Code Change: Monitored Safety Sensors for Automatic Doors

Feb. 2, 2018
Changes intended to decrease the possibility of injury or entrapment caused by automatic doors with missing, disabled, disconnected, or defective safety sensors and safety control mats

In July of 2017, BHMA approved a new edition of A156.10 - Standard for Power-Operated Pedestrian Doors. Although new standards typically do not take effect until they are incorporated into a model code and that code is then adopted by a jurisdiction, the effective date for these changes was Nov.11, 2017, just 90 days after the publication of the standard.  The most important change that was made in this new edition is a requirement for safety sensors on automatic doors to be monitored.

The model codes reference two different standards for doors with automatic operators. BHMA A156.19 addresses low-energy operators, which are typically initiated by a knowing act such as a wall-mounted actuator, and power-assist doors that are opened manually but with reduced opening force.  Power-operated pedestrian doors, which are swinging, sliding or folding doors that open automatically when a sensor detects a building occupant approaching, must comply with BHMA A156.10.

The change to the new edition of A156.10 – Standard for Power-Operated Pedestrian Doors, impacts the presence sensors and safety control mats that are required to prevent a door from opening or closing automatically if the surrounding area is not clear.  The intent of the newly-added requirement for monitoring is to decrease the possibility of injury or entrapment caused by automatic doors with missing, disabled, disconnected, or defective safety sensors and safety control mats.

Sections 7.6.1 and 8.1.4 of the new A156.10 standard require power-operated pedestrian door systems to include a means to verify that the presence sensors are functional, and that there is communication between the automatic door control system and each presence sensor.  If a fault is detected, the automatic operator cannot function until the fault is corrected.  Monitoring of the presence sensors must occur at least once before each closing cycle, but some systems also monitor the sensors before each opening cycle as well. 

In addition to these changes, the 2017 edition of BHMA A156.10 has changed the required location of automatic-door signage from 58 inches +/- 5 inches to 50 inches +/- 12 inches from the floor to the center line of the sign.  Drawings in Appendix A were also updated, and grammatical changes were made throughout the document.

Although the capability of monitoring sensors has been available for several years, it has not been a standard feature for most automatic-door systems. However, it is now mandatory for presence sensors to be installed on automatic doors that are required to comply with the 2017 edition of A156.10.  Existing doors are not necessarily required to comply with the monitoring requirements, depending on the codes and standards that have been adopted in the jurisdiction where the facility is located, but upgrading existing doors with these sensors may result in decreased incidents involving malfunctioning or disconnected sensors.  The impact of the monitoring change on existing installations is addressed in Appendix E, Section E-6, which was added to the 2017 edition.

Most doors equipped with low-energy power operators are not directly affected by the new monitoring requirements, although there are low-energy applications where the new requirements do apply. BHMA A156.19 – Standard for Power Assist and Low Energy Power Operated Doors (2007 edition and subsequent editions) requires low-energy power operators to be actuated by using a “knowing act.”  A knowing act is a conscious action to initiate the powered opening of the door, and includes push buttons, fixed non-contact switches (touchless switches with a range of 12 inches or less), access control readers, or pushing or pulling the door to begin the automatic-opening cycle.  When a door with a low-energy power operator is initiated by a motion sensor instead of by a knowing act, the door must comply with the requirements of BHMA A156.10. Because this standard mandates the installation of presence sensors or safety control mats (and in most cases, guide rails), and the 2017 edition of A156.10 requires these safety sensors to be monitored, the requirement for monitoring does apply to low-energy power operators initiated by a sensor instead of a knowing act.

In order to ensure that the products are safe for use on fire-rated doors, automatic operators and any accessories - including sensors - must be listed to UL 10C – Standard for Positive Pressure Fire Tests of Door Assemblies or NFPA 252 – Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies. In addition, NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, requires power-operated fire doors to be equipped with a releasing device that will automatically disconnect the operator at the time of a fire, allowing a self-closing or automatic device to close and latch the door.

The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers (AAADM) strongly recommends daily safety checks of all automatic doors, conducted by the owner or person responsible for the equipment.  These checks include verification that the activating and safety sensors or mats are working properly, the doors open and close without impact, the doors, threshold, and guide rails are intact and properly secured, proper safety signage is present, and the area is free of obstacles that could affect the traffic flow or operation of the doors.  If any deficiencies are found during the safety check, the doors should be safely secured and serviced immediately. Annual inspections and any necessary repairs should always be performed by an AAADM-certified technician.

For more information about automatic-door safety and the standards that apply to automatic doors, visit BHMA’s website at, or AAADM’s website at

Lori Greene, DAHC/CDC, FDAI, CCPR, is the manager of codes and resources for Allegion.  She has worked in the door and hardware industry since 1986, and in her current role she provides support and education on code requirements that apply to door openings.  Her website,, includes numerous resources such as online training, videos, and a downloadable code reference guide (  The site is updated daily with new information, and readers can subscribe to daily or weekly notifications of new posts.  Lori can also be reached at [email protected].

About the Author


Lori Greene, DAHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI, FDHI, is manager, codes and resources at Allegion. Visit her website,