Garage door openers should employ non-contact sensors

I would like to clarify misperceptions in a recent article by your publication about Chamberlain’s advocacy of legislation designed to protect the safety of Americans with garage door openers (“Safety bill gets trapped under a garage door,” Feb. 26). I would also like to point out that Chamberlain is not alone in supporting this legislation; at least five other U.S. firms back it.

From the 1970s to the early 1990s, there were over 75 deaths due to children being pinned under closing garage doors. Congress’s goal in a 1990 act was to end these deaths. Chamberlain was the leading advocate of these congressional efforts.

As a result of the 1990 act, all residential garage door openers sold in the U.S. contain a standard, non-contact safety device commonly referred to as an optical sensor. The consequence of this change could not be more dramatic. Since 1993, Chamberlain is not aware of a single child death or serious injury involving a garage door opener with properly installed optical sensors.

A foreign manufacturer now seeks to sell a product in the U.S. without optical sensors, threatening the very success achieved by Congress and the industry through the 1990 act. Unfortunately, Underwriters Laboratories has approved this product because neither the 1990 Act, nor the UL regulations governing the industry, clearly mandate the use of optical sensors for all residential garage door openers.

No one can argue with a straight face that allowing a garage door to hit a child before reversing is the safest technology out there, even if contact is made with “just” 15 pounds of force.

Historical experience proves that non-contact optical sensors ensure the highest level of safety because the garage door never has to strike a person before reversing. Further, these optical sensors are widely available, non-proprietary and cost just a few dollars each. Indeed, everyone in the industry uses these sensors today for virtually all of their residential garage door opener products. The legislation allows for new non-contact technologies that may be developed in the future, and we welcome those new innovations.

Optical sensors are not mandated under the European regulatory regime, except in cases where garage doors close with forces in excess of 88 pounds. Even though they are not mandated, Chamberlain offers optical sensors as an option to all consumers.

No company benefits from this legislation financially. The beneficiaries of this legislation are the millions of families with children all across our country who use garage door openers.

Elmhurst, Ill.

Seeking due process

From Ken Martin, president, Martin Door Mfg.

Your article, while accurate, largely missed the point. The proposal to make photo eyes the permanent and only answer to garage door safety may appear noble to some, but without due process it seeks to limit the latest safety-tested technology and to stop further research.

Public safety is best ensured through a fair and defined process of study, testing and safety compliance. Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA) opposed the Durbin Amendment for due process reasons — not because of opposition to any particular technology.

DASMA, UL, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), American National Standards Institute, National Institute of Standards and Technology and other key parts of the defined process were bypassed here, contrary to Congress’s own mandate when passing the National Technology Transfer Advancement Act.

The improved “eyeless” doors are already available in the marketplace. With Marantec America, Martin Door Mfg. spent years on research and development, safety testing and legal compliance before securing the UL listing and introducing them in April 2007.

If Congress wants to be constructive in this matter it should look at the overall issue of safety in garage doors, including openers and other aspects of the mechanism. Directing the CPSC to study this and make some recommendations to Congress would be a far more prudent action than usurping the role of the agency charged with this responsibility.

Salt Lake City