Automated garage doors are very convenient to use and most modern property owners have become accustomed to them. However, like all automated devices, they do carry some risk. Until the early 1990s, these risks weren’t really taken into consideration. During the 70s and 80s, garage door safety regulations were very lax and didn’t set the best standards when it comes to manufacturing and operation of these features.
Previous risks from garage doors before new standards
One of the biggest risks with automated garage doors is entrapment. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission received 54 reports of children of age 2 to 14 becoming trapped under the automated garage door and sustaining fatal injuries between 1982 and 1990. This compelled the commission to take the matter of garage door safety seriously and enact measures to ensure the doors were safer.
Until that point, there were no set industry standards and very few guidelines provided to manufacturers to help prevent garage door entrapment. While the technology to help prevent these situations had already been developed, manufacturers weren’t obligated to add them to their products.
The new garage door safety standards
Entrapment protection requirements were introduced through the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 1990 and were applicable to all automatic garage door-opening systems manufactured on and after January 1, 1993. The new safety standard introduced a range of protections and instructions to help ensure the automated garage door opening systems were safer to use. These safety standards included the following points:
- All doors manufactured on and after January 1993 had to undergo testing and live up to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Standard for Safety, UL 325. These standards have been revised by UL a few times after the original standards were introduced in the early 1990s. The latest 6th edition safety standards are applicable for garage doors manufactured after 2015.
- All doors should have either a photo eye or a constant contact button to ensure safe operation of the garage doors. The electric or photo eye senses movement and obstacles in the door’s path and automatically halts the door operation. Some garage doors reverse immediately and go back to their original fully-open position.
- The constant contact button requires someone to continuously press the garage door button by the garage door to operate it. If the garage door button isn’t pressed, the door will immediately stop working and reverse back to its original fully open position. With this system, you can open the door with the remote control but need to press the button to close it.
- All garage door openers need to provide a clear warning sticker informing users of the potential entrapment hazard. This sticker can be applied next to the garage door opening system to ensure users are always aware of it.
- All garage door opener manufacturers are also required to register and maintain records. They need to manufacture products that live up to the latest UL safety standards to ensure the customers aren’t harmed.
These standards and regulations are a big improvement on the relative ambiguity of the garage door safety standards during the 70s and 80s. The technology was too new for people to recognize the risks involved but that’s no longer the case. Garage door opener manufacturers are constantly refining their technology and making these structures safer and more secure.
Most modern garage doors use sophisticated and efficient photo eyes to ensure there’s no obstacle in the door’s path. That’s one of the reasons why experts recommend replacing garage door openers that are more than 15 years old because modern openers are safer to use.