During home inspections, one of the most common defects we find in homes with automatic garage door openers is a maladjusted pressure sensor. The whole purpose of these is to reverse the doors motion to the open position if it strikes an obstruction. In our area, where snows are a common winter occurrence, often we find these purposely maladjusted to allow closure when hitting snow or ice.
For a number of years now an additional safety device, an optical sensor, has been a requirement in new installations. All too often these are improperly installed and defeated entirely.
A three year old girl, in Waldorf, Maryland, was just added to the too long list of reasons these features are important and why they should always be properly adjusted. Her body should have broken the light beam forcing the door to reverse; it didn't. The pressure of striking her body should have forced the door to reverse; it didn't. She was pronounced dead at the local hospital.
As it happens, it is possible she was playing with the door opener, but a child is not expected to make informed, rational decisions, adults have to protect them. Lawmakers may make safety rulings, manufacturers can include safety features, but home owners disregard them at the peril of the innocent.
What can we do?
Make certain that garage doors are properly installed.
Have the safety features operation verified by a garage door professional.
Keep remote controls out of the reach of children.
Locate door opener controls so that the door is completely visible during operation.
Have the door properly maintained by a professional to help reduce chances of injury.
Remember a garage door is the heaviest moving object in a home. Treat it with the respect it deserves.