As needs arise, the door hardware industry develops products to meet those needs. Door closers were reportedly invented after someone complained about the noise from slamming doors during a worship service. Exit devices were said to have been developed after locked doors caused hundreds of people to perish during a fire at a Chicago theatre.
In more modern times, the need to protect patients and prisoners in psychiatric facilities and other places of incarceration has risen to the forefront. And once again, the door hardware industry has stepped forward to provide an alternative to traditional products that keeps the safety of these incarcerated individuals in mind.
In addition to security and reliability, traditional door hardware products are designed for ease of use and visual appeal; however, these aspects are of much less importance for incarceration facilities. The possibility of persons injuring or killing themselves by tying a cordlike object to projecting hardware components has spurred door hardware manufacturers to develop new shapes and designs to limit this risk.
This new type of hardware has been referred to by several different names. The original term was anti-ligature, with ligature defined as tying or binding. This term evolved into today’s ligature resistant door hardware. These locks may also be referred to as behavioral health hardware or institutional safety hardware.
Many incarcerated individuals — whether in prison, a mental health facility or similar establishment — are potentially at risk for suicide attempts. Because of their function, door and lock hardware is solidly mounted; thus, a door handle offers a reasonable opportunity for an individual to use it as an anchor point for a noose or other cordlike objects while they are confined in a small room.
This situation is where ligature resistant hardware is applicable. It is designed to limit the possibilities of personal harm by restricting the attachment of a cordlike object to door closers, hinges, knobs, levers and handles that are designed to not release under abnormal load.
For security, ligature resistant hardware is installed with the locking mechanism controlling the inside of the door while still providing unrestricted access from the exterior side of the door. Most exposed surfaces on ligature resistant door and lock hardware have sloped or curved corners to resist attachment of a cordlike object.
When considering ligature resistant door hardware solutions, there are two options: installing new hardware or retrofitting the surface-mounted components while still using the existing mortise lock chassis.
While most doorknobs are cone-shaped, manufacturers offer semi-circular lever handles which are retained in a baseplate for ligature resistance. An installation alternative to knobs and levers can be a push-pull paddle trim installed in a downward position to resist cord attachment. Another installation alternative is concealed products. For example, door closers can be mounted in the header or into the floor with the arm only exposed when the door is open.
A number of lock manufacturers offer ligature resistant solutions for correctional and healthcare facilities, including Best Access Systems, Corbin Russwin, Marks USA, Sargent, Schlage and Town Steel. In addition to lock manufacturers, hinge manufacturers such as Ives, McKinney and Select Hinges offer ligature resistant butt or continuous hinges.
Important: Before purchasing or installing any ligature resistant hardware, discuss the application with the local agency having authority (LAHJ). If you are providing services for a hospital or healthcare facility, contact the state agency which inspects these facilities. Each state may have specific local rules and regulations.
Some lock manufacturers do not recommend retrofitting ligature resistant parts into existing mortise locks. Consult the lock manufacturer before purchasing or beginning an installation which requires retrofitting.
Offer different styles, finishes and products to give your customers a choice they can't find at the big box stores.
Commercial and institutional locksmiths will be needed to install mechanical locks and master key systems for many years to come.