MRO Magazine

Seven ways to improve industrial door safety


November 14, 2001
By PEM Magazine

Faster forklifts and fast-acting doors are two recent developments that have sped up the flow of people, equipment and materials in plant settings. This trend, however, has not come without a cost — workplace accidents.

Of course, more rapid vehicle travel and faster-acting doors can create safety concerns. If safety takes a back seat during door selection or is neglected after doors are installed, accidents can and will happen. Mishaps fall into four categories:

  • entrapment (person pinned by door),
  • downward impact (door falls on individual),
  • lateral impact (individual collides with door), and
  • secondary impact (door collision causes accident involving other nearby people or equipment).

Accidents like these need not happen at your facility. You can help prevent them by matching doors to your work environment, then installing and maintaining them properly. Here are seven steps to follow for safe industrial door operation.

1. Study the application. Observe your door openings. What do you need to accomplish? How heavy is the vehicle traffic? Do your lift trucks carry large loads? Is vehicle speed near the door opening a concern? Are there blind corners on either side of the door? Do both lift trucks and pedestrians pass through the door? All of these factors should affect your choice of a door and related equipment.


2. Choose the correct door. Make certain the door meets your safety requirements and it is designed for your specific application. Select an adequate cycle-speed to help improve plant efficiency and reduce maintenance requirements. If necessary, choose vision panels large enough for vehicle drivers to clearly see what is on the other side of the door. If you must seal one area of the plant to keep climate-controlled air in or to keep dirt out, look for an effective, full-perimeter seal. Choose a manufacturer who will provide guarantees of product performance.

3. Choose the correct activation system. There are several kinds of door activation devices. Motion detectors, photo-eye sensors, and induction loops activate doors automatically as vehicles approach, thus enabling high-speed travel. Radio controls, pull cords, and push buttons require employees to activate the door and tend to moderate traffic speed. If traffic at an opening tends to be congested, or if both vehicles and pedestrians use the opening, it may be advisable to choose an activation system that controls the direction of vehicle traffic or forces it to slow down.

4. Consider additional safety equipment. Install convex mirrors at blind corners. In high-traffic areas, or where vehicles and pedestrians use the same opening, consider warning devices to alert personnel when the door is about to cycle.

5. Have equipment professionally installed. Safe, efficient performance depends on proper installation. Entrust this job to an industrial door company with local representation that stands behind its work and provides a comprehensive, written warranty.

6. Train your people. Be sure all the people who will use the door understand how it operates. Ask the manufacturer or local representative to conduct a training seminar.

7. Inspect and maintain the equipment. A door appropriately chosen and properly installed needs minimal maintenance. Check the owner’s manual to see what preventitive maintenance must be done, then see that someone does it, on schedule, without exception.

Advances in door safety

In recent years, designers have reworked high-speed doors from the floor up to suit the daily realities of in-plant operation. The result is a range of safety innovations. These include:

Soft-bottom edge. The heavy, solid-metal bottom bar that causes many injuries in door accidents has been replaced by a soft, pliable bottom edge. If the door should descend on a person, the edge simply conforms around him or her, minimizing the dynamic impact forces that can exceed 200 pounds per square inch on hard-edge doors. Similarly, the soft-bottom edge design and omni-directional release system help prevent injury and entrapment if a person walks or drives into the door.

Safety stop. Soft-edge doors replace the trouble-prone reversing edge with an alternate sensing mechanism. Upon impact, an internal sensing system immediately stops the door’s travel without the use of coil cords, batteries, or external electronics. Because the door does not reverse, there are not secondary impacts from the door’s recycling. While a reversing edge activates only upon contact with the bottom of the door, the safety stop system is triggered by separation from any direction. Elimination of rigid members on the face of the door and internalization of wind retention and sensing devices eliminate incidental contact upon impact and avoid secondary accidents from flying debris.

Bi-rolling doors. These centre-opening doors eliminate some of the safety concerns that go with overhead-operating roll-up doors. They offer the fastest opening times and provide immediate, full-height visibility upon activation.

Making a wise investment

Industrial doors represent a substantial investment. You can make it a smart investment by choosing doors ideally suited to your operation. An industrial door specialist can help you select and install doors that delivery years of efficient, reliable performance while ensuring a safer workplace for your employees.

Randy Sibbald is General Manager, Rite-Hite Canada, a provider of loading dock safety equipment and industrial high speed doors. For more information visit or call (888) RITE-HITE.