The purpose of this article is to provide a basic comparison of the differences in the safe function and usage of automatic and manually operated doors of all kinds.

The most basic issue in determining whether a door is considered to be functioning safely has to do with the inherent design that was created by the manufacturer of every specific door system. Automated and semi-automatic doors of many types are ubiquitous throughout the world.

Most people come in contact with some form of self-powered doorways on a daily basis. Untrained usage of most door systems occurs without much conscious thought on the part of the user. The assumption upon encountering an opening with a door blocking your path is that it will either open by itself or you will have to push or pull upon the door handle to gain passage to the area you wish to access. Interactions with doors of all types are common to most people, and basic quick evaluations of most doorways are generally instantly made by the user.

The first logical reaction when approaching a door is that you will need to enter the building by passing through the doorway. Your expectation is that this doorway is either automated or non-automatic because you have seen this type of door in many other locations during your lifetime. You have a stored sub conscious memory based upon your experiences from previous encounters with doorways that certain characteristics of appearance have specific related motive possibilities.

Secondly, you can determine and expect how the door should react to your approach. If no automatic operations are detected when you are within a few feet of the door then you make the quick determination that the door will require your physical exertion to operate and move through it.

Once either of these two options is determined you, as the user, understand your obligations to gain access to the desired area.


Visual cues that usually indicate that a doorway is non automatic include door knobs, handles, or panic hardware devices. If there are directional labels such as PUSH or PULL on the door, that generally will increase the speed with which a user can determine the personal obligations for passage through the doorway. On the other hand, if the door opens automatically as you are approaching it, your stored knowledge of memory triggers retained past scenarios where you have successfully walked through an opening without ever having to have touched the doors to gain access.

In every situation, personal decisions based upon visual clues provided result in some form of interaction with the doorway that we must pass through.

Whether the doorway is automatic or manually motivated, we are all accustomed, in some degree, to expect certain parameters be met. Those parameters include the concepts that every doorway we use is generally in good repair and properly functioning. Most people using doors are not aware of the potential for personal injury from a malfunctioning doorway.

Many injury cases are attributable to ­malfunctioning door systems of both the automated and manual type. Generally included in this roster of personal injury cases are claims for wrongful death that have been created by negative interactions with various types of door systems. However, many times door injury claims are the result of the user improperly interacting with a properly maintained and safely operating doorway.


The majority of injuries from automatic door systems have been directly attributed to and proven to be related to the improperly maintained condition of the door systems. The most prevalent reason for these injuries is the lack of regularly scheduled and competent preventative maintenance and the owner’s negligent decision to not inspect the door. Injuries related to automatic door systems have usually been due to some form of disconnected sensory integration or improperly adjusted door controls. However, in approximately 10% of the personal injury cases related to automated doors, the users of these doorways have been completely responsible for their injuries. People have walked into fixed panels of revolving doors while carrying on conversations on their mobile phones. They have been unaware of their obligations to observe other users as they share the rotating compartments, or have been impatient to wait for their turn to use the door. Observation of surveillance video shows elderly people falling in a “flinch” response or anticipated anxiety to a sliding door system that never made contact with them. Other users have improperly activated switches that operated adjacent doorways, and out of frustration, impatience, or lack of understanding, incorrectly pulled on doors that were meant to open in opposite directions leading to injuries that were solely the fault of the user and not an equipment defect of any kind.


It is very difficult to determine which kind of door is the safest. Observations as a door expert witness are that there are so many independent variables in each case that there are no trends or repeated specific causes that any definitive comparison can be made. soundproof door 

Door and door hardware manufacturers have their products evaluated by independent testing labs to assure that they meet or exceed minimum safety standards prior to providing them to the public. Independent testing labs abuse and torture these devices to the point of failure, and generally will not endorse the products, or accept the design until the functions greatly exceed the minimum standards.

Given a specific set of requirements, product placement and the location of the door installation, certain door systems may offer an increased level of performance over another. However, in general, there has not been an application where either kind of door, automatic or manual cannot function interchangeably, appropriately and safely if kept in proper repair and maintained per the manufacturers requirements. If a doorway is compliant for function and meets the needs of industry standards for design, both manual and automatic doors are acceptable choices for usage by the general public. If either manual or automatic doorways are not properly maintained, then both of these options become potentially dangerous.


In the case of an opening where heavy or cumbersome objects are routinely moved through an opening, such as in a big box store environment, automated doors that are properly functioning may be a better choice. It is probable that the store would benefit from the lower rate of damage that would be created by collision of carts with a non automatic doorway, and the patrons may feel that shopping is easier if doors open for them without effort, if automatic.