he confirmed it was that same type with rails.

Connecting the dots, I raised alarm immediately on Mr.Zuckerberg’s platform, and before you know it, testimonies started pouring in! A friend narrated how the wife and daughter were saved by their SUV which took the bashing from the falling gate. My brother narrated how the gate fell on his friend’s two kids in Abuja. One of the kids, a primary 5 pupil had died from injuries sustained as at the time he was reporting to me. Several others narrated similar stories and at the last count, at least five people had died and several others sustained serious injuries from this gate.

With my busy body, I put the topic on the table with a number of my colleagues in the office. While some knew about the issue, some others had gone ahead to evaluate the structural integrity of the design and had taken measure to ensure they are not victims.

Interestingly, this gate design is mostly used by the privileged in the society, though the killings from it have not been restricted to them alone. Anyone can be cut up when the damn thing malfunctions. On a critical look, it appears the failing mode is mainly skidding off from the rail, and when there is no fail safe hook at the top to withhold the heavy plates from falling. Some of the design is such that as the gate rolls from one end to the other, it could get to a point the whole plate exits the hook at the beginning which should serve as a support. In this instance, the gate can fall even without skidding off the rails.

With my quest to ensure safety of my few friends, I have gone to check out the design of a few of them to certify them in the absence of any standards organization of Nigeria’s (SON) awareness or action. In the first case I inspected, the gate was properly designed and my Team agreed that in no circumstance can the gate fall over from either rail derailment or plate exit from its supporting hooks. His rail is designed to be in a valley like structure such that it is impossible for the rails to come off. The plates are also long enough that when the gate rolls to the end, there are some additional plates that the whole body does not exit the hook at the beginning.

Unfortunately, the only people that may have done something near inspection of gate designs in our houses trivialize the issue. Here, I am talking about all the “fencing” permits the local government folks have been collecting from “Adam”. Another check could have been that fence and gate designs be incorporated as part of the building plan approval. Unfortunately, our building plans approval do not consider the fencing and gate designs even though the budget for some peoples fence are more than required for the house.

The most important control in my view is the control standards of our artisans, be it carpenters, cabinet makers, bricklayers, masons, iron benders, mechanics etc. As much as I know, there is currently no certification of our artisans nor their products. All man for himself is the game in our land. And even when there is, Nigerian’s will rather patronize the local uncertified ones to bring down costs as we hardly appreciate labour.

I believe it is time we start organizing our artisans and start putting structures in place to ensure safety and quality of their products, and not compromise as it’s done in other climes. In the mean time if you have the type of gate in question, kindly do some checks and be sure it is safe to avoid stories that touch.

Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com and p_obidike@yahoo.com

Sunday 12th May 2019


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