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Understanding Overhead Door Safety

Overhead garage door

How do I ensure that my overhead door is safe?

Many believe they are doing everything they need to ensure safety because the door they purchased came with a photocell and possibly a reversing edge. In some cases, this may be adequate. However, you should consider how the door is going to be used for that particular application. Try not to think of it as just a door, but as an entry/exit system. Once we change our mindset about this, we can further educate our customers and ensure we’ve done everything in our power to make sure that what we’ve sold will not cause any personal or property damage.

The Reality of Incidents Causing Harm or Damage

The reality is that it’s not very common the installer comes out unscathed in cases of an overhead roll-up door causing injury or damage. Very rarely does it come back to the manufacturer. Not just in the case of us here at TNR® Doors, either. A quick Google search will show that it’s usually the installer that ends up in a lawsuit. So, think of this as a public service announcement to make sure that you are protecting yourself.

The good news is, we can help. Below is a list of the types of questions you should have answered prior to the installation of your entry/exit system. This list is by no means complete, but is meant to get you thinking about what to ask.

Identify the Direction

What direction of traffic will be passing through the opening? Is this strictly an entrance door, an exit door, or an entrance and exit door?

As a manufacturer, we can only make recommendations as to what is supplied with the overhead door. It is ultimately up to the end user to decide how they want to set up their entrance/exit system. However, the installer will often be questioned in the event of an accident as to what was recommended and to see proof of the recommendations.

Most manufacturers will only supply one photocell, unless additional photocells are requested. If you have traffic coming from both directions but only one photocell, then one side of the door won’t have any protection. If you have two-way traffic, both sides of the roll-up door will require equal components and protection.

Types of Traffic

What type of traffic is going to use the door?

Is this an interior pedestrian door, parking garage door, or waste transfer station?

This is important information because a pedestrian may inadvertently step over a low photocell. If the photocell is too close and the door begins to close, the door may not have time to react quickly and avoid the pedestrian. You could consider a presence sensor in addition to a photocell, as it covers a larger area.

In regards to vehicle traffic, a parking garage will have cars with bumpers approximately 18” from the ground, whereas a waste transfer station will have large trucks with a bumper height much higher than that of a car, therefore you wouldn’t put the photocell at the same height.

The photocell should pick up the leading edge of the vehicle. If its 6” off the ground, a large truck will be a few feet into the opening before the tire connects with the photocell. You should also factor in the various speeds that vehicles will be travelling at.

You should also ensure that the overhead door has enough time to reverse and get out of the way, especially if a driver doesn’t take the speed of the door into consideration. The installation of speed bumps can encourage drivers to travel at a slow, safe speed and help prevent accidents.

Closing Techniques

Is the door going to close automatically via a timer, a momentary close signal or constant pressure?

If your overhead door is going to close in constant pressure mode, meaning you must hold your finger on the close button, then the person is the safety device. It’s completely up to them to watch the door close.

They will require training for this role, because they may not be aware of their role in safely closing the door. If the door closes in any way other than constant pressure, then the user really needs to pay close attention to the items above, as they are the only source of control for the door.

Identify the Users

Who is going to be using the door?

For applications including factories, mines, warehouses, and the like, you can always provide training for door operation and have personnel sign off. It’s very important to have a paper trail, especially regarding safety measures and procedures.

Now, that’s if you have a customer who understands the importance of this. If they don’t understand, or if the public will be using the overhead door, be sure to offer warning devices such as traffic lights, horns, and beacons. And just like with the safety devices, be aware of which direction the traffic is coming from. If you have two-way traffic, be sure to install all of the same warning devices on each side of the door.

The warning devices can be programmed to turn on prior to the door closing, to give advanced warning of the doors movement. If the customer decides that these are unnecessary, be sure to document that.

The questions above are not all encompassing and may not be right for every application. They are simply meant as a guideline to get you into the right frame of mind when looking at how to properly set up an entry/exit system.

Although there is extra cost involved and from time to time you may encounter customers who don’t want to spend the extra money on safety, it can be beneficial to form a sales perspective where you aren’t forcing it on them. Always be sure to document that you’ve explained to the customer what they need and why they need it. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if an accident does happen, then you’re covered. At the end of the day, it’s their money and their responsibility to make their property safe. For more information, contact our team of experts at TNR® Doors today.

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