Avoiding the trap

How can you design a door that prevents the possibility of trapped and damaged fingers?

Most of us understand the danger presented by conventional door hinges. Who hasn't trapped or come close to trapping their fingers in a door hinge at some point? All it takes is a moment's inattention and the result can all too easily be considerable pain, not to mention injury and possibly permanent physical damage. The main danger is posed to children, who are amongst the least safety-conscious and often have yet to learn the danger of putting their fingers in door hinges. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) estimates that 30,000 children trap and seriously injure their fingers in doors every year and more than 1,500 of these will require surgery. The main danger with conventional doors comes from the gap which is created at the hinge side when the door is opening and closing. This gap is an easy place for unknowing fingers to wander and it presents a particular danger to children, people with sensory impairments or additional support needs and elderly people. The sharp corners of the door and the frame act as cutting edges. This combined with the door, which acts as a lever, can create enough pressure at the hinge to cut steel. Further research carried out at the Royal Sick Children's Hospital in Glasgow highlighted the severity of these injuries which occur. In six months, 136 children were admitted to Accident and Emergency after trapping their fingers in a door with 45% suffering bone/joint injuries and 11% amputation. The cost of litigation for these injuries can be substantial. The responsibility for reducing these injuries falls to those who have children in their buildings. The Challenge The challenge this month, then, is to develop a door hinge that eliminates the danger of trapping fingers, while still offering a fully-functional means of entering and exiting a room. Of course, the solution may not involve changing the hinge. Perhaps it would be possible to create a door from a soft, pliant material that would make any possible trapping of fingers painless and non-injurious? Alternatively, the gaps between doors and hinges could be filled with foam? However, such a solution would possibly make doors less secure, more expensive and would have serious repercussions for the effectiveness of the door itself. The solution available was developed by a British company and works by eliminating the dangerous gap created by conventional hinges. It is already in use across the country in the healthcare, educational, retail and leisure markets. It is simple, elegant and totally effective. Even so, it will be interesting to see if you can come up with something better. The solution will be described in the September issue of Eureka.