Danger! Is Your Contractor Cutting Corners on Motorized Rolling Door Safety Features?

Beware sign

When it comes to incorporating security doors into your project, safety is a key consideration. It’s especially important with overhead rolling doors that include operators (motors) that open and close the door automatically.

You certainly don’t want your client’s facility to be associated with a tragedy, or leave your client in a position of liability. Additionally, you as the architect or dealer should beware that you could leave yourself open to litigation.

Motorized doors work so reliably that it’s easy to forget that they can be dangerous. In June 2014, actor Harrison Ford was seriously injured by an overhead closing door on the set of Star Wars: the Force Awakens. The resulting legal case meant that the production company who built and operated the door had to pay about $2 million to compensate Ford for his broken leg and other injuries.

As of August 2010, all operators installed in the US have to have Underwriters Laboratory (UL) 325 certification.

But in spite of the new safety regulations, some installers still try to circumvent the safety features. In this article, we’ll take a look at what the UL 325 safety features are, why they help your end users, and how you can avoid the type of contractor who will do a bad installation.

What Does UL 325 Require?

First, let’s take a high level look at what the regulations require. Commercial doors require one of the three following sets of safety features:

  1. Doors need to have constant activation to continue closing – in other words, the user has to keep holding the switch to close the door. No more pressing a button and walking away while closure proceeds unsupervised.
  2. There has to be a monitored sensing device that will automatically reverse the door if it hits anything while closing. This can be a photo eye sensor, or a touch-sensitive edge on the bottom of the door, or even both.
  3. A 3-button control station, as long as the motor doesn’t have automated closure, the controls are located within sight of the door, and the door is controlled by the 3-button station only. In other words, the person closing the door needs to be able to see if anyone or anything is in the door’s path.

We also recommend a release feature that will disengage the operator if anything goes wrong. With our doors, this usually takes the form of a flush-mounted release handle that is within reach of a person in a wheelchair (so it’s ADA compliant).

Other safety recommendations include:

  • Mounting the door key and switch at least 6 feet from the actual door, so that it’s not possible to reach through the grille to operate the door.
  • If the door is used for cars, separate the pedestrian access entirely.
  • Add warning signs on both sides of the area surrounding the door.
  • Advise clients that door may not be closed while people are inside the secured space. This is a fire safety issue.
  • We also recommend ensuring your door includes an emergency escape feature, again, in case of fire.

Need more information about UL 325?

Why Do Safety Features Become Compromised?

It seems crazy to skimp on safety when the consequences can be so serious, but there are two main reasons why safety features on rolling doors get circumvented.

  1. They were never installed correctly or fully tested. Effectively, the safety mechanisms never work from the beginning. We’ll talk about that more below.
  2. They are deliberately disabled. Some end users find the safety features inconvenient. Waiting for a door to close can take time, and employees or employers may be tempted to remove working safety features. If you have the electronic know-how, working safety features can be removed.

While you can’t do anything about the second scenario, there is a lot you can and should do about the first.

How to Protect Yourself Against Shoddy Installations

The construction market is a highly competitive one, and often it’s the lowest bid that wins. But don’t be dazzled by unrealistically low price quotes, because they may be the result of an intention to do less actual work on your site to make the numbers add up.

If a contractor cuts corners during installation and testing, it’s not unheard of for architects and dealers to have to pay the price. Owners can be angry if they feel cheated, and may not care whose “fault” it actually is. They will come after whoever they can get to make financial reparations, and legal action is not unheard of.

As the architect, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and your client:

  1. When the bid goes out to tender, only accept bids from qualified providers. Make sure the contractor is fully insured, and has the resources and up front funding to start the project properly. Ensure they understand the scope and specifications. Look for past experience with similar projects, and talk to past clients.
  2. Ask strong candidates to whom they intend to subcontract the electrical wiring and door operator installation. The main wiring needs to be done by a licensed electrician, and the operator installation needs to be done by an experienced professional. This DASMA article by veteran commercial door operator technician Roy Bardowell shows you exactly what to look for in an installer. Check company names and reputations online.
  3. During construction, do frequent inspections and document all issues in your deficiency lists. Take photographs so the contractor knows exactly what you mean, and so you have proof. Don’t just wait until the end, where issues can be hidden behind a smooth wall and fresh coat of paint.
  4. Build clauses into the contract that make payment contingent on satisfactory work, as it’s harder to get corrections made after the contractor has been paid.
  5. Add a warranty or maintenance period into the construction contract. Two years is a typical timeframe.

What to Do if You’re the Victim of a Bad Contractor

If you and your client have been taken for a ride by a contractor that doesn’t fulfill their obligations, fight back! With a little bit of time and effort you can effectively run them out of town. This DASMA article by media consultant Tom Wadsworth shows you how.

Ensure Years of Safe Use of Your Retail Space

As it’s often been said, in the long run it’s easier to take the time to do the job right in the first place. To ensure your client gets a fully functional, safe space and that you get a satisfying completion to your project, do your due diligence.

To view more information about our operator recommendations, visit our Motors and Accessories page.
View Our Rolling Door Motor Recommendations


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