Accidents Underscore the "Six-Inch Rule"
© 2004 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2004
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Accidents Underscore the "Six-Inch Rule"
Two recent entrapment accidents should remind all installers that photoelectric eyes must be installed no more than six inches off the ground.
Tragedy in Colorado Springs
On April 20, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that a 4-year-old boy from nearby Cañon City died just hours after being trapped under a garage door.
The incident occurred on April 15 when the boy was reportedly playing alone in his family's garage. The boy had been unattended for about 30 minutes when his mother checked on him and found him face down and trapped under the door.
Pinned down by his shoulders, he apparently couldn't get a breath to call for help. He died that night at the hospital. An autopsy revealed that the boy died from traumatic asphyxiation when the garage door compressed his upper chest.
Police reported that the boy sometimes played with the garage door by pushing the button and trying to run out before it closed. The Gazette story quoted a police officer as saying the garage door's (photo eye) sensors were installed about a foot above the ground.
The story quoted a local garage door dealer's employee who said the sensors should be installed "between 6 and 8 inches from the ground." (He's wrong. Read on.)
Lucky in Mankato
On May 25, an 8-year-old boy in North Mankato, Minn., found himself in a similar situation, but escaped with his life.
According to a news report by KSTP-TV (Minneapolis), the boy tried to slide under his family's garage door when he became stuck under the door. His mother was apparently in the family van and did not see him when she closed the door.
The report indicates the door was equipped with "an electronic sensor," but the boy was beneath the height of the sensor. Not seriously hurt, the boy lived to issue a warning about garage doors to KSTP-TV news: "Don't go by it or play with it."
After the incident, the boy's parents began a campaign to urge everyone to inspect their garage doors and be sure to set their garage door photo eyes "about 4 inches high."
The Right Height
Since Jan. 1, 1993, federal law has required that garage door openers be manufactured with secondary entrapment protection devices. Photoelectric sensors (photo eyes) are the most common means to provide this entrapment protection.
The effectiveness of photoelectric sensors depends on the proper installation of these devices. The technician who installs or services the door and opener system must ensure that photo eyes are installed according to the manufacturer's instructions.
These sensors must be installed no higher than six inches above the garage floor.
If the sensor is installed higher than six inches, "You increase the possibility that someone lying beneath the photo eye, or crawling under the photo eye, will not be detected by the beam," says Barbara Kelkhoff of Chamberlain, chairperson of the DASMA Door Operator Committee.
In addition, the wall pushbutton for garage door openers should be mounted at least five feet above the floor, out of the reach of children. Kelkhoff urges dealers to remind customers that children must never play with the garage door or opener.
If you have any questions about the mounting height of a photoelectric sensor, Kelkhoff recommends that you call the manufacturer of the opener.
Finding the Problem
If a garage door technician discovers that a customer's photo eyes are mounted too high, DASMA Legal Counsel Naomi Angel says the technician should strongly recommend that the photo eyes be lowered to the proper height.
As an extra service to the customer, the dealer could offer to perform this service free of charge, she adds. But if the customer refuses, Angel recommends that the technician document the refusal on the work order, along with the actual height of the photo eyes, and have the customer sign and date the refusal.
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