Automatic doors are something which pretty much everyone who has ever visited a supermarket or even an airport or office is likely to be familiar with. They offer a great convenience factor in that they don’t depend on users to open or close the door, so people with shopping bags or trolleys don’t need to struggle with trying to open and shut a door, and disabled people aren’t stuck with the same issue. You’ve probably noticed yourself how convenient they can be, letting you walk in or out of a shop at ease, even if your arms are loaded up with bags.
Automatic Door Injuries And Who Is Liable
Automatic doors can save buildings money in terms of heating costs, since they are closed when not in use, and can help the environment by reducing wastage. They offer the same advantage in situations where air conditioning is used, ensuring that a minimum temperature exchange occurs when somebody walks in or out of a building.
However, automatic doors aren’t by any means a perfect technology, and when injuries occur, they are often put down to negligence and mismanagement on the part of the store (or building) owner. Automatic doors malfunctioning can cause very serious injuries to the patrons of an establishment, and the owner is generally considered liable for these injuries, as they have a duty of care towards the patrons, and are obliged to ensure that all risks are minimized or warned about wherever possible.
Of all automatic doors, automatic revolving doors are perhaps the most dangerous. They are popular because of their look and because they create an air lock more effectively than other automatic doors. However, they require patrons to walk in a circle, and involve different segments, which can pose real dangers if several people are using the door at the same time – which they are designed to allow. For example, if you’re walking close to the partition and the door stops abruptly to prevent another patron from being injured, you’re at risk of walking into the glass partition at speed because you don’t notice it’s stopped, or haven’t had time to react. This could cause the glass to break, and may seriously injure you.
Revolving doors may also pose an increased risk to patrons who use mobility scooters to get around, as these need to be driven in a circle to enter the store, and stopping a scooter abruptly is often more difficult than stopping yourself from walking.
Similarly, for anyone using a walking stick or frame, the more complex entry route can pose problems, and revolving doors do not readily allow for different walking speeds: certainly, they will stop to avoid bumping you, but at the same time may cause someone else to walk straight into a partition. They also appeal to children as potentially fun to play in, to jump into and out of the different sections, and this in itself increases the risk that somebody will get injured.
However, other kinds of automatic doors can also be dangerous. Regardless of whether they are slide or swinging doors, they are using strong propulsion mechanisms to move a large, heavy object which – if it hits you – will likely cause you some pretty unpleasant injuries. Automatic doors have been associated with anything from scrapes to broken bones, and even to head traumas. Perhaps because they are such a common part of everyday life, we do not generally view them as dangerous objects, and forget how much weight and power they wield.
Automatic doors depend on sensors to know when to open and close, so if these sensors malfunction for any reason, the doors don’t know when you’re approaching, on the threshold, or have safely passed through. This is what causes them to close too quickly, not open at all, or any other unexpected behaviours which could result in you getting injured. It could be that the sensors were badly aligned, or that they have been knocked, or that they are damaged and unable to function properly. Without these sensors, automatic doors become very dangerous.
Many establishments do not maintain automatic doors well, and fail to schedule regular maintenance checks with reliable, qualified companies. Often the doors are fitted with minimal reference to the manufacturer’s guidelines, and may never have worked properly from the date of their installation. Alternatively, a sensor may have disconnected, or the door controls may have been improperly adjusted, meaning that they open or close too quickly to be safe.
Companies often do not implement safety checks on doors, and may not attend to a door even if they know it’s causing problems. Like many patrons, company owners may not realise what a danger automatic doors can pose, and therefore may be negligent in taking action.
It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that any invitee is protected as far as possible. Customers of a business would count as an invitee; they have come into the establishment for the benefit of the owner, and therefore are owed protection. Just as a company would be considered at fault for unsafe flooring, rickety shelving, improper fire safety protocols, and other safety measures, they will usually be liable if a customer is injured by a door. The injury would not have occurred if the company had observed the proper safety measures, and therefore they are at fault in the eyes of the law.
By scheduling regular checks and monitoring the workings of automatic doors, establishments can improve their safety. Working with reputable companies and well-trained staff who follow manufacturer guidelines can help to ensure that doors operate correctly, keeping the patrons safe. Any door which is not working should be immediately attended to, and patrons should be redirected and warned of the danger.
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