Is it required that access doors in safety fencing always open to the outside?


This is not required directly in generic safety standards or the Machinery Directive. However, EN 528 for rail dependent storage and retrieval equipment requires this.
In building construction this also is a requirement; doors in escape routes must always open toward the safe area (generally outward from a hazardous area or to the outside of the building).


For machinery this is a part of the risk assessment. Consider the following:

  • Is it possible to walk into and inside the machine or system? If a person could stay inside the fenced-in area, he/she could be endangered in there.
  • Are there permanent hazards inside the fenced-in area or could a hazard come up while a person is inside? In many cases this cannot be completely excluded; even when machinery has been shut down, maintenance work may cause hazard, forcing a person to leave the fenced-in area quickly.
  • If the doors in a safety fence may be considered escape doors, based on the answers to the above questions,, they should open to the outside. And even more importantly: If the door is held closed by a guard lock that prevents opening, a so-called “escape release” must be fitted to allow opening the door from inside at any time.

But what to do, if there is no space to allow the door to open to the outside?
Then there must be enough space inside the hazard zone to open the door safely and quickly toward the inside. Normally, sliding doors should not be used as escape doors. However, if there are space constraints such doors may have to be used and should then also be fitted with a lock or safety switch allowing escape release.

Plan for an escape route width of at least 650 mm (better 800 to 1000 mm). If it’s not possible for space constraints, you will need to install equipment allowing safe detection of persons inside the hazard zone. Such equipment must switch any hazard off when persons are detected inside (pressure-sensitive mats, laser scanners, etc.). Another alternative is to install safety switches including a key transfer system, that reliably prevents restart of the machinery, as long as any of the doors has not been locked from outside with the key.

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