Accessibility, security, and life safety need to be top of mind when specifying doors and their supporting hardware. That means abiding by the codes and standards created by industry sources, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA), International Building Code (IBC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 80 and 101). If you don’t conform to the construction specifications that meet the standards set by these institutions, you could face dire legal consequences.

Here’s a closer look at the three main life protection considerations that drive door hardware selection:

Accessibility For All

Everyone—including people with disabilities—should be able to have independent access to facilities.

ADA provides guidelines and ICC A117.1 provides specific information about requirements for hardware installation as it relates to the functioning of fixtures like door openings, ramps, elevators, handrails, stairways, etc.

The reference standards you need to comply with can vary from one municipality to another. Sometimes you may find it beneficial to go above and beyond requirements with safety and accessibility enhancing features like Braille markings, bilingual egress instructions, and photo-luminescent pathway markings. The benefits they provide to occupants, visitors, and the public may transcend their added cost.

Security To Protect People And Property

To protect occupants and safeguard contents, buildings need to be secure. That means their door hardware needs to conform to BHMA performance parameters and be certified to the appropriate BHMA standard. To ensure compliance and demonstrate they can withstand normal use, abuse, and even break-in attempts, BHMA certified products are tested on a schedule.

ANSI standards also play an important role in specifying door and hardware to meet security considerations. They define minimum industry standards rather than upper end boundaries. Products sometimes exceed the minimum standards by factors of 10 or more in life-cycle tests, static load, and other strength ratings.

In certain building contexts, hardware specifiers may encounter highly specialized devices when writing specifications. As an example, institutional care settings often have delayed egress devices to delay an unauthorized exit long enough for an alarm to alert staff. Care must be taken in these situations because the delay should not be so long that it puts life safety at risk in the name of security.

Life Safety For Peace Of Mind

When specifying door hardware, fire safety is the primary life protection consideration. Whether the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code (NFPA) 101 or Chapter 10 of the International Building Code (IBC) or both control life safety requirements depends on where the specific municipality and/or state the building is located.

These codes ensure door hardware operates as intended—maintaining security while allowing people to exit when they need to. Generally, exit devices (known also as “panic devices”) allow occupants to easily (by simply pushing the touch bar even without use of their hands) leave in the event of emergencies.

Local authorities and local building codes drive the specifications of fire-rated openings. You can find the actual specification language in NFPA 80, which provides general mandates—such as a single-motion egress or the hose-stream performance in the door assembly. The actual equipment required isn’t typically defined, because a number of design solutions might successfully accomplish the objectives.

Effective Door Hardware Specification: Part Art And Part Science

Ultimately, architectural hardware needs to meet life protection requirements and satisfy the aesthetic needs for a building. That’s why it’s important to look for a door hardware specification professional who has mastered both the art and science of selecting products.


Safe uses of automated sliding doors should never be a passing thought. Making sure yours are functioning properly and not putting users at risk of injury needs to be high on your priority list.


Fortunately, keeping your automatic sliding door users safe is simple with our daily safety checklist that addresses:

  • Activation
  • Door hardware
  • Area surrounding the door

1. Activation

Ensuring safe activation and operation involves testing sensors, mats, holding beams, and closing speed.

Here’s what we suggest for each:

  •  Sensors

Walk to the door at a normal pace. When you’re about four feet from the door, it should start opening. The door should slide open smoothly, and it should stop without impact. The sensor pattern should provide effective detection within 5″ (or less) from the face of the door (measured from the center of the clear opening) and extend outward to a minimum of 43″ from the face of the door. This zone should be at least equal to the clear opening width of the door when measured at 8″ and 30″, extending perpendicular from the door face. The sensor should be able to detect objects with a minimum height of 28″. When you step out of the sensor pattern, the door should not start to close before 1.5 seconds have passed.

  •  Mats

Step on the opening mat. The door should swing open smoothly and stop without impact. A mat should be no less wide than the door opening minus 5” on each side. Walk-test each side if there are mats on each side. At the threshold, no more than 6″ of inactive area should exist. After you step off the mat, the door should start to close only after at least 1.5 seconds have passed. To detect any inappropriate dead spots on the mats, walk-test them by standing at several locations.

  • Safety Beams

While not always required on automatic sliding doors photoelectric beams offer protection in the threshold area of a sliding door. If the beam is broken, the door should stop until the connection is restored. To test a safety beam, remain still on the door threshold (i.e., directly between the doors or between the door and jamb on a single leaf slider). When you do so, the door should re­main open. Cover the doorway holding beam with your hand and remain still. If closed at the time, the door should open fully. If the door is open when covering the doorway holding beam, it should remain open for at least 1.5 seconds after you move your hand. If other safety devices are also being used, crouch motionless in the door opening for 10 seconds. The door should not close. The lower holding beam or sensors should detect objects 28” tall.

  • Closing Speed

Your automatic sliding door should not close faster than 1 foot per second. When a door is no less than 2″ from its fully closed position, its closing speed should become noticeably slower.

2. Door Hardware

Don’t ignore the integrity and condition of the door hardware when assessing the safety of an automatic sliding door.


  • Inspect the mat molding and threshold to make sure they’re complete and secured with all screws tightened.
  • Check the door panels for broken or cracked glass.
  • Make sure every automatic sliding door has an Emergency Push Open sign and a Caution Automatic Door sign on it. Each of these signs should be 58″ (give or take 5″) from the floor.


3. Area Around The Door

Not only are proper function and parts of a door critical to safety, but also is what’s happening around it.

  • Make sure no bulletin boards, brochure racks, marketing displays, or other distractions stand in the door area and put people at risk of getting hit by the door when perusing the literature.
  • Keep the floor guides clean and free of debris that could prevent the door from sliding correctly.
  • Make sure all door covers are properly secured.
  • Check the door area for tripping or slipping hazards.