15 YEARS AGO: New Federal Law Targets Garage Door Openers

© 2007 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2007
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 56


New Federal Law Targets Garage Door Openers

On Jan. 1, 1993, the residential garage door opener (GDO) business forever changed. After that date, words like “photo-eye,” “UL 325,” and “out of alignment” became part of the daily vocabulary of every garage door dealer in America.

That date became significant on Nov. 16, 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 1990. One of the provisions of the Act required all residential GDOs to be able to reverse on contact with an obstruction after Jan. 1, 1991.

But, after Jan. 1, 1993, the Act essentially required Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to determine an appropriate device that would provide a secondary level of entrapment protection. Photoelectric eyes or safety edges were expected to be the approved technologies.

One Fateful Day

The rage to legislate GDO safety goes back to one fateful day in 1988 in Minnesota. On Oct. 5, 1988, two separate garage door accidents claimed the lives of two children in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

It was rare enough for one fatal garage door accident to occur anywhere. It was extremely rare for two such accidents to occur on the same day anywhere in the nation. But these two fatal accidents occurred in the same city on the same day.

Legislation at Light Speed

The accidents immediately attracted a storm of media attention. And politicians were watching.

On Feb. 26, 1990, GDO safety legislation (requiring an external reversing mechanism) was introduced into the Minnesota general assembly. With amazing speed and no opposition, the bill sailed unanimously through the Minnesota House and Senate. On April 9, 1990, a mere 43 days after introduction, the bill was signed into Minnesota state law.

A few weeks later, on May 8, 1990, Congressman Gerry Sikorski of Minnesota introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives in an effort to establish a national law. Six months later, on Nov. 16, 1990, Sikorski’s bill was signed into law.

Time to React

The federal law gave UL until June 1, 1992, to draft UL 325 amendments that would require external entrapment protection on GDOs. UL responded on Dec. 31, 1991, publishing a new standard that allowed photoelectric eyes or edge sensors to provide the mandated secondary entrapment protection.

The federal law also gave manufacturers time to retool GDOs so that operation would require an external entrapment protection device. Manufacturers complied, and the new units were rolling out on Jan. 1, 1993.

Dealers, too, were affected. In the months before Jan. 1, 1993, and thereafter, dealers developed installation and service procedures that not only provided better protection for consumers but also provided better liability protection for dealers.


The rest, as they say, is history.