"Taped-over" presence sensor contributes to automatic-door injuries

June 9, 2011
A woman was injured when automatic doors closed on her as she was entering a big-box store. The immediate and lingering injuries proved these doors operate with appreciable force and that it’s necessary to keep them properly adjusted

A woman was injured when automatic doors closed on her as she was entering a big-box store. The immediate and lingering injuries proved these doors operate with appreciable force and that it’s necessary to keep them properly adjusted.

The woman was entering the store through one of two sets of entrance doors. Each set of doors consisted of a pair of outer doors and a pair of inner doors. Each pair operated by swinging in toward the store interior, away from approaching shoppers. The pairs were separated by a short vestibule.

The outer doors began to open partway as the woman approached them, but then swung rapidly closed as she entered the vestibule. They kept closing after hitting her knee and forehead. One of the woman’s shoulders was squeezed between the two doors. She managed to free it just before the doors pushed her back out onto the sidewalk.

The woman informed store personnel of what had happened, and pointed out the pain in her shoulder and red marks where the door had struck her in the forehead and on her knee. The manager filled out an incident report, but did not attempt to obtain medical care for her or take the doors out of operation.

A review of store records revealed that other customers had previously complained the doors were malfunctioning. However, store management had not taken the doors out of operation after any of those complaints. Nor had they called the company contracted to service the doors.

Instead, an employee had taped over one of the two sensors on the problematic set of doors. The sensor that detects the presence of a person or object in the doors’ swing area was taken out of service while the one that detects motion approaching the door remained active.

The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers (AAADM) publishes a checklist of minimum safety checks store personnel should perform in addition to checks and scheduled maintenance listed in the door owners’ manual. Most importantly, says the AAADM, the door should be taken out of use if it fails any of the safety checks or malfunctions in any way. Any problems should be addressed by a qualified service company, after which the door should be checked by an AAADM-certified inspector.

The woman’s forehead and knee injuries resolved, but she continued to have pain and an electric sensation that radiated between her elbow and shoulder for over a year after the accident. These injuries placed her among the nearly 1,000 people who were hurt over a five-year period by automatic doors in all of the big-box store’s locations. MD

This month’s safety violation comes from the files of Lanny Berke, a registered professional engineer and Certified Safety Professional involved in forensic engineering since 1972. Got a safety violation to share? Send your images and explanations to [email protected].

Edited by Jessica Shapiro

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