The Evolution of the “Pinch Standard”

© 2003 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2003
Author: Naomi R. Angel
Page 60

The Evolution of the “Pinch Standard”

Naomi R. Angel, DASMA Legal Counsel

DASMA 116, a voluntary standard strongly supported by DASMA, requires residential garage doors to have either (1) pinch-resistant section joints or (2) interior and exterior lift handles or other suitable gripping points. One handle must be placed on the bottom section within six inches of the bottom edge, and the other must be installed 20-30 inches directly above it.

Many of the new handles are horizontally oriented. This is acceptable, but only if the handle is placed four or more inches away from a section joint. If the handle is within four inches of a section joint, the handle must “promote vertical orientation of the hand.”

Many dealers have asked questions about how DASMA 116 developed. Here is a chronology of the key events that resulted in this standard.

How It Happened

October 1996
CPSC’s (Consumer Product Safety Commission) Office of Compliance sends an inquiry letter to garage door industry manufacturers. The CPSC is investigating reports of finger injuries when consumers operated garage doors manually. DASMA tells CPSC that industry’s data demonstrates the safety of its products.

March 1997
CPSC’s Office of Hazard Identification & Reduction sends a letter to DASMA, classifying the finger injury situation as a “hazard.” The CPSC recommends that DASMA draft a standard “to address these serious finger injuries.”

April 1997
DASMA leadership meets with CPSC in Washington, D.C., to understand and clarify what corrective action CPSC is suggesting. CPSC staff believes the number of finger injuries has been underreported. They press DASMA to generate a voluntary effort to design the hazard out of the section interface.

April 1997
Two weeks later, CPSC staff attends DASMA meeting in Cincinnati and pushes for a new standard for pinch resistance and for corrective action on doors without pinch resistance (e.g. handles and warning labels). After the meeting, DASMA forms a Task Force and levies a $150,000 special assessment on DASMA members to fund the necessary efforts to meet CPSC’s demands.

May 1997
DASMA hires an independent expert to do in-depth statistical analysis of CPSC’s injury data.

June 1997
DASMA receives the in-depth statistical analysis from the independent expert. The analysis shows that injury rates for section-related finger entrapment do not appear to be significant (0.7 injuries for every 10,000 garage doors in use). The analysis further demonstrates that the average severity level of injuries is low (2.4 on a scale of 8.0).

July 1997
DASMA meets with CPSC in Washington, D.C., and presents the injury analysis report of the independent expert. DASMA recommends a general educational campaign concerning safe use and maintenance of garage doors. The CPSC rejects DASMA’s recommendation and tells DASMA to develop a voluntary standard, or CPSC will develop one for the industry and/or impose mandatory compliance. Shortly following the meeting, DASMA begins development of the DASMA 116 standard.

October 1999
CPSC sends a letter pressing DASMA to “...ensure that handles will be used on all garage doors that rely on handles…” The letter further urges DASMA to eventually phase out the handles in favor of pinch-resistant section joints.

June 2000
DASMA completes and approves DASMA 116. DASMA sets an effective date of July 1, 2001.

Today, CPSC continues to investigate reported injuries, gathering data from manufacturers and closely monitoring the entire industry for conformance to DASMA 116.

The entire industry’s message must be clear and consistent. If the product doesn’t have a pinch-resistant joint, thoroughly explain to customers the reasons for handles. Mention that all doors, at some time, must be operated manually. Educate the uninformed consumer about the improved safety benefits gained through conformance to DASMA 116.

If the customer absolutely refuses to allow installation of handles or insists on removing them, have the customer sign a Liability Release form, but only as a last resort. Safety, education, and conformance must be your goal.

With the increases in the number of pinch-resistant doors and the number of attractive handles for non-pinch-resistant doors, the industry appears to be moving toward substantial conformance to DASMA 116.

For more information on the development of the so-called “pinch standard,” attend the next DASMA seminar on “Getting a Grip on the Section Interface Standard.”

This article is provided solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about a legal issue, consult your company’s legal counsel for guidance.