On A sunny Saturday in September 2018, the Gadways washed their garage floor and then left their garage door open about 8 inches above the ground so that the floor could air dry. Later, when Mrs. Gadway used her garage door opener remote to open the garage door the rest of the way, the garage door rolled closed, killing the families beloved 11-year-old dog, in front of both her and her young son.
Heartbroken, the Gadways could not understand why the safety eyes on their garage door failed to detect their dog in the doorway. Later they discover that the garage door company who installed their garage door opener improperly installed the safety eye sensors at 16 inches above the floor instead of the required 6 inches.
Since the safety eyes are unable to detect any object that is too low to break the safety eyes electric beam, the eyes were unable to detect the family’s small dog. Had the eyes been properly installed, the dog would have been saved and the Gadways would still have had their beloved pet.
This tragic event brings home the need for strict garage door repair regulations and the reason behind garage door safety regulations. It’s also points out the need for people to have their garage door regularly, checked maintained and repaired.
How Garage Door Opener Repair Safety Regulations Became Law
When automatic garage door openers first hit the market, they were considered to be a good thing making opening those heavy garage doors both easier and more convenient. However, those garage door openers did not make opening and closing garage doors safe. In fact, in a 10-year period between 1982 and 1992, 54 children lost their lives when garage doors closed on them crushing under the weight of the door. Although there are no statistics to know for sure, it is also likely that several family pets also died due to garage doors closing on them.
Due to this high number of children deaths, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission adopted the Underwriter Laboratories UL325 garage door safety recommendation into law. Starting January 1, 1993, the law required anyone who manufactured, sold or installed garage door openers to contain one of these 3 safety devices:
- An Electric eye system in which an electric eye is placed on either side of the garage door with an infrared beam forming a connection between the two eyes. Should the beam be broken by anything in the path of the garage door the garage door will automatically reverse to the fully open position before actually touching the object that is blocking the door. The top of the sensors should be no more than 6 inches above the ground and should be no more than 20 feet apart.
- Door edges sensors for garage doors that open side to side. These sensors function similar to electric eye sensors causing the door to open should the sensor detect an obstruction in the path of the door.
- A constant override function: When the garage door electric eyes aren’t working properly, this safety features requires the person closing the garage door to press and hold the wall’s console button continuously. The moment the button is released (before the door is properly closed) the garage door reverses into the open position.
While UL325 definitely saves lives, these safety devices only work if they are properly installed and maintained. Improper placement of the electric eye system is actually a very common garage door opener installation mistake.
How to Check Your Garage Door Safety Eyes
Had the Gadways known how to check their garage door safety eye and followed the UL325 recommendation to check the safety eye once a month, the tragedy with their pet may have been prevented despite the questioned garage door repair work and the negligent installation of the garage door opener. Here is what you need to know to check your garage door opener eyes.
- Immediately after your garage door opener is installed, check the distance between the ground and the top of the eye on each side of the garage door or have the installation technician measure the eye under your watchful eye.
- Once a month check and insure that your safety eyes are in proper alignment. This is simple to do since there is an LED light on the outside of your sensor. If your sensor is properly aligned the light will be on. If the light is off or is blinking, then the safety eyes need to be readjusted.
- You should also take an empty cardboard box, that is taller than 6 inches in height and place it in the path of the garage door. Lower your garage door. If the door does not rebound and continues down and crushes the cardboard box then either your sensors are not working or they are dirty. Wipe the safety eyes off with a clean rag and do the box test again. If the box still gets crushed then call a repairman.